U.S. Soccer’s Open Cup Committee has confirmed a modern-era record 100 clubs for participation and the process for determining matchups for the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer’s National Championship, following the Dec. 31 professional team confirmation deadline. The 107th edition of the history-filled annual 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.
Modern-Era Record 100 Teams to Compete, Boosted by Record Number of Pro 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.
Method for Determining Matchups for Each Round
Matchups throughout the tournament will be determined largely as they were in 2019 (see detail below) 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.
First and Second Round Matchups to be Announced in late-January
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.
Watch U.S. Open Cup Matches on ESPN+
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.
Each round will be conducted in a single-game-knockout format, with matches that are tied after 90 minutes of regulation time proceeding to a full 30 minutes of extra time. If still tied after 120 minutes, the team to advance will be determined by kicks from the penalty mark.
Home teams will be determined by random selection among those who apply to host. Clubs whose venue meets minimum tournament standards will be given priority.
The Open Cup Committee has determined the teams that are not permitted to be matched against each other throughout the tournament (e.g. an Open Division team and a parent professional club; a team who receives material technical support from another club; teams with shared ownership) except in the unlikely event that both sides reach the Final. These pairings are: Denton Diablos FC (NPSL) and Fort Worth Vaqueros FC (NPSL); LA Force (NISA) and FC Golden State Force (USL League Two); South Georgia Tormenta FC (USL League One) and South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 (USL League Two); and San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) and Reno 1868 FC (USL Championship).
Professional teams who are majority-owned or otherwise controlled by higher division professional clubs are expressly excluded from Open Cup competition. For 2020, there are 15 such teams. From USL Championship (10): Atlanta United 2, LA Galaxy II, Loudoun United FC, New York Red Bulls II, Philadelphia Union II (known in 2019 as Bethlehem Steel FC), Portland Timbers 2, Real Monarchs SLC, Rio Grande Valley FC, Sporting Kansas City II (known in 2019 as Swope Park Rangers) and Tacoma Defiance; from USL League One (5): FC Tucson, League One Miami, New England Revolution II, North Texas SC and Orlando City B.
In a new competition policy, if a match has kicked off and is terminated prior to the end of the first half or is otherwise tied at the time of termination and the termination is not due to the conduct of one of the teams, the match shall be restarted at the point of termination if restarted within two days of the original match date (games are required to be rescheduled for the next day unless mitigating circumstances prevent this). Otherwise, the match shall be replayed in its entirety if the rescheduled date is three or more days following the original match date.