U.S. Soccer has finalized the format and schedule for the 106th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer’s national championship.
The 2019 tournament kicks off May 7-8 with 19 First Round games and features 84 teams from all levels, culminating in August with America’s soccer champion lifting the Open Cup trophy after eight rounds of single-elimination play.
Thirty-two Open Division squads (clubs from the National Premier Soccer League, USL League Two, those advancing from four rounds of local qualifying played between September 2018 and April 2019, and the 2018 U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Amateur Cup champion Bavarian SC from Milwaukee, Wis.) will enter first round action in early May. They will be joined by the six eligible members of the newly-sanctioned Division III professional circuit, USL League One.
Loal first-round entrants include Cosmos B, FC Motown (both NPSL) and Red Bulls Under-23 (USL League Two).
Twenty-five teams from the newly-renamed professional Division II USL Championship (formerly the United Soccer League) will take the field starting in the second round May 14-15.
The third round takes place May 29, and its winners will be joined by the 21 U.S.-based Division I Major League Soccer clubs in the fourth round June 12.
In another indication of the unprecedented growth of professional soccer in the United States, 52 pro teams – a modern-era record (1995 to present) – will play in this year’s competition. The previous record was 47, set in 2015.
The U.S. Open Cup winner will earn $300,000 in prize money, a berth in the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League and have its name engraved on the Dewar Challenge Trophy – one of the oldest nationally-contested trophies in American team sports – now on display at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco, Texas. The runner-up will earn $100,000, while the team that advances the furthest from each lower division will take home a $25,000 cash prize.
Each round will be conducted in a single-game-knockout format, with matches that are tied after 90 minutes of regulation time proceeding to a full 30 minutes of extra time. If still tied after 120 minutes, the team to advance will be determined by kicks from the penalty mark.
Home teams will be determined by random selection among those who apply to host. Clubs whose venue meets minimum tournament standards will be given priority.
The Open Cup Committee has determined the teams that are not permitted to be matched to each other throughout the tournament (e.g. an Open Division team and a parent club; a team who 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 U23 (USL League Two); South Georgia Tormenta FC (USL League One) and South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 (USL League Two); and San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) and Reno 1868 FC (USL Championship).
Professional teams who are majority-owned or otherwise controlled by higher division professional clubs are expressly excluded from Open Cup competition. For 2019, there are 13 such teams. From USL Championship (10): ATL UTD 2, Bethlehem Steel FC, LA Galaxy II, Loudoun United FC; New York Red Bulls II, Portland Timbers 2, Real Monarchs SLC, Rio Grande Valley FC, Swope Park Rangers and Tacoma Defiance (known in 2018 as Seattle Sounders FC 2); from USL League One (3): FC Tucson, North Texas SC and Orlando City B.
2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Schedule, Format and Other Key Dates:
Fourth qualifying round – April 6-7
First-round pairings announced – April 10
Second-round pairings and possible pairings announced – April 17
First round – May 7-8*
Number of Games : 19
Participants : 32 Open Division teams and six Division III (USL League One) clubs
Competition : Teams will be paired geographically with the restriction that teams from the same qualifying pool (i.e. local qualifiers, NPSL, USL League Two, USL League One) cannot be paired to play each other. The restriction may be disregarded if doing so avoids extensive travel on balance for the participating teams.
Second Round – May 14 & 15*
Number of Games : 22
Participants : 19 First Round winners and 25 Division II (USL Championship) clubs
Competition : After the First Round pairings are made, each pairing will be matched geographically to a specific Division II team, with the First Round winner playing the assigned Division II side. The six remaining Division II squads will be paired to play each other, with these pairings also made geographically.
Third Round – May 29*
Number of Games : 11
Participants : 22 Second Round winners 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, with the Second Round winners playing each other.
Fourth Round Draw – May 30
The 11 Third Round winners and 21 Division I (Major League Soccer) clubs will be divided geographically into eight 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 12*
Number of Games : 16
Participants : 11 Third Round winners and 21 Division I (MLS) clubs.
Competition : Eleven games will be between Third Round winners and MLS teams, while the remaining five matchups will be MLS vs. MLS affairs.
Round of 16 Draw – June 13
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 Quarterfinal Round to avoid this outcome.
Round of 16 – June 19* (also June 18-23 if home team chooses and visiting team has at least three non-game days on each side of chosen date, with any overlap of USMNT Gold Cup games on June 18 and June 22 disallowed)
Number of Games : 8
Competition : Fourth Round winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16 Draw.
Quarterfinals – July 10*
Draw to Determine Hosts for Semifinals and Final – July 11
Semifinals – August 7*
Final – August 27 or 28
* Any game from the fourth round through to the semifinal round where one of the participants has a league game the following Friday will be moved up a day (exception to this occurs when the team’s opponent is scheduled for a league game the preceding Sunday; in this case, the provisions in the 2019 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 in any round is subject to being moved up a day. The commissioner 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.