CHICAGO – The 105th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup kicks off May 9 and features 94 teams from all levels of American soccer.
The tournament will see a tiered bracket and eight rounds of single-elimination play until a champion is crowned in September.
Fifty-two Open Division teams (clubs from the Premier Development League, National Premier Soccer League and those advancing from three rounds of local qualifying played between September and November 2017) will enter in the first round May 9. Among the returning teams is local qualifier Christos FC, amateurs from Baltimore who captured the Open Cup spirit with a fourth round run last year.
Twenty-two clubs from the professional Division II United Soccer League will enter the action in the second round on May 16. FC Cincinnati, the first Division II club to reach the semifinals since 2011 with dramatic wins last year over two Major League Soccer sides, headlines the participating USL teams.
The third round takes place on May 23 as it will send its winners up against 20 Division I MLS clubs in the fourth round on June 6. In a format change, a new fourth round draw (details below) will be held May 24 to determine these matchups.
The 2018 U.S. Open Cup winner will earn increased prize money (see below), a berth in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League and have its name engraved on the Dewar Challenge Trophy, one of the oldest nationally contested trophies in American team sports.
Sporting Kansas City is the defending Open Cup champion, having earned the club’s fourth tournament title behind a 2-1 win over the Red Bulls Sept. 20 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Prize money, travel reimbursements increased for 2018
The winner of this year’s U.S. Open Cup will receive $300,000 (up from $250,000 last year). The tournament runner-up will receive $100,000 (up from $60,000) and the team that advances the furthest from each lower division will earn $25,000 (up from $15,000).
U.S. Soccer has increased the levels of travel reimbursement and the size of the traveling party eligible for reimbursement for all rounds of the competition (now up to 24 people and $12,000 from the first round to the semifinal round, up to 30 people and $25,000 for the final).
Format and other changes for 2018
Similar to the Round of 16, pairings for the fourth round now will be made by random draw after dividing teams geographically into groups of four and drawing matchups within each group. Each fourth round group will have at least one and no more than two third round winners, with pairs drawn so that each third round winner faces an MLS team.
In the first round, the provision requiring teams from the same qualifying pool (e.g. local qualifiers, NPSL, PDL) to not be paired can now be disregarded if doing so avoids extensive travel on balance for the participating teams.
The Open Cup Commissioner now has the authority to set outside of the confirmed schedule the date for any match if such a change is in the best interests of the tournament.
Open Division local qualifier El Farolito lost its tournament eligibility earlier this year as a result of switching leagues during the midst of the 2018 Open Cup campaign. Competition regulations require a team to remain a member of the same league from the club’s time of entry and continuing until the final.
The Open Cup committee has determined the teams that are not permitted to be matched to each other throughout the tournament (e.g. a non-professional Open Division team and a parent club; a team that receives material technical support from another club) except in the unlikely event that both sides reach the final. These pairings are: Red Bulls (MLS) and Red Bulls Under-23 (PDL); OKC Energy (USL) and OKC Energy U23 (PDL); Portland Timbers (MLS) and Portland Timbers U23 (PDL), and San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) and Reno 1868 FC (USL).
Professional teams that are majority-owned or otherwise controlled by higher division professional clubs are expressly excluded from Open Cup competition. For 2018, there are nine such teams, all from USL: ATL UTD 2, Bethlehem Steel FC, LA Galaxy II, New York Red Bulls II, Portland Timbers 2, Real Monarchs SLC, Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, Seattle Sounders FC 2 and Swope Park Rangers.
Tournament format, schedule and other key dates
Initial pairings announcement – April 4
First round games as well as second round possibilities announced.
First Round – May 9
Number of Games: 26
Participants: 52 Open Division teams
Competition: Teams will be paired geographically with the restriction that teams from the same qualifying pool (e.g. local qualifiers, PDL, NPSL) cannot be paired to play each other. The restriction many be disregarded if doing so avoids extensive travel on balance for the participating teams.
Second Round – May 16
Number of Games: 24
Participants: 26 First Round winners and 22 Division II (USL) clubs
Competition: At the time the First Round pairings are made, each Division II team will be matched geographically to a specific First Round pairing and be scheduled to play its winner. The remaining First Round matchups not paired with a Division II side will be paired geographically, with the winners playing each other to complete the round.
Third Round – May 23
Number of Games: 12
Participants: 24 Second Round winner play each other.
Competition: After each second round matchup has been determined, the second round pairs will be bracketed geographically to create the third round matchups.
