For the second straight year, Buffalo & District Soccer League champions will have a chance to represent the league in national amateur tournaments, with premier division winners Sharpshooters poised to face the Rochester River Dogz Reserves at 2 p.m. March 19 at East High School (1801 E. Main St., Rochester) for a spot in the USASA Amateur Cup quarterfinals.
Tehel Cup winners Clarence will head directly to the quarterfinals of the Werner Fricker Open Cup, scheduled for April 23 in Fairfax, Va.
The Sharpshooters-River Dogz Reserves match is the official play-in game to represent Western New York in the Amateur Cup, a national competition that pits the best amateur clubs against each other in a tournament. Led by the efforts of then-vice president Michael Schieber, the BDSL achieved USASA Elite Amateur League status in December 2015.
Sharpshooters, managed by Trevor Lawler, boast a deep roster with terrific continuity and above average smarts and savvy. A fearsome back line of Graham Harris, Jon Cary, Drew Braun and Zack Wood, as well as keeper Adam Durst, conceded premier's fewest goals, 13, over 11 regular season games last summer.
Canisius College graduate Regan Steele paced Sharpshooters in goals and points in each of the last two seasons, while midfielders Brandon Loncar, Brendan Lawler, Ben Mozg and Zack Schwartz all boast complementary talents. Clarence Yotes' J.J. Hughes will likely join Sharpshooters for the tournament only. Expect the club's official roster for the match to be announced shortly.
"We're going to do our best to go out and work hard and play smart," said Trevor Lawler, who's also the head boys soccer coach at Williamsville South. "We've put together a good group of guys who are committed and have been getting together to train and prepare. We're hoping to show what the BDSL is capable of."
Although the River Dogz Reserves compiled a 7-3-4 record in last year's Rochester & District Soccer League campaign, expect the National Premier Soccer League second team to bring a strong side for this play-in match, as roster rules are flexible and aren't tied to last year's squad.
The match will be a regular 90 minutes with overtimes and a shootout, if necessary, to determine the winner. Substitution rules mirror the National Premier Soccer League's, with seven subs allowed with no re-entry.
In 2016, BSC Raiders won their play-in round match against Italian-Americans SC Bakshi FC, 1-0, despite playing down a man for much of the contest. The BDSL representative then fell in the quarterfinals to the Phoenix Majors, in part due to two red cards.
In Fairfax, the Clarence Yotes will tussle with Hammers FC from the Northern Virginia Soccer League. It's Hammers' third consecutive season in the tournament, bowing out in the quarterfinals each time - 2-0 to Phoenix SC (Eastern Pennsylvania) in 2016 and 3-2 to Tartan Devils (Pittsburgh, Pa.) in 2015.
Although the Yotes' roster hasn't been chosen, expect the team to be anchored by center backs Ryan Schroen and A.C. LaFlore, former college teammates at Canisius, with Gary Boughton, Derek Maier and Andrea Conte forming a pacey attacking trio. Chris Berardi, a standout for Celtic United last year, should prove to be a major addition.
Last year, Maryland's Christos FC captured the coveted double, winning both the USASA Amateur Cup and Werner Fricker Open Cup. 2015 Tehel Cup winner FC Yemen was one of Christos' victims.