U.S. Soccer Tuesday announced a modern-era record 103 clubs for participation in the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The process for determining matchups for the tournament has also been confirmed.
The 107th edition of the tournament kicks off March 22 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.
Modern-era record 103 teams to compete, boosted by record number of pro clubs
A total of 103 teams will take part in the Open Cup, an increase of 19 from 2019, the last year the tournament was held. After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 edition sets a modern-era (1995-present) record with 103 teams, eclipsing the previous high of 99 in 2017.
Growth in the three professional divisions over the last five years is a primary driver of the record number of competitors as a combined 71 Division I, II and III teams will battle against Open Division clubs and each other for the title. The previous high was 52 pro clubs in 2019.
Division III teams accounts for most of the increase. USL League One has increased in size from six to 11 teams, and two leagues will play in the tournament for the first time – the National Independent Soccer Association will enter 10 teams, while MLS NEXT Pro will enter two teams.
Division I Major League Soccer has continued its expansion to 25 U.S.-based clubs. The Division II USL Championship enters 23 teams.
The Open Cup Committee confirmed allocating 10 slots each to National Premier Soccer League and USL League Two squads. Both leagues entered their teams via the Open Division National Leagues track under Open Cup regulations, opting to use 2021 league results to determine their 2022 qualifiers.
Combining with the 11 teams that survived last fall’s local qualifying rounds, along with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association’s 2021 National Amateur Cup champion (an automatic qualifier), a total of 32 Open Division clubs will participate, all entering in the First Round March 22-23.
Method for determining match-ups for each round
Match-ups throughout the tournament will be determined largely as they have in the past with the exception of the third round. With more than two-thirds of participating MLS clubs entering at this stage (one round earlier than in previous years), the 48 third round participants will be pooled geographically into groups of four or six teams each, with the 31 second found winners and 17 Division I clubs distributed as evenly as possible among the groups.
From there, a random draw scheduled for April 8 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 will be placed in different groups. Instances where a logical geographic fit doesn’t exist to determine groups will be resolved by random selection. Pools will be re-created from scratch for subsequent draws.
First and second round match-ups to be announced across the next two weeks
U.S. Soccer will announce the first round matchups later this week and second round pairings and possible pairings one week later.
The second round will set a modern-era record for most matches played in a single round (31) in the tournament proper, surpassing the 28 played in 2017’s First Round.
U.S. Open Cup Matches on ESPN+
In the final part of a four-year deal, ESPN+ will be the home for the U.S. Open Cup. A broadcast schedule will be confirmed at a later date.
March 22-23 First Round (Open Division teams enter)
April 5-7 Second Round (Division II and III teams enter)
April 8 Third Round Draw
April 19-21 Third Round (17 lower-seeded Division I teams enter)
April 22 Round of 32 Draw
May 10-11 Round of 32 (Eight higher-seeded Division I teams enter)
May 12 Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw
May 24-25 Round of 16
June 21-22 Quarterfinals
July 26-27 Semifinals
Sept. 6, 7, 13 or 14 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final