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Lower League Round-Up: November 20, 2022

The Jersey State Cup rolls on while the old Jersey pursues the FA Vase in England.

Ironbound SC & SC Vistula Garfield play in a Garden State Soccer League Super Division match from September 30. Both teams will compete in the New Jersey Men’s Open State Cup this Sunday.
Photo by Ricardo J Barreto

A busy week in the tri-state for the lower leagues! The New Jersey State Cup saw more action, with games continuing this Sunday while the United Premier Soccer League Fall Playoffs continues on! Plus, one local side is looking to make the jump into the professional game.

Read about it all below:

New Jersey State Cup & U.S. Open Cup Update

Following up on last week’s round-up, the First Round of the New Jersey Men’s Open State Cup concluded last Sunday. Both Jersey Shore BOCA FC (Ocean County, NJ) and Vllaznimi AACC (Pompton Lake, NJ) booked their tickets to Sunday’s next round.

Vllaznimi, the highest tier team to play in the qualifying round, defeated NJ Revolution FC (Towaco, NJ), 7-3, in Wayne on Sunday night. They’re next challenge will be the biggest yet as they host Real Central New Jersey (Ewing, NJ) this Sunday. Meanwhile Boca advanced without a fight over Cruzeiro USA FC Reserves (Newark, NJ). The hosts forfeit their match which was scheduled to take place on Sunday morning at Ironbound Stadium. The visitors will now host Hoboken FC 1912 in the next round this coming weekend.

The full schedule for Sunday’s matches is below:

If the state cup is too local, the national U.S. Open Cup tournament is already underway for 2023. New Jersey’s very own SC Vistula Garfield hosts Rochester, New York side IASC Boom on Saturday night. The winner of this game moves onto the final qualifying round with a spot in next year’s tournament on the line.

Real Central New Jersey look to join professional league

One of New Jersey’s more promising amateur outfits is looking to make the jump to professional soccer. Real Central New Jersey, which fields both mens and womens teams in various leagues, announced last week that the organization is exploring the opportunity to join the United Soccer League. This would mean a men’s team competing in USL League One (Division III) and a women’s side in the new USL Super League (Division II).

If successful, Real would be the first, independent men’s professional team to call New Jersey home since the Ocean City Nor’easters dropped to amateur level in 2003.

Currently, the organization already fields a men’s team in the pre-professional USL League Two. Outside of the USL sphere, the men also compete in the Eastern Premier Soccer League (EPSL), which is taking part in the above NJ State Cup. The women have competed in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) since 2021.

“We’re excited to hear ideas from soccer fans in Central New Jersey,” said RCNJ partner and Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Ryan in the announcement. “We’re uniquely Jersey, and since Central Jersey is real and not beholden to New York or Philly, our soccer culture should reflect those qualities that are uniquely us.”

Whatever jokes might be said about naming a team after a fictional part of the state (fight me), more pro soccer is good. Real’s continued growth through pandemic with soccer for both men and women has been commendable. The success seen with the Philadelphia Union and similar programs like West Chester United in nearby Pennsylvania is even more proof that the south Garden State has a lot of soccer potential.

NJ Alliance FC Compete in UPSL Playoffs

New Jersey Alliance FC has had a busy week in the United Premier Soccer League. The team’s UPSL Premier Division side won the American Premier Division playoff title last Saturday before losing in the Northeast Championship final the next day. Meanwhile, the organization’s UPSL Division 1 won a semifinal match to reach the American Division Championship this weekend.

Starting last Saturday, NJAFC defeated Philadelphia Union Academy UDS in the American Division championship at Pathfinder Stadium (Salt Point, NY). After playing to a 2-2 draw, Philly’s bad luck in shootouts continued from this month’s MLS Cup Final. The New Jersey squad won, 4-2, to win the division final.

There was little time for rest though as the Northeast Final was scheduled for the next day at Pathfinder. New England Conference champions Santa Cruz FC had won their semifinal match on Saturday as well. Sunday’s game did not pan out well for Alliance who lost, 2-0.

However, the UPSL is a two tier league. The Premier Division acts as the top tier with Division 1 right below it. NJ Alliance’s season in the Premier may have ended but the Division 1 team still had games to play. That team entered it’s playoffs as a third seed and defeated #2 Sons of Queens, 1-0, to advance to the Division Final. NJ Alliance FC II play for the trophy against top seed NY Renegades FC (Long Island, NY) on Saturday night at SUSA Sports Complex (Central Islip, NY).

Jersey Bulls Advance in FA Vase

OaM told me these articles had to focus on soccer that was “local to Jersey” or had to do with the “Red Bulls”. So, Jersey Bulls FC from the original English channel island technically fit that bill. The side from across the ocean had an incredible performance last weekend in the FA Vase tournament to reach the Third Round proper for the first time.

The Vase, for those that don’t know, is a single elimination tournament open exclusively to teams that play in the two lowest tiers of English soccer. The Jersey Bulls currently compete in the Combined Counties League Premier Division South of the 9th Tier (second from the bottom).

On the road against fellow ninth-tier side Fisher F.C. (Southwark, England), the Bulls got off to a poor start. A 13th minute play saw Fisher’s Sam Fitzgerald find attacker Alli Abdullahi in the box. Under pressure, his first shot was blocked but the Fisher player was able to recover it just. Sliding to make another attempt, the slight toe-poke went into the left side of the net to put the home team ahead. A straight red to forward Miguel Carvalho for a dangerous tackle in the 23rd minute left the team ten men for a majority of the game. It was the team’s third red card dismissal this season with all of them coming in the FA Vase competition.

Despite playing with ten men, Jersey started to take control in the second half. Key saves from keeper Euan Van der Vliet kept the game in reach and it came to a head in the 74th minute. A triangular movement clockwise around the Fisher box found Lorne Bickley on the left side. He attacked and shot towards the opposite netting to even the score at 1-1. Fisher defended deep and continued clear attempts but a second consecutive corner saw the game winner. Luke Campbell headed in a kick from Ruben Mendes just to the left of the right post in the 90+4th minute.

Jersey advanced to the Third Round of the FA Vase and will now host Athletic Newham F.C. of London on December 3rd.