CHICAGO – In the first major restructuring of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup since 2012, the Open Cup committee ratified an updated competition format and expanded the tournament calendar for 2020.
The decisions to revamp the U.S. Open Cup were voted on and passed during the committee’s meeting in late November.
Revised competition format
In a significant move, the competition format for 2020 will require 11 Division I clubs from Major League Soccer to enter in the third round, one round earlier than in recent years.
The committee determined that all eligible professional Division II and Division III sides will enter in the second round, while teams from the Open Division – which encompasses all clubs and leagues outside of the three professional divisions – will see their inaugural action in the first round.
The remaining 12 MLS clubs, which will include the four USA entrants to the 2020 Concacaf Champions League and the next four best American regular-season finishers in each of the league’s Eastern and Western Conferences, will enter in the Round of 32 (previously labeled the fourth round).
The format revision increases the number of matches between Division I Major League Soccer teams and those from lower divisions across multiple rounds of the competition starting with the third round. It also increases the opportunity (from 11 in 2019) for up to 20 lower division clubs to reach the Round of 32. The 2019 tournament saw 11 “David vs. Goliath” match-ups involving MLS sides over the first four rounds, while 2020 will have the same number of clashes in the third round plus up to 16 others (depending on third round results and the Round of 32 draw) in the following round.
Expanded competition calendar
The committee also ratified the 2020 competition schedule, with the first round set for March 24-25, the earliest start in the Open Cup’s modern era (1995 to present).
The expanded tournament calendar will allow rounds to take place at least two weeks apart, providing additional time for home teams to market and sell tickets and for visiting clubs to arrange travel earlier at lower cost. In 2019, only one week separated the first and second rounds, as well as the Rounds of 32 and 16.
2020 first round clubs
The 12 winners from the Nov. 23-24 third qualifying round will be joined in the tournament’s first round by Newtown Pride FC (Newtown, Conn.), the 2019 U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Amateur Cup champion, as well as a number of clubs to be determined from the National Premier Soccer League and USL League Two, nationwide amateur leagues that both elected the Open Division National Leagues track (using league results from 2019) for qualifying teams for the 2020 Open Cup.
Match-up determination coming
The method for determining pairings for each round and the number of berths allocated to NPSL and USL League Two sides will be decided by the Open Cup committee after the pro team confirmation deadline on Dec. 31, 2019 and announced in early January.
ESPN+ to broadcast matches
For the second consecutive year and as part of a four-year deal, ESPN+ will be the home for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The 2020 final could take place as late as Sept. 24.
2020 LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP COMPETITION SCHEDULE
Jan. 9 Pairings methodology, Open Division berth allocation announced
Jan. 22 First Round pairings announced
Jan. 29 Second Round pairings and possible pairings announced
March 24-25 First Round (Open Division teams enter)
April 7-9 Second Round (Division II and III teams enter)
April 10 Third Round Draw
April 21-23 Third Round (11 Division I teams enter)
April 24 Round of 32 Draw
May 19-20 Round of 32 (remaining 12 Division I teams enter)
May 21 Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw
June 10 Possible Round of 16
June 23-24 Round of 16 or Quarterfinals
July 14-15 Quarterfinals or Semifinals
Aug. 11-12 Semifinals or Final
Sept. 22-24 Possible Final