DAVID SMITH - Sunday, June 19, 2016
The draw for the first round of the German Cup was made on Saturday night, setting up the traditional spate of David versus Goliath match-ups for mid-August.
The first round brings together the 36 teams from last season's 1st and 2nd Bundesliga, the top four finishers from the 3rd Liga and the 24 winners of the various regional cup competitions for lower-division teams, for a total of 64 teams. Each of the bottom-ranked 32 teams is drawn to host a game against one from the top 32.
The round sees a large number of Americans set to take part, with nearly half of the 32 match-ups containing at least one team with a yank on the roster.
While it is highly unlikely that their American player, Terrence Boyd, will have recovered from his long-standing knee problems to suit up, brand new Bundesliga club RB Leipzig is involved in what is surely the marquee match of the round.
The "Roten Bullen" will begin their first-ever season as a top-flight team with a visit to violently hostile, bitter regional rivals Dynamo Dresden in a winner-takes-all sweepstakes.
This is surely the single matchup that the German law enforcement authorities had most hoped to not see drawn. It will certainly be a major challenge to control due to the history of fan problems amongst the Dynamo supporters, which will be only exacerbated by their open hatred of the controversial Red Bull-backed Leipzig club.
Apart from that one media highlight, the American-centric interest most hinges on gaining a first glimpse of how a handful of players who made moves over the summer will fit into their new settings.
Bobby Wood's Hamburger SV will travel to eastern Germany to take on third-tier FSV Zwickau. While a victory for Hamburg is overwhelmingly expected, the game could answer whether or not Wood immediately slots into a starting role.
Similarly, Jerome Kiesewetter's move to Fortuna Düsseldorf has created expectations that the 23 year-old attacker will finally have his breakthrough, and their trip to the northeast to face Hansa Rostock will give a strong hint.
Würzburg Kickers are one of the few teams with Americans on the roster - in their case Royal-Dominique Fennell - to be hosting a first-round game. The Franconian club, which was just promoted to the 2nd Bundesliga, will have a strong first test of whether they are up to the task of their new setting when they host fellow second-tier team Eintracht Braunschweig.
Fennell was one of the most important players on the squad last season, splitting time between defensive midfield and central defense, and will almost certainly be a key to not only this game but their 2016-17 campaign.
Several of the prominent Americans on 1st Bundesliga clubs will also be in action; Fabian Johnson and Borussia Mönchengladbach travel to fourth-division SV Drochtersen/Assel, John Brooks will likely be starting for Hertha Berlin when they visit SSV Jahn Regensburg, Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt take on third-tier FC Magdeburg, and Alfredo Morales should play a part for Ingolstadt when they face FC Erzgebirge Aue.
Finally, Borussia Dortmund's visit to fourth-tiered SV Eintracht Trier will likely be the most anticipated game by American fans, since it will provide definite clues as to whether 17 year-old phenom Christian Pulisic will see his role with the team expand in the new season.
Dortmund is going through a summer of flux and uncertainty, and will likely see their entire attacking front undergo a major rearrangement due to a number of departures, injuries and arrivals. This could create openings for Pulisic to see more time as a starter for the team, and their trip to the far western city of Trier will be an interesting test of what head coach Thomas Tuchel has planned for the youngster.
All first-round games will be played over the weekend of August 19-22.
German Cup first round draw
SV Eintracht Trier 05 - Borussia Dortmund
Sportfreunde Lotte - SV Werder Bremen
SV Drochtersen/Assel - Borussia Mönchengladbach
Würzburger Kickers - Eintracht Braunschweig
FSV Frankfurt - VfL Wolfsburg
SSV Jahn Regensburg - Hertha BSC
SV Babelsberg 03 - SC Freiburg
1. FC Magdeburg - Eintracht Frankfurt
FC Erzgebirge Aue - FC Ingolstadt 04
FSV Zwickau - Hamburger SV
Dynamo Dresden - RB Leipzig
VfB Lübeck - FC St. Pauli
Hansa Rostock - Fortuna Düsseldorf
SC Paderborn 07 - SV Sandhausen