CHICAGO – U.S. Soccer’s Open Cup Committee has confirmed a modern-era record 100 teans for participation and the process for determining matchups for the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, following the Dec. 31 professional team confirmation deadline.
The 107th edition of the tournament kicks off March 24 with a record number of pro teams joining the country’s best amateur sides to compete for the most important trophy offered by U.S. Soccer to its member clubs.
One hundred teams will take part in the 2020 Open Cup, an increase of 16 over last year. The mark sets a tournament record in the modern era (1995-present), eclipsing the previous high of 99 set in 2017 when 43 pro and 56 amateur sides saw action.
Growth in the three professional divisions over the last three years is a primary driver of the record number of competitors, as a combined 62 Division I, II and III teams will battle against Open Division clubs and each other for U.S. Soccer’s National Championship in 2020, eclipsing the previous high of 52 pro clubs set last year. The formation of the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), a Division III professional league that presented eight teams by the Dec. 31 confirmation deadline, accounts for much of the increase. Additionally, Division I Major League Soccer (MLS) continues its expansion with two new members in 2020, bringing its total to 23 U.S.-based clubs. Division II USL Championship (25) and Division III USL League One (6) have maintained their numbers from 2019 with several new sides replacing those who have departed since the end of last season.
The Open Cup committee confirmed allocating 14 slots to National Premier Soccer League sides and awarding 11 to USL League Two (USL League 2) squads. Both leagues entered their teams via the Open Division National Leagues track under Open Cup regulations, opting to use 2019 league results to determine their 2020 qualifiers. Combining with the twelve teams that survived last fall’s local qualifying rounds, along with the U.S. Amateur Soccer Association’s 2019 National Amateur Cup champion (an automatic qualifier), a total of 38 Open Division clubs will participate (an increase of six over 2019), all entering in the First Round March 24-25.
Matchups throughout the tournament will be determined largely as they were in 2019 except for the third round. With nearly half of the competing MLS clubs entering at this stage (one round earlier than in recent years), the 40 third round participants will be pooled geographically into either nine or ten groups, with the 29 Second Round winners and 11 Division I clubs distributed as evenly as possible among the groups. From there, a random draw scheduled for April 10 will determine the pairings within each group, with all Division I sides paired to face a second round winner and not another Division I club. Any teams who are prohibited from playing each other until the Final per tournament regulations (see list below) will be placed in different groups. Instances where a logical geographic fit doesn’t exist in determining the groups will be resolved by random selection. Pools will be re-created from scratch for subsequent draws.
U.S. Soccer will announce the first round schedule on Jan. 22 and the second round pairings and possible pairings one week later on Jan. 29. Teams playing in the first round will have nine weeks to prepare for their match, while those certain to play in the second round (all Division II and III squads) will have 10 weeks notice.
The second round will set a modern-era record for most matches played in a single round (29) in the tournament proper, surpassing the 28 played in 2017’s first round.
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.
2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round-by-Round Competition Format and Pairings Methodology
- A team playing its first Open Cup match cannot be paired against another club from the same qualifying pool also playing its first Open Cup match (an exception to this restriction will be made in the First Round in the interest of avoiding extensive travel for Open Division teams).
- If three or more teams/pairings are from the same proximity, pairings for these teams will be made by random selection. Instances where a logical geographic fit doesn’t exist will be resolved by random selection.
- Pairings will be arranged to exclude the possibility of a team being matched up with a parent club, a club with common ownership, or a team from whom material technical support is obtained, except in the event that both teams in a prohibited pairing reach the Final. If pairings in a given round are determined via random selection (as opposed to being matched up geographically), the teams excluded from facing each other will be entered into separate pools prior to selection.
First Round (March 24-25)
- Number of Games: 19
- Participants: 38 Open Division teams (12 local qualifiers, 1 USASA Amateur Cup champion, 14 NPSL, 11 USL League Two)
- Pairings Format: Teams will be paired geographically against clubs from other qualifying pools
Second Round (April 7-9)
- Number of Games: 29
- Participants (58): 19 First Round winners, 14 Division III teams (8 NISA, 6 USL League One), 25 Division II clubs (USL Championship)
- Pairings Format: After the First Round pairings are made, each First Round pairing will be matched geographically to a specific Division III or Division II team. The remaining Division III and Division II sides will be paired to play each other (avoiding any remaining Division III clubs from playing other Division III sides and any remaining Division II clubs from playing other Division II sides), with these pairings also made geographically.
Third Round Draw (April 10)
- Participants (40): 29 Second Round winners, 11 lower-seeded Division I clubs (MLS)
- After completion of the Second Round, participants in the Third Round will be pooled geographically into either ten groups of four (with nine groups having three Second Round winners and one Division I club and one group having two Second Round winners and two Division I clubs) or nine groups (with seven groups consisting of three Second Round winners and one Division I side and two groups having four Second Round winners and two Division I teams), with the number of groups (either ten or nine) based on geographical considerations. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, with all Division I sides paired to face a Second Round winner and not another Division I club.
