By Rob Shore
Ever since the inception of the Kitsap Pumas in 2009, the U.S. Open Cup has seemingly been as much of a part of the team as blue and gold hoops on the shirt or as the pine trees that encircle Bremerton’s Gordon Field.
And after a year away from the tournament, the Pumas are returning to the tournament in 2018. In fact, their first game of the upcoming season will be in the U.S. Open Cup, with a date and opponent to be determined.
But the date and opponent will be announced on Wednesday with the first-round draw of the U.S. Open Cup.
The Pumas became the first PDL side to qualify for the U.S. Open Cup in their first three years of existence. In 2009 — Kitsap’s first season in the PDL, the Pumas qualified for the tournament by defeating the Cascade Surge 3-0 on the final day of qualifying, pipping the Portland Timbers’ U23 squad by one point.
The Pumas qualified for the tournament in 2010 by winning the first five games of the their PDL campaign, then defeating the NPSL’s Bay Area Ambassadors 4-2 in the first round.
The nemesis that knocked the Pumas from the tournament those first two seasons would have a familiar ring to fans in the region — the Portland Timbers, then plying their trade in the USL ahead of their launch into the MLS.
The Pumas needed some drama to punch their ticket in 2011, qualifying for the tournament with a 3-2 victory over the Portland Timbers U23s. The Pumas then advanced through the first two rounds of the tournament before falling 2-1 to two-time defending Cup champion Seattle Sounders in their first official match against Seattle’s MLS side.
It wouldn’t be the last time the Kitsap would meet the Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup. The Pumas made a spirited U.S. Open Cup run in 2016, defeating the Sounders’ U23 squad and stunning the USL’s Sacramento Republic FC to earn a fourth-round matchup against the Sounders.
Seattle won that night, a 2-0 victory over the Sounders. But the Pumas continued to write their own history in the U.S. Open Cup.
And so they shall this season as well. On Wednesday, the Pumas and their fans will find out where their road in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup begins.