Named after a patriarch of the game in the US and key founding investor in MLS and the ill-fated original NASL, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is the longest running soccer tournament in the country and 3rd longest in the world. The 103rd edition of the tournament will include 92 teams from all three professional divisions of American soccer, as well as 19 teams from the Premier Development League (PDL) and 15 sides from the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Additionally, there are 14 spots for ‘local qualifiers’ for amateur teams from regional leagues around the country, qualifying via playoffs. New for this year, professional reserve-side teams are excluded from the competition, so sorry New York Red Bulls II but your 3 fans won’t be rocking out on any cup nights this year. It should be noted that the amateur reserve sides (e.g MLS and NASL teams’ U-23 squads) are still included in the competition. It should be said that the Cup is only for American teams; Canada has their own Voyageurs Championship that includes the 5 professional teams from MLS and NASL in their neck of the woods.
The winner of the US Open Cup receives qualification into the Group Stage of the CONCACAF Champions League, as well as $250,000 in prize money. The runner-up gets a $60,000 check, and the lower-division team advancing furthest from their respective league gets a $15,000 payday. In the illustrious and underappreciated history of the competition, there have been no less than 61 different winners, most of whom were amateur clubs from what’s considered the pre ‘modern era’ (before 1999). Since then, MLS clubs have won the competition all but one year, when the Rochester Rhinos beat 4 MLS sides en route to claiming the Dewar Cup in 1999.
For each round, the winners from the previous round play teams from the next step in the soccer pyramid, paired with respect to geographic proximity. Teams that don’t get matched with the next level teams get paired with other teams advancing from the previous round. Starting in the fourth round, when the American MLS teams enter the competition, two MLS sides will be paired to round out the fixture list, as there are only 15 teams remaining from the previous rounds. After the fourth round is completed, there will be a final draw that will form a bracket to determine the remaining matchups in the competition.
As many of you know, the tournament started last week with first round action that included most of the amateur sides in the competition. If you weren’t tapped into the results, there were a lot of exciting finishes, with five games ending after added time and two more ending in penalties. The winners from that round advance to play eligible USL teams, as well as some NPSL and PDL teams that received a bye via random draw. The potential matchups with geographically close NASL teams have already been determined, so Lou City – should they beat Detroit City Wednesday night – would go on to square off against our presumed rivals (although for it to be a rivalry, there would have to be some competition, we’re 3-0 against them in all matches) on June 1st in Indianapolis.