And just like that, the curtain has fallen on the Lower League eCup’s 2021 season.
What a season it’s been, full of Twitter banter, surprise upsets, newcomers staking their claim among the eCup’s greats, and an inordinate amount of Michael Jordan memes. What more could you ask for?
In any case, a lot happened over the course of a few short months. You can take a look back at our previous few eCup posts to see how the group stages went down, but what follows is a summary of all the playoff action we just witnessed.
Let’s start with the results themselves. We’ll go division by division and give you the winners, show you their path to victory, and where we predicted them to finish.
After that, we’ll take a look at some of the superlatives and stand-out statistics from across the divisions. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – on to the winners!
I had a feeling this one would be pretty wild, and my expectations on that front were met and then some!
I can’t exactly claim I knew Aaron Sexton of Danubia was going to win all along, given that my week 0 prediction was for him to finish in dead last. That said, I realized my mistake relatively quickly.
Aaron dominated from the off, winning the preseason tournament and making easy work of his group stage. He then dispatched Delaware Rising, upset hopefuls Space United, and eventually Oakland County in the final to take home the tourney’s first trophy.
The 7-4 win over two legs didn’t come easily, as Oakland put up a serious fight. They had already overcome the top seed from the opposite group in South Bend Lions, but Aaron’s prowess was too much to overcome.
Shouts also go to Aaron and Danubia for their fun interaction and banter throughout the tournament. Congrats on the win, guys!
It was the largest group by console, and we always knew it would be the most likely to produce some juicy matchups in the playoffs.
The big results came early and often, starting with a second straight early exit for the FIFA pro behind FC Motown. Edson Cejudo of San Lee FC (recently featured in a Spanish-language post about the eCup and its Hispanic participants) nabbed an upset victory in the first round over the New Jersey giant.
He would go on to lose in the final of his quadrant to Chris Moura of Providence City, who advanced to the final four on the PlayStation side.
Moura himself fell victim to Whitney, representing Tulsa Athletic in their second straight year in the title mix. The pride of the NPSL surpassed their Rhode Island rivals in an 8-5 thriller over two legs, moving onto the final to face Gio Cañas of Greenville Triumph.
Gio looked impossible to beat all season long, beating big names like Lansing Common in the first round, Magic City Brigade in the quarterfinals while only conceding a goal per match, and Black Rock’s Jamie Dawe in a high-powered semifinal. Jamie took down smallworld’s rep Austin Robillard in a thrilling encounter that handed Austin his one and only loss of the event.
That set up the final between Greenville and Tulsa, and in the end, the Oklahoma outfit found a way to win by a score of 7-3, holding Gio to his lowest goal total over two matches all eCup long.
Big props to Tulsa for pulling out the victory in a hotly-contested group of elite PlayStation reps. They lost to Providence City in the quarterfinals last year, but got their revenge and more by beating them in the semifinals and finishing the job against Greenville.
It was an equally enjoyable season on the Xbox side of things, as Minneapolis City looked to avenge their loss in the finals to a team who didn’t defend their title. Metro Louisville was another big story after a shocking early playoff exit, and as it would turn out, both those sides would meet.
Minneapolis had a difficult road to get back to where they reached last year, though. New man between the sticks Max Steigwardt couldn’t manage to win his group after a surprise loss to Lansing Common’s Binh Le. Lansing would fall short in the quarterfinals after a first-round bye, but Mpls City did it the hard way, winning three matches to get out of their playoff quadrant and find their way to the semifinals.
There, they met birds of a feather in Evan Warwick’s Forward Madison and delivered a big 10-4 triumph to send Minneapolis City to their second-straight final.
For Metro’s part, Romero came back for his second straight eCup season. As a tune-up, he carved up the smallworld Second Division, winning the final by a blistering 17-1 over the tie. His play was equally dominant in the Premier Division, posting 11 goals on a Northwich side coming off two straight clean sheets in the second round. Louisville met Lone Star Republic in the quarterfinals, the team that ousted them last season. This time, Romero was ready and Metro advanced to the semis after an 8-3 win.
They continued their dominant run with a nervy 8-6 win that sent them to the final to face the Crows. That was when the dominance truly showed itself, as Romero torched Max to the tune of 17-2 over two legs. It was a heartbreaking moment for the Crows, as they came just short of a title for the second straight year. Metro earned their first-ever title in the eCup, though, so they’re certainly over the moon.
smallworld Second Division
In the PlayStation division, Space United got its first ever eCup trophy with SUFC II. They beat a determined Omar Anguiano from La Barra 608 by a score of 8-5 to take the title.
On the Xbox console, Metro Louisville took the sweep. They won both the Premier and Second Divisions, scoring 34 goals over the course of two dual-leg matches in the two finals. The same Romero won both events and did so convincingly to give the NPSL Southeast newbies a big win in the eCup.
Now, to Danny’s chagrin, let’s match up the real results with his predictions all the way in Week 0.
Predictions v Reality
PC Predictions: I had South Bend Lions and Space United facing off in the final, and neither of them made it that far. Meanwhile, my semifinalists didn’t even make the second round. So yeah, that was tough.
Xbox Premier: I’m actually pretty proud of this one! I made the mistake of putting Inland Empire as my champion, but two of my semifinalists were accurate, and both of them played for the final, as a matter of fact. I had Minneapolis City beating Metro, which obviously didn’t happen, but at least I had their eventual second-place fate right!
PlayStation Premier: I had Greenville making the semis, and they exceeded my expectations by reaching the final. smallworld was awfully close to reaching the final like I predicted we would, but Austin came up short in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, my FC Motown prediction fell well short as they went out early to San Lee.
Xbox Second: So my predicted winner dropped out. That’s how this one went. I did get Tallahassee’s second-place finish right on target, though!
PlayStation Second: TriSocPod let me down here, but really, this entire semifinal I set up with Armada, TriSocPod, Red Watch, and Metro got blown up pretty early.
Well folks, that’s about it. With this, we wrap up our coverage of the 2021 edition of the Lower League eCup. As Joe Meyer himself said on Twitter earlier this week, “see you in January!” and until then, smallworld is reorienting to on-field soccer as it comes back in different stages and settings over the coming weeks and months.
Thanks for your readership as always, and support local soccer!