Fire to begin U.S. Open Cup play in third round on July 13

U.S. Soccer has announced the third round pairings of the 2005 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, including the possible opponents that will face the Chicago Fire, the three-time tournament champion and defending runners-up of the competition. The Fire will begin its trek towards a fourth Open Cup crown on Wednesday, July 19 in a third round match-up against either the Western Massachusetts Pioneers of the United Soccer League Second Division (USL2) or United States Amateur Soccer Association club Reggae Boyz, based out of Indianapolis, IN.

The Pioneers and Reggae Boyz will play their second round clash at Lusitano Stadium in Ludlow, MA on Wednesday, June 29 at 6:30 p.m. CT. Should Western Massachusetts advance, the Fire would travel to Lusitano Stadium to play the Pioneers on July 19 at 6:30 p.m. CT. The location of a possible Fire-Reggae Boyz third round contest has not yet been determined. The Reggae Boyz pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's first round by knocking off the USL2's Cincinnati Kings 4-2 last Wednesday, while Western Massachusetts is entering the competition in the second round. The Pioneers currently sit in third place in the nine-team USL Second Division, with its 5-2-4 record (19 pts.) placing them just three points behind co-leaders Charlotte and Wilmington.

Four teams from the USL First Division and four from Major League Soccer (Chicago, FC Dallas, Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake) will play the winners of the June 29 second round games. The remaining eight MLS teams will enter play in the tournament's fourth round on Aug. 3. Geographical pairings and host proposals received from each club determined the match-ups, as they will through the quarterfinals of the tournament. Possible pairings for the fourth round will be announced after the completion of the second round.

The Fire has enjoyed unparalleled success in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup since the team's inception in 1998, winning the coveted Dewar Trophy three times - 1998, 2000 and 2003 - in the club's first seven seasons while finishing as the runners-up in last year's Open Cup. The "Men in Red" have dominated play in the nation's oldest soccer competition, as evidenced by Chicago's 18-4-1 record in the tournament. The Fire is also one of only seven clubs to win the U.S. Open Cup at least three times, and became the first to accomplish the feat since the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms won their third title in 1983. The Fire is the only team from America's top-flight soccer league to win the tournament multiple times, having brought Chicago's sixth, seventh and eighth tournament titles to the Windy City.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the U.S. Soccer Federation's National Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. It is the oldest annual team tournament in U.S. sports history and among the oldest soccer tournaments of its type in the world. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor long-time soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt. At stake in the tournament is $180,000 in prize money broken down as follows: $100,000 to the champion, $50,000 to the runner up and $10,000 to the team which advances deepest in the tournament from each of the Division II, Division III and amateur levels.

"Captain Chris" to Get Chatty on ESPN's Thursday at 1:00 p.m. CT
Fire captain Chris Armas will be a guest for an online chat on ESPN's this Thursday, June 22 at 1:00 p.m. CT. In his third year wearing the captain's armband for the Fire, the 32-year-old Armas has been with the club since its inception and remains one of the most recognizable names in MLS. Also a regular on the U.S. Men's National Team, Armas has been named to the MLS All-Star squad seven times and to five MLS "Best XI" teams while earning both MLS Comeback Player of the Year and Fire/Honda MVP honors in 2003. Armas has appeared in 201 games (Chicago and Los Angeles combined) while scoring 10 goals and 40 assists in his MLS career. The Bronx, New York native will be fielding questions live at 1:00 p.m. CT but fans can beat the crowd and send in their queries any time before then by clicking

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