El Farolito SC, amateur soccer team named after popular burrito spot, poised for more U.S. Open Cup success


The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup may be going on without some MLS clubs this season but that doesn’t mean that it is missing its fair share of drama as El Farolito SC have moved onto the third round of the tournament after defeating USL League One side Central Valley Fuego FC. Founded as an amateur side out of the San Francisco area, sharing the name with a popular regional burrito chain, El Farolito are no strangers to the Open Cup despite restaurant employees no longer playing for the team. Now in the National Premier Soccer League, they’re semi-pro with some players being paid but others taking part as amateurs. 

Under the name San Francisco C.D. Mexico, they actually won the Open Cup in 1993, qualifying for Concacaf Champions Cup where they fell to Liga MX side Necaxa. They would return to their original name while playing in amateur leagues before joining the NPSL ahead of the 2018 season. In 2023, they would qualify for the Open Cup under head coach Santiago Lopez, making it to the second round before now going at least one round further this season, taking on Oakland Roots at 10:30 p.m. ET. 

Playing as a semi-pro team in the Open Cup can present unique challenges that Lopez has been working through them as they look to keep the dream alive. 

“I think it’s trust and communication. The group trust me. And they communicate everything they do outside of training,” Lopez said about managing struggles with training on CBS Sports Golazo podcast, Call It What You Want. “Unfortunately, a lot of these players have to make their way of living through work during the week and even tournaments or games on the weekend. So fatigue plays a big factor.”

“I need to know who plays on Saturday morning and our games in NPSL are on Saturday nights. So I try to balance that out to see, you know, game time, rest time and we only train twice a week. So I really need to summarize a lot of these little details into one training session. So two training sessions on the week,” Lopez continued. “But I’m very fortunate that these players already know how to play.”

Set to face the Oakland Roots, Lopez and El Farolito have a chance to avenge their last Open Cup run. Last season the Roots ended their run in the second round of the tournament.

Building for this

Lopez knows the team’s roots as one of the regional general managers for the burrito franchise and has been coaching El Farolito since 2011. Improving the team in his time in charge, El Farolito have now qualified for the Open Cup through NPSL three times but their aims don’t stop there. Led by Debor Benson, El Farolito have the joint-leading scorer in the U.S. Open Cup this season on their side with three goals.

A non-MLS side hasn’t won the competition since 1999 when the Rochester Rhinos did it and while this season may be a little different with only eight MLS sides entering their first teams, it does increase opportunities for lower division sides. That means there’s a chance that the Open Cup trophy could make a return to San Francisco if El Farolito can stay on its incredible run.

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