The Michigan Bucks have a noted penchant for winning trophies, and that trend continued at the finals of the 2018 Hank Steinbrecher Cup as the club picked up its second-straight trophy as the National Amateur Champions.
The competition, which was founded in 2013, brings together the previous year’s champions from the PDL (Charlotte Eagles), the NPSL (Elm City Express), the USASA National Amateur Cup (Lansdowne Bhoys FC) and the defending Steinbrecher Cup champion (Michigan Bucks). The Bucks have appeared in three of six finals, with all three coming in the last four editions of the tournament, and defeated the defending PDL Champion Charlotte Eagles to capture this year’s title.
Previously, the Bucks defeated AFC Cleveland to win the 2017 title, and finished runner-up in 2015 to Chattanooga FC. The PDL as a whole has won four of six titles in the competition’s history, with the Carolina Dynamo winning the inaugural 2013 event and Chicago Fire U23 winning the competition in 2016, prior to the Bucks’ two-year run.
“The Bucks are always honored to have earned the right to participate in this country's highest-level tournaments,” said Bucks Chairman and CEO Dan Duggan. “Whether it be the USASA’s Hank Steinbrecher Cup, the U.S. Open Cup or the PDL playoffs, our goal has always been to win as many championships as possible to further enhance the profile of the club both here and abroad.”
The 2018 final was the second instance of two PDL clubs meeting for the Steinbrecher Cup. The Dynamo’s 2013 victory came in penalties over LVU Sonic (now Lehigh Valley United) before the Bucks and Eagles meeting this year. The final was the first instance of the two PDL clubs facing one another in a clash of champions.
“Playing the best of the best in an all-champions tournament is not hard to get motivated for,” said Duggan. “You never want to lose the first game and have to play Saturday in a consolation match. We have defeated the best the NPSL has to offer the past two years and we also had a unique opportunity to play the PDL champs this year. We have never played the Charlotte Eagles and we wouldn't have had the opportunity unless we both reached the National Semifinals in the PDL, so that is another great benefit of the Steinbrecher Cup.”
The Bucks have historically been a club to reach those National Semifinals in the PDL. The three-time PDL Champions have most recently reached the final four in 2014 and 2016, and wound up winning the Championship each time. In addition, the Bucks boast a stellar record in the Open Cup, particularly against professional opposition. The Steinbrecher Cup plays a unique role in helping build these title-winning rosters for the Bucks.
“The Steinbrecher Cup is a great opportunity for us to use our full 40-man roster,” Duggan continued. “Many of the players have trained for three weeks but have not seen action in the PDL or U.S. Open Cup because we did not know their capabilities well enough. This year, six players made their first start for the Bucks in the USASA tournament and most of them played their way into a higher position on the roster. It is another opportunity for our players to make a name for themselves on a national stage.”
Because of the Bucks consecutive titles, they will return for a third-straight edition of the Steinbrecher Cup next year alongside the to-be-determined 2018 PDL Champion, and they’re ready to prove themselves again.
“We are proud to represent the PDL in national tournaments and look forward to being the first team ever to be invited back for the third-consecutive year because of our back-to-back titles,” said Duggan. “We will represent the PDL proudly the first weekend of June 2019 regardless of who ends up hosting next year's tournament."