Football’s oldest cup competition will only have 16 teams left capable of reaching September’s final after third-round ties are played this weekend (June 18-19).
The Chatham Cup will see some of the highest-profile clubs in the country go head-to-head with a few survivors from leagues below them.
And you can be sure of upsets, incidents and, no doubt, the need to sort things out either in extra time or from the penalty spot.
Here’s our preview of the third-round games, with our choices for the games with plenty to entertain the neutral spectator:
Cambridge hoping for 13th time lucky
Cambridge travel to Auckland United’s Keith Hay Park, needing to overcome two historical challenges.
First, they have to beat their third-round bogey. This is the 13th time in their 76-year history that they’ve reached the third round … the furthest they’ve ever reached.
Incredibly, they have lost all 12 of their previous matches at this stage.
The second hurdle is being able to erase the memories of last year’s second-round tie when they were also drawn away to Auckland United and were easily dismissed 9-0.
So what could be different this time?
Well, they’ll play this year’s tie at Keith Hay Park (last year’s was played at Waikaraka Park) so the mental images of last year’s defeat won’t be quite the same.
And the large pitch (107m x 70m) may provide an open game, capable of letting players perform with that nothing-to-lose attitude.
Cambridge have already caused two upsets, beating first division Onehunga Mangere United in the first round, and then topping Northern League side North Shore United in the second.
Whatever else, this is the Reds’ biggest game of the season and they’ll be going for it.
Main photo: Auckland United’s Keith Hay Park … an excellent venue for one of the round’s most intriguing ties.
Will all the Northern League sides survive?
The draw was kind to Northern League sides, pitching six of the seven remaining teams against lower-ranked clubs.
In theory, all the Northern ties could be won by Northern League teams.
But if there is room for an upset, who’ll be missing from next week’s fourth-round draw?
The upset might be at Brains Park where West Auckland, promoted to the Lotto NRFL second division this year, host Waiheke United.
West Auckland have been finding their feet in the division, where they are currently fifth, but last weekend, they clattered Claudelands Rovers 7-1 away, with five different goalscorers and a hat-trick from Matthew Hearn.
That could have given them a surge of confidence ahead of Saturday’s tie against a Waiheke side that has yet to win a game in the Northern League, but has drawn five of their 13 fixtures.
Waiheke might struggle to win their games but they are usually difficult to beat.
However, if West Auckland get them back-pedalling early, this might be a tie that is difficult to resolve and it wouldn’t surprise us if this one goes to extra time and even penalties.
Can’t get out to a game? Watch a live broadcast
The Auckland City v Manukau United tie will be streamed live via NZ Football’s YouTube channel.
Watch it here:
Can Papamoa punch above their weight again?
WaiBOP Premiership side Papamoa have already claimed the scalps of two higher-ranked clubs, having beaten Lotto NRFL first division side Ellerslie 3-2 and second division outfit Claudelands Rovers 2-0 in the previous rounds.
This time, they have to punch one more tier up when they play Northern League side Hamilton Wanderers.
On paper, they shouldn’t stand much of a chance. But cup ties were never won or lost on paper.
First, Papamoa have home advantage and their supporters will be itching for a chance for their club to go into the last 16 of the most celebrated competition in our sport.
Papamoa FC president Maaka Nelson told SunLive:
“We’ve been relatively lucky health-wise for this time of the season and all of our players have prepared well and are looking forward to the game.
“We haven’t played Hamilton Wanderers before but the guys love stepping up and playing stronger sides.”
Wanderers will need to contain Eamon O’Donoghue who has scored in their last two rounds, and Papamoa have the second-best defensive record in this year’s WaiBOP Premiership.
Wanderers squeezed past Takapuna 1-0 in the last round, and go into this on the back of a 2-0 win against Eastern Suburbs last weekend.
The Blue Army should come away with the win … but Papamoa won’t be making it easy for them.
Double the cup action at Birkenhead
It looks like a full afternoon of cup entertainment at Birkenhead United’s Shepherds Park on Sunday.
At noon, the club hosts Tauranga City in the third round of the women’s Kate Sheppard Cup.
That’s followed by United’s Chatham Cup tie against Central United, past winners of the trophy and eager to continue their cup run that’s seen them overcome Waitemata and Ngongotaha.
We like the prospect of back-to-back games and the prospect of two entertaining games … it’s our pick for the ground to be on Sunday afternoon.
Auckland City v Manukau United
Kiwitea St, Auckland, 2pm
Bay Olympic v Metro
Olympic Park, Auckland, 2pm
West Auckland v Waiheke United
Brains Park, Auckland, 2pm
Melville United v East Coast Bays
Gower Park, Hamilton, 2pm
Fencibles United v Eastern Suburbs
Riverhills Park, Pakuranga, 2pm
Auckland United v Cambridge
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 2pm
Birkenhead United v Central United
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 3pm
Papamoa v Hamilton Wanderers
Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa, 2pm
North Wellington v Wellington Olympic
Alex Moore Park, Wellington, 2pm
Island Bay United* v Miramar Rangers
Wakefield Park, Wellington, 3.30pm
*Island Bay United replaces Palmerston North Marist in the round after Marist fielded an ineligible player in their 4-3 second-round win against Island Bay (click here for details)
Napier City Rovers v Wellington United
Bluewater Stadium, Napier, 2pm
Wellington Marist v Western Suburbs
Kilbirnie Park, Wellington, 2pm
Green Island v Northern
Sunnyvale Park, Dunedin, 1.30pm
Ferrymead Bays v Cashmere Technical
Ferrymead Park, Christchurch, 2.30pm
Mosgiel v Dunedin City Royals
Memorial Park, Mosgiel, 1pm
Nelson Suburbs v Coastal Spirit
Saxton Field, Nelson, 2pm