Featured image source: NISA – National Independent Soccer Association Facebook
Last week NISA Announced the groups for the 2023 Independent Cup, with Flower City Union headlining the Northeast Group of the tournament. The remainder of the group is composed of three USPL clubs, each representing the three biggest cities in Central and Western New York.
Smugtown FC (UPSL Division One)
Perhaps the most intriguing side in this group, Smugtown FC is coached by former Flower City General Manager Andrew Hoyt. Smugtown has featured a couple Flower City players recently, with Michael Cunningham being the top scorer. FCU head coach Jordan Sullivan has even contributed a goal in an appearance for Smugtown. Smugtown currently sits in first place of the Western New York Division in UPSL League One, going unbeaten so far in the season with 5 wins and 1 draw. UPSL League One is the second tier of the UPSL, behind the UPSL Premier.
Player to Watch: Josh Harrington
The Smugtown captain and #10 adds much-needed experience and leadership to the otherwise young squad. The midfielder has played every single match so far this season after missing the past two seasons with an injury following a motorcycle accident. Before that Harrington played for Cobras FC of the RDSL.
Upstate United FC (UPSL Division One)
Founded in 2020, Upstate United FC is in the same division and level as Smugtown, currently sitting 3 points back from Smugtown for first place. The Syracuse-based club are on a three-game winning streak.
Player to Watch: Chrishaun McKenzie
The club’s all-time leading scorer is fresh off a six-goal performance against United Elite Krajisnik FC II. McKenzie has scored over 20 goals in UPSL matches during his time with Upstate United.
FCY New York (UPSL Premier)
Based outside of Buffalo in Lackawanna, New York, FC Yemen New York is a storied team. Founded in 1975 as the Lackawanna Yemen Soccer Club, FCY New York now boasts successful UPSL, BDSL, and academy teams. FCY New York was recently crowned the Western New York Division regular season champs, after an unbeaten season (9 wins, 2 draws).
Player to watch: Witman Herandez
The free-scoring forward has continuously lit up opposing goalkeepers throughout his career. Hernandez spent his collegiate career at SUNY Oneonta, where he set the program record for career goals (61). That scoring has carried over to his time in the UPSL, as Hernandez has the second most goals of any player in the Western NY Division this season (11).
6/25: Upstate United FC (H) v Smugtown FC (A)
7/1: FCY New York (H) v Upstate United FC (A)
7/16: Smugtown FC (H) v FCY New York (A)
All games are set to be streamed live on the NISA website. Each team plays the others once, with the team collecting the most points at the end of the round playing Flower City Union on 7/22 in Rochester for the 2023 Northeast Independent Cup title.
The front runner of this group should be considered FCY New York. This club has yet to lose this season in the UPSL Premier division and plays in the division above Smugtown and Upstate United. One thing to watch with FCY New York is that they will be playing in the Western New York Division playoffs starting on 6/24. It will be interesting to see how much the team commits to this competition while the playoffs are still ongoing. Smugtown and Upstate United will be able to focus on the Independent Cup matches in full force, as they are currently still in the regular season. It’s also important to note that in the only matchup between Upstate United and Smugtown this season, Smugtown emerged victorious 4-2.
I expect this group to come down whoever wins the final match between FCY New York and Smugtown FC, with the winner moving on to face Flower City.