US Open Cup details announced

History is back

After a two-year hiatus, the US Open Cup, the country’s oldest soccer competition, is finally back this season and yesterday the USSF announced details of the competition structure, including the teams that will be playing.

A record 103 teams will compete in the USOC this year and will play over 8 rounds running from March 22nd through mid-September (the date of the final has not been set). This will include all 23 independent USL Championship teams (Atlanta United 2, LA Galaxy II, Loudoun United and New Red Bulls II are excluded due to their MLS ownership), who will enter the competition in the second round. That will be played April 5-7.

Here’s how the USOC will run:

First Round
(March 22-23)
32 teams, made up of 11 local qualifiers (mostly UPSL and USL League Two teams), the USASA amateur champion, 10 NPSL teams and 10 other USL League Two teams.
Second Round
(April 5-7)
62 teams. The 16 first round winners, 23 Division 3 teams (10 NISA teams, 11 USL League Two teams, 2 MLS Next Pro teams and the 23 USL Championship teams). The MLS Next Pro teams will be Rochester New York FC (the only independent club in the league) and St. Louis City SC (whose parent in MLS doesn’t start play until 2023).
Third Round
(April 19-21)
48 teams. The 31 second round winners plus 17 lower-seeded MLS teams.
Round of 32
(May 10-11)
32 teams. The 24 third round winners plus the 8 higher seeded MLS teams. The three Canadian MLS teams are of course excluded.
Round of 16
(May 24-25)
16 teams.
Quarterfinals
(June 21-22)
8 teams.
Semifinals
(July 26-27)
4 teams.
Final
(September)
2 teams.

Each round will have its own draw, which will be held immediately after the end of the previous round. There are various convoluted rules affecting who can play who, and all rounds are played with geographic groupings. See the link above for details. Most importantly, all USL Championship clubs will face a lower division club in the second round.

The biggest issue to note here is that April and May both have two rounds scheduled. That’s packing a lot of extra games into an already crowded schedule. The Birmingham Legion has 5 games in April already, as do numerous other USLC clubs. 1 extra game is guaranteed and two could be possible. The Three Sparks only have 4 games in May though, so that wouldn’t be quite as bad. El Paso Locomotive, if they advance far enough, would have a nightmare on their hands: their league schedule has 5 games in April and 6 in May.

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