Defending champion D.C. United is one of 16 MLS teams that will enter the competition in the fourth round, which will be played in mid-June while the league, as well as the second-division NASL, takes a break for the World Cup. Games will be played on a weekend (June 14-15) at this stage, which is a first in the modern era. (The three MLS Canadian teams -- Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal -- are members of the Canadian Soccer Association and not eligible for the Open Cup.)
The 2014 format and pairings for the first two rounds were released Thursday by U.S. Soccer for the 101st edition of the competition. (In 1999, it was named after legendary soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt, who died eight years ago.)
Contested every year since 1914, the Open Cup encompasses all adult men’s teams registered with U.S. Soccer. More than 200 teams have entered the 2014 tournament, which is conducted on a knockout basis. This year’s winner will earn $250,000, the runner-up will bank $60,000, and the team that advances furthest from each of the lower divisions wins $15,000.
The first two rounds will match teams from the United States Amateur Soccer Association (USASA), Premier Development League (PDL), National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), US Club Soccer, and USASA (U.S. Specialty Sports Association). Elimination games have whittled the field down to the 16 that will play in the first round, after which teams from the upper divisions will be added. All 14 teams from the United Soccer League (USL) will enter in the second round, and the eight NASL teams are seeded into the third round.
Sixteen survivors will reach the fourth round and be paired against MLS teams in a blind draw. Teams will not play their own reserve teams, such as Galaxy II and Portland Timbers U-23s, unless they meet in the final scheduled for Sept. 30/Oct. 1. United beat Real Salt Lake, 1-0, at Rio Tinto Stadium in the 2013 final.
For more information and the full schedule for Rounds 1 and 2: Open Cup.