Breaking down the new U.S. Open Cup format

Given the explosion in the number of MLS teams, it no longer makes sense -- even if they wanted to -- to keep them all out of the U.S. Open Cup until the round of 32.

With 23 U.S. MLS teams in 2020, that would make up seven head-to-head MLS matchups in their entry into the tournament.

There could still be seven head-to-head MLS matchups in the round of 32 in 2020, but all MLS teams will have to get there first.

The new competition format will require 11 MLS teams to enter in the third round, one round earlier than in recent years:

Chicago Fire
Colorado Rapids
Columbus Crew
FC Cincinnati
FC Dallas
Houston Dynamo
Inter Miami
Nashville SC
Orlando City
San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City

The other 12 MLS teams will begin play in the round of 32:

Atlanta United
D.C. United
Los Angeles FC
LA Galaxy
Minnesota United
New England Revolution
New York City FC
New York Red Bulls
Philadelphia Union
Portland Timbers
Real Salt Lake
Seattle Sounders

For the third round, the 11 MLS teams will be joined by 29 second-round winners, making for 20 matches.

In all, 58 teams will be entered in the second round. All teams from Division II or Division III leagues -- USL Championship, USL League One and new NISA -- will start in the second round and be joined by the a number of first-round winners to be determined.

The first round will include the 12 winners from the third qualifying round, plus Newtown Pride FC, the 2019 USASA Amateur Cup champion, as well as an undetermined number of clubs from the National Premier Soccer League and USL League Two.

The number of berths allocated to the NPSL and USL League Two won't be known until after the pro team confirmation deadline on Dec. 31.

In other moves:

-- The first round will be played March 24-25, the earliest start in the Open Cup's modern era, though it will present problems for amateur teams with college players since they won't yet be eligible to play.

-- All rounds will take place at least two weeks apart, providing additional time for home teams to market and sell tickets and for visiting clubs to arrange travel earlier at a lower cost. In 2019, only one week separated the first two rounds in May, as well as the rounds of 32 and 16 in June.

Datebook: 2020 U.S. Open Cup

March 24-25. First Round (Open Division teams enter)
April 7-9. Second Round (Division II and III teams enter)
April 21-23. Third Round (11 Division I teams enter)
May 19-20. Round of 32 (remaining 12 Division I teams enter)
June 10. Possible Round of 16
June 23-24. Round of 16 or Quarterfinals
July 14-15. Quarterfinals or Semifinals
Aug. 11-12. Semifinals or Final
Sept. 22-24. Possible Final
1 comment about "Breaking down the new U.S. Open Cup format".
  1. R2 Dad, December 12, 2019 at 10:51 p.m.

    I read the winner will receive only $300,000, runner-up $100,000 andthe team that advances furthest from the lower division gets $25,000. This is per club? Seems chintzy. Do the MLS teams just use this to blood their kids? If they're going to make MLS teams enter at an earlier round, I wouldn't expect their full teams to show up until later for that kind of "reward". USSF needs to x10 that payout to make it worth while.

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