Last spring, the Croatian Eagles started their run to their first U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Open Cup title by beating perennial Illinois power RWB Adria in the Region II tournament.
The Croatian clubs will meet again in the first round of the regional tournament this year, after they were paired together in Sunday night's draw. The match is scheduled for Saturday, April 6 in Illinois.
The two finalists in the six-team regional tournament earn berths in the U.S. Open Cup, a competition that features teams from every level of soccer in the country including Major League Soccer.
With six teams, Region II officials have created a unique tournament format that includes one losing team getting a second chance.
In addition to the three first-round winners, the losing team with the best goal differential will advance to the second round April 20. There is a lengthy series of tiebreakers in place to determine the wild card spot, if necessary, and another draw will be held to determine those pairings.
The semifinal winners will claim the region's U.S. Open Cup spots and meet June 29 for the Region II title in Overland Park, Kan. – the regional champion advances to the USASA nationals, which are July 19 to 21 in San Antonio, Texas.
The Croatian Eagles, who beat Bavarian SC 1-0 in last fall's Wisconsin Open Cup to qualify for the Region II tournament, knocked off RWB Adria 2-0 in the first round of the tournament last April.
The Franklin club then blanked Illinois' AAC Eagles 2-0 to earn a U.S. Open Cup berth – the Croatian Eagles lost to the Chicago Fire PDL 1-0 in a first-round match last May. They went on to be awarded the Region II title when Kansas side KC Athletics forfeitted the final and fought past California's PSA Elite 3-2 after extra time in the USASA National Open Cup final in July at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
A Wisconsin team has qualified for the U.S. Open Cup from Region II in nine of the past 16 years: Bavarian SC (1999 to 2004, '07 and '09), Croatians (2006 and '12) and Mequon United (1997). The Madison 56ers (2011 and '13) and Milwaukee Bavarians (2012) – Bavarian SC's Under-23 team – also have qualified for the tournament through the National Premier Soccer League.