Fourth Round Draw – May 24
The third round winners and 20 Division I (MLS) clubs will be divided geographically into groups of four, with teams who are precluded from playing each other until the Final per tournament regulations (i.e. pro teams and their affiliated Open Division sides) placed in different groups. Each group will have at least one and no more than two Third Round winners, with pairs drawn randomly but done so that each third round winner faces an MLS team.
Fourth Round – June 6*
Number of Games: 16
Participants: 12 Third Round winners and 20 Division I (MLS) clubs.
Competition: Twelve games will be between third round winners and MLS teams, while the remaining four matchups will be MLS vs. MLS affairs.
Round of 16 Draw – June 7
The fourth round winners will be divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four, with teams who are precluded from playing each other until the Final per tournament regulations (i.e. pro teams and their affiliated Open Division sides) placed in different groups. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, resulting in a fixed bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Should a precluded pair of teams reach the semifinal round and be scheduled to face each other, the matches will be re-drawn after the quarterfinals to avoid this outcome.
Round of 16 – June 20* (also June 16-17 if home team chooses and visiting team has at least two rest days on each side of chosen date)
Number of Games: 8
Competition: Fourth Round winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16 draw.
Quarterfinals – July 18*
Semifinals – August 8* (date tentative)
Final – September 26 (date tentative)
* Any game in the Fourth Round, Round of 16, Quarterfinal Round and Semifinal Round where one of the participants has a league game the following Friday will be moved up a day (exceptions to this occur when the team’s opponent is scheduled for a league game the preceding Sunday; in this case, the provisions in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Handbook to determine the match date will prevail). In addition, any game chosen by U.S. Soccer to be broadcast nationally is subject to being moved up a day. The Commissioner shall have the authority to set outside of the confirmed schedule the date for any match if such a change is in the best interests of the tournament.
Professional teams eligible to participate (42):
Division I – Major League Soccer (20 teams, entering in the Fourth Round): Atlanta United FC, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles FC, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United FC, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City (defending Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champions).
Division II – United Soccer League (22 teams, entering in the Second Round): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, FC Cincinnati, Fresno FC, Indy Eleven, Las Vegas Lights FC, Louisville City FC, Nashville SC, North Carolina FC, OKC Energy FC, Orange County SC, Penn FC (formerly Harrisburg City Islanders), Phoenix Rising FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Reno 1868 FC, Richmond Kickers, Sacramento Republic FC, Saint Louis FC, San Antonio FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Open Division Teams (52, all entering in the first round):
Local Qualifiers (13 teams, listed alphabetically by state): Arizona (1): Sporting AZ FC; California (3): La Máquina*, LA Wolves FC*, Santa Ana Winds; Colorado (2): Azteca FC*, FC Denver; Florida (2): FC Kendall, Red Force FC*; Maryland (1): Christos FC*; Massachusetts (1): Kendall Wanderers; New York (2): Lansdowne Bhoys FC, Rochester River Dogz; Texas (1): NTX Rayados*
Premier Development League (20 teams, listed alphabetically): Charlotte Eagles (N.C.)*, FC Golden State Force (Calif.)*, FC Miami City (Fla.), FC Tucson (Ariz.)*, Lakeland Tropics (Fla.), Long Island Rough Riders (N.Y.), Michigan Bucks*, Mississippi Brilla FC, Myrtle Beach Mutiny (S.C.), New York Red Bulls U23, Ocean City Nor’easters (N.J.)*, OKC Energy U23 (Okla.)*, Portland Timbers U23 (Ore.), Reading United AC (Pa.)*, San Francisco City FC (Calif.), Seacoast United Phantoms (N.H.), SIMA Aguilas (Fla.), South Georgia Tormenta FC, The Villages SC (Fla.)*, Western Mass Pioneers*
(The PDL is a nationwide league affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and opted to use 2017 league results to determine its qualifiers for the 2018 Open Cup.)
National Premier Soccer League (19 teams, listed alphabetically): AFC Ann Arbor (Mich.)*, Brooklyn Italians (N.Y.), CD Aguiluchos USA (Calif.), Dakota Fusion FC (N.D.), Detroit City FC (Mich.), Duluth FC (Minn.), Elm City Express (Conn.), Erie Commodores (Pa.), FC Arizona, FC Motown (N.J.) (formerly Clarkstown SC Eagles)*, FC Wichita (Kan.)*, Fort Worth Vaqueros (Texas), Inter Nashville FC (Tenn.), Kingston Stockade FC (N.Y.), Kitsap Soccer Club (Wash.), Miami United FC (Fla.)*, Midland-Odessa FC (Texas), New Orleans Jesters (La.), Orange County FC (Calif.)
(The NPSL is a nationwide league affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and opted to use 2017 league results to determine its qualifiers for the 2018 Open Cup.)
* Participated in 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup