After many cold, dark weeks devoid of news (save for the occasional Keyworth funding update), some real information pertaining to the 2016 season finally dropped this past Friday. Detroit City released its complete league schedule in the morning, and in the afternoon, completely out of the blue, learned that it would be competing in the U.S. Open Cup for the third straight year.
According to the official release from U.S. Soccer, the Open Cup match will take place Wednesday, May 11th. As the matchups for the first rounds of the tournament are determined by regional proximity and teams are paired up with opponents from outside their league, City will likely find itself in a rematch against the Michigan Bucks, but the Dayton Dutch Lions are also a strong possibility. The date of the first round draw is April 6th.
As for the league schedule, it was also confirmed that Fort Pitt Regiment are no more, unbalancing the Midwest Region’s East Division, which had existed in its new form for about a month and a half. Good ol’ NPSL. A quick refresher: the top two teams from each division make the four-team single-elimination playoffs; the winner goes to the national final four. The new, slightly altered divisions are as follows:
City’s division remains unchanged. For now…
The full slate of matches, minus the probable preseason college friendlies, looks like this (home matches bolded, friendlies in blue):
- The first thing that jumps out is that 4 of the first 5 league matches are on the road. One plus is that City gets its longest road trip of the year – Dayton – out of the way on the very first weekend.
- The upside of having so many road matches frontloaded is the payoff in the second half of the season. 5 of the final 7 league matches are at home, and City will go almost an entire month (June 10th – July 3rd) without playing away.
- The toughest stretch may very well be the opening week of the season – 3 competitive matches in the span of 5 days, possibly all of them away from home. Playing the Bucks and Stars in Pontiac wouldn’t be too bad as far as travel goes, but the Sunday match at Dayton looks extremely difficult considering the circumstances. For reference, last year’s USOC match was on a Wednesday, it was followed up on Friday with the home opening win over Cleveland, and there was no match on Sunday. A slow start would be disappointing, but understandable.
- As of this writing, the Rust Belt Derby is on hiatus for at least 2016. The home-and-home friendlies with Buffalo are a nice midseason break, but it remains to be seen if Cleveland can be bothered to pull their weight and help preserve the rivalry.
- The marquee event of the year, the friendly against FC United of Manchester, gets a weekend all to itself, as it should.
- It should be a banner year for Rouge Rovers. The farthest trip is to Dayton, which is little more than a three hour drive. Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo are both two hours and change, and Lansing and Ann Arbor are quick jaunts up I-96 and I-94, respectively. I expect triple-digit supporters at each and every “away” match and I wouldn’t be surprised if we outdrew the home crowds at half of those.
As we ramp up to the new season, we should start to see player announcements for both returners and newcomers very soon. Additionally, now that the Keyworth minimum has been met, it will be interesting to see the construction progress photos that begin to trickle out. Speaking to Alex Wright at tryouts, he confirmed that demolition and other preliminary jobs have been ongoing. With the home opening date now set for May 20th, just over 14 weeks remain for the bulk of the work to be completed.