Third Round (April 21-23)
- Number of Games: 20
Round of 32 Draw (April 24)
- Participants: 20 Third Round winners, 12 higher-seeded Division I clubs (MLS)
- After completion of the Third Round, participants in the Round of 32 will be pooled geographically into eight groups of four, with four groups having two Third Round winners and four groups having three. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, with all Division I sides playing their first tournament game paired to face a Third Round winner and not another Division I club playing their first tournament game.
Round of 32 (May 19-20)
- Number of Games: 16
Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw (May 21)
- The Round of 32 winners will be divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, resulting in a fixed bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Should a prohibited 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 10 or June 23-24)
- Round of 32 winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw
Quarterfinal Round (June 23-24 or July 14-15)
- Round of 16 winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw
Draw to Determine Hosts for Semifinals and Final (June 25 or July 16)
Semifinal Round (July 14-15 or Aug. 11-12)
Final (Aug. 11-12 or Sept. 22-24)
2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Participating Teams
Professional Division Teams (62) Eligible to Participate:
Division I – Major League Soccer
Teams entering in the Round of 32 (12): Atlanta United FC (defending Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion), D.C. United, Los Angeles FC, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United FC, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders FC. The four USA entrants to the 2020 Concacaf Champions League and the next four best American regular-season finishers in 2019 in each of the league’s Eastern and Western Conferences were granted the extra bye.
Teams entering in the Third Round (11): Chicago Fire FC, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, FC Cincinnati, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Inter Miami CF, Nashville SC, Orlando City SC, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City
Division II – USL Championship (excludes teams majority-owned or otherwise controlled by a higher division professional club)
Teams entering in the Second Round (25): Austin Bold FC, Birmingham Legion FC, Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, El Paso Locomotive FC, FC Tulsa, Hartford Athletic, Indy Eleven, Las Vegas Lights FC, Louisville City FC, Memphis 901 FC, Miami FC, New Mexico United, North Carolina FC, OKC Energy FC, Orange County SC, Phoenix Rising FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Reno 1868 FC, Sacramento Republic FC, Saint Louis FC, San Antonio FC, San Diego Loyal SC, Tampa Bay Rowdies
Division III – USL League One (excludes teams majority-owned or otherwise controlled by a higher division professional club)
Teams entering in the Second Round (6): Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, Forward Madison FC, Greenville Triumph SC, Richmond Kickers, South Georgia Tormenta FC, Union Omaha
Division III – National Independent Soccer Association
Teams entering in the Second Round (8): California United Strikers FC, Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, LA Force, Michigan Stars FC, Oakland Roots, San Diego 1904 FC, Stumptown Athletic
Open Division Teams (38), entering in First Round:
Local Qualifiers (12):
East Region: Christos FC (Md.), New York Pancyprian Freedoms (N.Y.), Vereinigung Erzgebirge (Pa.), Virginia United* (Va.); Central Region: Louisiana Krewe FC (La.), Miami United FC U23 (Fla.), Nashville United (Tenn.), NTX Rayados* (Texas); West Region: Cal FC* (Calif.), Chula Vista FC (Calif.), FC Boulder Harpos (Colo.), Olympic Club (Calif.)
* Participated in 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
2019 U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Amateur Cup champion: Newtown Pride FC (Conn.)
National Premier Soccer League (14):
Listed by region in order of rank: Northeast Region (3): Atlantic City FC, West Chester United SC, FC Motown*; South Region (4): Tulsa Athletic, Naples United FC, Denton Diablos FC, Fort Worth Vaqueros FC; Midwest Region (3): Cleveland SC, Minneapolis City SC, Med City FC; West Region (4): ASC San Diego, FC Arizona, FC Davis, Crossfire Redmond
* Participated in 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Note: The NPSL entered its teams via the National Leagues track under Open Cup regulations, opting to use 2019 league results (a combination of playoff finishes and regular season success) to determine its qualifiers for the 2020 tournament.
USL League Two (11):
Division winners: Chicago FC United, Des Moines Menace*, FC Golden State Force*, North Carolina Fusion U23, South Georgia Tormenta FC 2*, The Villages SC*, Western Mass Pioneers. Wild card entries (in rank order): GPS Portland Phoenix, SC United Bantams, Ventura County Fusion, Corpus Christi FC
* Participated in 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Note: USL League Two entered its teams via the National Leagues track under Open Cup regulations, opting to use 2019 regular season league results (division winners ranked highest) to determine its qualifiers for the 2020 tournament.