NEW YORK – Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer today announced the MLS club qualification procedure for the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
As announced by U.S. Soccer in February, eight U.S.-based MLS teams will qualify for the 2021 tournament. MLS and U.S. Soccer Monday confirmed that those eight teams will be determined by team performance through the first three weeks of MLS regular season play (April 16 through May 3).
The U.S.-based MLS clubs with the highest number of regular season points per game (three points for a win, one point for a tie) at the conclusion of the first three weeks of MLS play will qualify for the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
In the event that two or more teams have an equal number of points per game, the below regular season tiebreakers will be used until one team ranks above the other(s). After the winner of the MLS regular season tiebreaker is determined, any remaining tied clubs will again go through a second round of the MLS tiebreakers in order to determine the next advancing club. The tiebreaker system will continue until qualification has been determined.
* Goal Differential (GD) per match (Goals For per match minus Goals Against per match)
* Goals For (GF) per match
* Fewest Disciplinary Points* per match
* Away Goals Differential per Away match (Away Goals For per Away match minus Away Goals Against per Away match)
* Away Goals For per Away match
* Home Goals Differential per Home match (Home Goals For per Home match minus Home Goals Against per Home match)
* Home Goals For per Home match
* Coin Toss (tie of two clubs) or Drawing of Lots (tie of three or more clubs)
Citing challenges still in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and given the competition is played across the country involving clubs from multiple professional and amateur divisions and leagues, the U.S. Open Cup Committee announced the decision not to hold the tournament’s previously planned Opening Round.
The tournament is now structured to feature 16 teams which will play four rounds in pursuit of the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title.
2021 tournament format
As has been the case since 1996 when the Open Cup first included Major League Soccer clubs during the circuit’s inaugural year, Division I teams will typically face lower division competition in their initial tournament game.
The 16 participating teams will be pooled on a geographic basis into groups of four, with each quartet consisting of two Division I teams and two lower division sides.
If multiple options are available for creating the groups, the composition will be determined by random selection. A draw will be conducted within each group so that each Division I team is paired against a lower division club. Teams that apply to host having a venue that meets minimum requirements will have hosting priority.
The Round of 16 Draw, scheduled for May 4, will also decide the pairings and home teams for the quarterfinal round while setting the bracket for the remainder of the tournament. A separate draw after the quarterfinal round will determine the semifinal round hosts and the priority order for hosting the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final.