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Memphis 901 FC soccer forward Duane Muckette is shown in action with the new USL franchise which plays home games at the downtown AutoZone Park. In addition to the USL Championship season, 901 FC has been involved in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup playoffs and June 12 plays the MLS team from Orlando in that tournament’s fourth round. That game will be at Mike Rose Soccer Complex in Memphis.

Anyone up for a spot of soccer?

If you haven’t noticed, a new sports sensation has been gripping the corner of Union and B.B. King Boulevard in Memphis this year.

Making the splash is Memphis 901 FC, the new USL Championship professional soccer franchise that has been sharing the pitch, or field, at AutoZone Park with the Memphis Redbirds Pacific Coast League baseball franchise. In soccer terms, “pitch” is used when referring to the playing field.

FYI, when a team doesn’t net a goal, their score is “nil,” not zero or nothing. Use “pitch” and “nil” and you’ll sound like you’ve been around the Premier League all your life.

Memphis 901 FC (FC for Football Club) started play this season in the league which is considered one level below Major League Soccer, or MLS. In other words, USL Championship is like the Triple-A version of soccer like the Redbirds are to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The United Soccer League (USL) is made up of Championship, League 1 and League 2, hence the reference to Championship in terms of divisions.

Suffice to say it all can get pretty complicated, so we’ll just focus on the home team for right now.

As of Friday, Memphis 901 FC had a 2-6-4 record for 10 points and 14th place in Eastern Division play. It’s not been a stellar record in league play, but not bad for a first-year team.

Where the Memphis team has done well, however, is in what is called the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a tournament that involves more than just USL teams.

Hunt, the businessman, sports promoter and at one time owner of an MLS franchise and the Kansas City Chiefs NFL franchise, who died in 2006, has his name on the trophy for the tournament that dates back to the 1913-1914 season when it was first called the National Challenge Cup.

All amateur and professional soccer teams are eligible to play in the tournament.

Memphis 901 FC has advanced to the fourth round of that competition and will host the MLS Orlando City SC on Wednesday, June 12. It’s the first time Memphis will have ever played an MLS level team.

The match will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be played at Mike Rose Soccer Complex in Memphis due to the Redbirds playing at AutoZone Park that night. All tickets are $20 general admission, $30 on match day.

It might be worth checking out Memphis 901 FC and the June 12 contest will be a reminder of the type of weather soccer should be played in, not the 20-degree January weather our high school teams in DeSoto County are required to play in each season with the Mississippi High School Activities Association making soccer a winter sport, instead of fall or spring like is done in Tennessee and Northpoint Christian School, for instance.

Think about that and it becomes even more amazing the growth of the sport in DeSoto County to the point where teams like Lewisburg were able to come out of the cold and win a state championship like the Patriots did this spring.

BASEBALL REIGNS IN MISSISSIPPI: All three major college baseball teams from the Magnolia State are on the Road to the College World Series with NCAA regional tournament play taking place this weekend. Two of the three are hosting regional tournaments and the third is traveling to the Bayou State.

Ole Miss hosts the Oxford regional and will play in the regionals for the ninth time under coach Mike Bianco. The Rebels opened against Jacksonville State Friday evening with Illinois and Clemson facing off first Friday at 3 p.m. The schedule for the double-elimination tournament continues Saturday and again on Sunday to a championship game, although a final game may be needed Monday night to determine a championship.

Starkville and Mississippi State also hosts a regional tournament this weekend with the host Bulldogs opening against Southern University. The first-year coach Chris Lemonis-led Bulldogs also host Central Michigan and Miami (Florida). Again, it’s double-elimination with games going on at Dudy Noble through the weekend.

Southern Miss is the only state major college on the road, but the Golden Eagles coached by Scott Berry need only to head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to play in the double-elimination tournament. Southern Miss plays Arizona State in the first round with host LSU and Stony Brook in the other side of the bracket.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State are top seeds in their regional tournaments, while Southern Miss is a number three seed. Among national seeds, the Bulldogs are the sixth seed overall and Ole Miss is seeded 12th.

Let the road to Omaha and the College World Series begin!

SPORTS ETC: The 13th annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes State Qualifying Golf Scramble will be held Monday, Aug. 26 at Cherokee Valley Golf Club in Olive Branch. Tee times are at 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The top four teams (two gross and two net scores) will advance to the state FCA playoff at Old Waverly near West Point on Monday, Sept. 16. For more information, phone 901-409-1927 or email csowell@fca.org.

Northwest Mississippi Community College’s football team is ranked 12th in the Street and Smith football preview magazine’s first ranking of junior and community college football programs. Defending NJCAA national champion East Mississippi is ranked number two Iowa Western Community College. Garden City, Kansas, which lost to East Mississippi in last year’s national championship game, is third, followed by Hutchinson, Kansas and Blinn, Texas to round out the top five.

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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