Regarding this year's Emperor's Cup...
The first round is finished, and one potential opponent has been eliminated. Gutsy J. League hopefuls Kamatamare Sanuki, featuring Iwadate and Hatta who started for Mito last year, defeated JFL side and potential 2009 J2 team Gainare Tottori. Their next match will be against fellow Shikoku league giants Tokushima Vortis Second who are less than a win behind Kamatamare in the Shikoku League. Those two teams are both without loss of any type this year and if Kamatamare can pull it off, it will mean a lot of momentum in both this cup and their chances to make it to J2 by 2010.
Hokushinetsu League favorites Zweigen Kanazawa, anchored by 2006 Mito squad member Yusuke Gondo, defeated JFL's defending champions Sagawa Shiga FC 4-3. Kanazawa was the first opponent for Mito's Emperor's Cup showing last year; a match Mito won on the first cool, crisp day of the year. Kanazawa's next match will be against 2009 J2 promotion contenders Katare Toyama and they seem ready to surprise just as last year and make it to the J2 entry round.
Just north of Ibaraki, former Mito defensive stalwart Yuu Tokisaki led his team of Fukushima United against Tokyo university giants Kokushikan. He is in his second year there as player-manager and possibly the best player of any club in the prefecture, but his only goal could not help in their 1-4 loss.
Even further north, 2007 defender Fukutaro Shino had better luck with his new club, Grulla Morioka. This team, along with Sanuki and Kanagawa, is seen as one of the most likely to make it into JFL next year. They defeated Yamagata University 5-1.
Tochigi SC in nearby Utsunomiya, featuring a few Mito players from years past (and also Mito's biggest rival for fans in the area other than Kashima), is already seeded in the tournament as the strongest JFL team and will face Roasso Kumamoto in the third round.
There now remain:
-18 J1 teams
-15 J2 teams
-10 regional league teams
-9 JFL teams
-5 national-league unaffiliated university teams
-1 high school team
And one of these 58 teams will be considered Japan's strongest when winning the cup on new year's day of next year. Mito's path to take that title:
Avispa Fukuoka -> Kyoto Sanga FC -> TBD (Probably Kashiwa Reysol, I'd like to see Kamatamare Sanuki) -> TBD (either Kawasaki or Tokyo Verdy) -> TBD -> TBD
Eight matches with the first two not impossibly difficult, Mito has been a bogey team for either potential team in the fourth match, and no chance to face Kashima until the semi-finals... This could be Mito's year!