GPS Portland Phoenix will take the first step Tuesday night toward earning a chance to play a Major League Soccer team later this spring.

The Phoenix host the Brooklyn Italians on Tuesday in the opening round of the 64-team U.S. Open Cup tournament at Memorial Field in Portland.

The Phoenix, members of the USL’s Premier Development League, are among 32 amateur teams from leagues throughout the United States entered in the knockout tournament.

For the first time, all 32 U.S.-based Division I, II and III professional clubs also are participating in the event.

The tournament’s first round is made up entirely of amateur teams. The 16 first-round winners will play Division II or III professional teams in the second round.

Tuesday’s winner will play the Rochester Rhinos of the Division III USL PRO league May 24 in New York.

Second-round winners are guaranteed a game against one of the 16 MLS teams in the third round.

“We obviously have to get through our first round,” Portland Phoenix General Manager and Coach Paul Baber said. “We’re playing at home, which gives us a little bit of advantage.”

The Phoenix have never played the Brooklyn-based team, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League.

“The Brooklyn Italians are in a different division than us, and we’ve never seen them play,” Baber said. “We don’t think this is going to be an easy game by any stretch. We feel this is going to be a very solid game.”

The Brooklyn soccer club was founded in 1949 by Italians who emigrated to the New York borough following World War II.

“Historically, they’re a good team,” Baber said. “They played for the Open Cup many years ago. It is one of the longest-standing soccer clubs in North America.”

GPS Phoenix — which opened the PDL season with a 2-1 win over the Vermont Voltage on Saturday — began practicing a week ago.

“We can’t prepare for them because we don’t know a lot about that team,” Baber said. “We can’t depend on their roster from last year because at our level you lose 50 percent of your team every year.

“We can only worry really about what we do. We can’t prepare to play them. We can prepare to play the best as we can.”

The past three seasons, the MLS’ Seattle Sounders, who have former Falmouth standout Roger Levesque on their roster, have won the Open Cup.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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