Get ready for a US Open Cup like you’ve never seen it before.
The US Soccer Federation on Wednesday unveiled an expanded version of the domestic cup competition which will see all 16 US-based MLS clubs participating, a random selection process for home teams in select rounds and a champion crowned by the first week of August.
The MLS qualifying system employed in recent years has been scrapped and all 16 MLS teams eligible for participation – the three Canadian teams play in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship – will join the competition in the third round.
A total of 64 teams – a record number in the modern era of the USOC – will feature 32 professional teams, including all six NASL teams and all 10 USL PRO teams, as well as another 32 from the amateur ranks of the USASA (nine qualifiers), PDL (16 qualifiers), NPSL (6.5 qualifiers) and US Club Soccer (0.5 qualifiers).
As has traditionally been the case, MLS teams will join in the third round with matchups based on geography. MLS teams will only face each other beginning in the fourth round.
The USOC kicks off with the first round on Tuesday, May 15, with subsequent rounds played on Tuesdays in consecutive weeks to determine the final eight teams by June 5.
The quarterfinals then take place on June 26, the semis on July 10 and the final on Aug. 7 or 8.
The controversial blind-bid system used to determine home teams in past years has been scrapped in the earlier rounds in favor of a random selection process for venues that meet standard requirements and are interested in serving as hosts. The blind-bid system is then reintroduced again beginning with the quarterfinal stage.
Three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders are looking to become the first team to win the competitions four straight times and take home the $100,000 cash prize.
This will be the Colorado Rapids first time back in the U.S. Open Cup proper since 2007. The club participated in play-in matches the past four years but did not advance into the actual tournament.
2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Schedule:
April 29: Qualifying deadline
May 15: First Round
May 22: Second Round
May 29: Third Round
June 5: Fourth Round
June 26: Quarterfinals
July 10: Semifinals
Aug. 7 or 8: Final
Participating Professional Teams (32 total)
Major League Soccer (Division I - 16 teams): Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City.
North American Soccer League (Division II - 6 teams): Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, NSC Minnesota Stars, San Antonio Scorpions, Tampa Bay Rowdies.
USL PRO (Division III - 10 teams): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Eagles, Dayton Dutch Lions, Harrisburg City Islanders, Los Angeles Blues, Orlando City, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Rhinos, Wilmington Hammerheads.
Distribution of Amateur-Level Places (32 total):
U.S. Adult Soccer Association Regional Qualifiers - 9 places: USASA regional qualifiers will increase their number of places in the tournament by one compared to 2011.
United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League - 16 places: The PDL will have the largest increase in representation among the amateur leagues since 2011, growing from nine slots.
National Premier Soccer League - 6.5 places: The NPSL is a national amateur league affiliated with the USASA. In previous years, its teams participated via USASA regional qualifying.
US Club Soccer - 0.5 place: U.S. Club Soccer is an organization member of U.S. Soccer.
Note: One team from the National Premier Soccer League will face a US Club Soccer representative for the final place in the tournament.
2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Facts:
- Largest field of teams (64) in tournament proper in competition's modern era (1995 to present), eclipsing previous record of 42 (2005, 2006)
- Largest expansion of teams (24) from previous a year in competition's modern era
- First time in modern era where all U.S.-based Division I, II and III professional clubs will participate in tournament proper
- Home teams through quarterfinal round to be determined by random selection (change from sealed bid process)
- Largest field of professional teams (32) in tournament proper in competition's modern era, eclipsing previous record of 28 (2000, 2001)
- Largest field of amateur teams (32) in tournament proper in competition's modern era, eclipsing previous record of 21 (2011)