US Soccer announced the format and schedule for the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Friday, revealing that the tournament will feature a record 92 teams and kick off with the first round on May 11.
All 17 American MLS clubs will enter the tournament in the fourth round, which is currently scheduled for June 15. Eligible USL clubs will enter the competition in the second round on May 18, while US-based NASL clubs will begin their runs in the tournament in the third round on June 1. The first round will feature a total of 48 teams, and will include 19 clubs from the USL-Premier Development League, 15 teams from the National Premier Soccer League and 14 local qualifiers.
As was the case in 2015, teams will be paired geographically from the first round through the fourth round. Following the fourth round, US Soccer will hold a geographically-based random draw to determine the Round of 16 matchups and set a fixed bracket through to the final, which is scheduled for September 21.
Teams playing in their first match of the tournament will not be paired against another club from the same league, with an exception made in the fourth round when two MLS teams will meet in their tournament opener.
According to a rule instituted by US Soccer following the 2015 tournament, USL teams that are owned by an MLS club will not be allowed to compete in the 2016 Open Cup. In total, eight US-based USL teams will not be allowed to participate, with Bethlehem Steel FC (Philadelphia Union), LA Galaxy II, New York Red Bulls II, Orlando City B, Portland Timbers 2, Real Monarchs SLC (Real Salt Lake), Seattle Sounders 2 and the Swope Park Rangers KC (Sporting Kansas City) barred from the tournament.
Rio Grande Valley FC, whose technical staff has been selected by the Houston Dynamo, will be allowed in the tournament, as the club does not share an ownership affiliation. Additionally, PDL squads from the Red Bulls, Sounders and Timbers organizations will be allowed into the tournament, as the PDL teams are all amateur sides. PDL teams will not be allowed to meet the professional team from their club until the tournament final.
Sporting Kansas City will be looking to defend their 2015 Open Cup crown this year, when the winning club will receive $250,000 in prize money, a berth in the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League and have its name engraved on the historic Dewar Challenge Trophy, one of the oldest nationally contested trophies in US team sports. The second-place finisher will receive $60,000, while the team that advances furthest from each lower division will win a $15,000 prize.
This will be the 103rd edition of the Open Cup, an annual competition open to all amateur and professional teams affiliated with US Soccer. More information on the tournament format, schedule, and other key dates, as per US Soccer’s release, can be found below.
Tournament Format, Schedule and Other Key Dates:
Initial Pairings Announcement - April 6
- First Round games as well as Second Round possibilities announced.
First Round - May 11
- Number of games: 24
- Participants: 48 Open Division teams (14 local qualifiers, 19 PDL sides and 15 NPSL clubs).
- Description: Teams will be paired geographically with the restriction that teams from the same qualifying pool (e.g. local qualifiers, PDL, NPSL, etc.) cannot be paired to play each other.
Second Round - May 18
- Number of Games: 21
- Participants: Winners of 24 First Round games are joined by 18 USL clubs.
- Description: At the time the First Round pairings are made, each USL team will be matched geographically to a specific First Round pairing and be scheduled to play its winner. The remaining First Round matchups not paired with a Division III side will be paired up geographically, with the winners playing each other to complete the round.
Third Round - June 1
- Number of Games: 15
- Participants: Winners of 21 Second Round games are joined by nine NASL sides.
- Description: After each Second Round matchup has been determined, each NASL team will be paired geographically to a specific Second Round matchup and be scheduled to play its winner. The 12 remaining Second Round matchups not paired with a Division II side will be paired up geographically, with the winners playing each other to complete the round.
Fourth Round - June 15
- Number of Games: 16
- Participants: Winners from 15 Third Round games are joined by 17 MLS clubs.
- Description: After each Third Round matchup has been determined, 15 of 17 MLS teams will be paired geographically to a specific Third Round matchup and be scheduled to play these winners, while two MLS teams will face each other to complete the bracket.
Round of 16 Draw - June 16
- The Fourth Round winners will be divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four, with teams who are precluded from playing each other until the Final (see list elsewhere) placed in different groups. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, resulting in a fixed bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Should a precluded pair of teams reach the Semifinal Round and be scheduled to face each other, the matches will be re-drawn after the quarterfinals to avoid this outcome.
Round of 16 - June 29
- Number of Games: 8
- Fourth Round winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16 Draw.
Quarterfinals - July 20
Semifinals - Aug. 10
Final - Sept. 21