CHICAGO (Jan. 11, 2012) - From an expanded tournament field to an equal opportunity to host matches, the 99th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup features an assortment of strategic changes as the competition begins first-round action on May 15.
This year's U.S. Open Cup includes a 64-team field, which represents the largest in the modern era (1995 to present), eclipsing the previous record of 42 teams set in 2005 and 2006. It also is the largest expansion of teams (24) from a previous year in the competition's recent history.
All Division I, II and III professional clubs will be participating in the tournament proper for the first time ever. The Division I field includes all 16 U.S.-based Major League Soccer teams, which is double the representation from the past five years and the first time since 2006 that all Division I teams will take part. Meanwhile, all six U.S.-based North American Soccer League teams (Division II) and all 10 U.S.-based USL PRO teams (Division III) will complete the balance of the 32 professional sides competing (also a modern record). This 2012 competition marks the first year that clubs representing the NASL will participate in America's oldest national soccer tournament.
The amateur entries will feature 32 teams from various leagues affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association (including USASA regional qualifiers, the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League and the National Premier Soccer League) and US Club Soccer.
Another revision heading into this year's U.S. Open Cup includes a random selection process for determining home teams from the first round through the quarterfinals among clubs that have applied to host. This change gives each participating team with a venue meeting tournament standards an equal chance at hosting its possible opponent for these rounds.
All 2012 U.S. Open Cup matches until the final are scheduled for Tuesdays, with the championship taking place on either Tuesday, Aug. 7, or Wednesday, Aug. 8. In the first round, 32 amateur-level sides will be paired geographically, with the restriction that teams from the same qualifying pool (meaning USASA regional qualifiers, PDL and NPSL) cannot be paired. The first-round winners will face Division II or Division III clubs in the second round based on geographic proximity. Second-round winners play Division I clubs in the third round, matched on a geographic basis.
The opening portion of the U.S. Open Cup schedule will occur in rapid fashion as the first four rounds take place in back-to-back weeks from May 15 to June 5. The quarterfinals are set for June 26, the semifinals for July 10, and the final for Aug. 7 or 8. The majority of the tournament will have only a minimal overlap with CONCACAF Champions League play.
Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer will look to make history as it attempts to become the first team to win a fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup title. The Sounders defeated the Chicago Fire 2-0 on Oct. 5, 2011, to become the first team in 42 years to win the Open Cup three years in a row. Seattle won the 2010 U.S. Open Cup against the Columbus Crew and the 2009 U.S. Open Cup against D.C. United.
The U.S. Open Cup is a single-elimination tournament. A match that is tied after regulation is extended by two 15-minute halves. If a winner is not determined in overtime, advancement is determined by kicks from the penalty spot.
The tournament has crowned a champion for 98 consecutive years beginning in 1914. Every winning team's name is engraved on the base of the Dewar Challenge Trophy, which dates to the first year of the tournament and currently resides at U.S. Soccer House in Chicago.
The 2012 champion will earn a $100,000 cash prize, while the runner-up will collect $50,000. The top Division II, Division III and amateur clubs will each receive a $10,000 prize.
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)