CHICAGO (April 5, 2019) – U.S. Soccer and ESPN+ have reached an exclusive, multi-year media rights agreement for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer’s national championship for clubs and the longest-running domestic cup competition in the United States. All U.S. Open Cup matches from the First Round through the Final will air exclusively on ESPN+, the direct-to-consumer sports streaming service, beginning this year and running through the 109th edition of the tournament in 2022. The deal, negotiated by SUM on behalf of U.S. Soccer, includes rights in all languages.
The 2019 U.S. Open Cup on ESPN+ kicks off May 7-8 with the First Round, featuring 38 amateur and Division III professional teams from across the United States. Twenty-five Division II professional teams enter in the Second Round on May 14-15, while the Third Round, scheduled for May 29, provides a final hurdle before lower division sides get their shot to square off against the 21 U.S.-based Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs on a national stage. Those Division I MLS teams join the competition in the Fourth Round on June 12.
“The U.S. Open Cup is America’s version of what is truly unique about soccer around the world -- knockout format club tournaments that invite the ‘Davids’ and the ‘Goliaths’ from all levels of the sport to compete against one another to determine the nation’s top team,” said Burke Magnus, Executive Vice President, Programming and Scheduling, ESPN. “This exciting property joins a robust collection of soccer’s best domestic cup competitions on ESPN+.”
“We are extremely pleased by the commitment from ESPN+ to broadcast every game of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the next several years,” said U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn. “This landmark agreement demonstrates U.S. Soccer’s commitment to making soccer the preeminent sport in the United States and is the result of growing audience demand for soccer in the U.S. It will provide a national platform for more fans to follow the game in their communities throughout the country.”
“For over 100 years, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has been the one tournament that engages the entire American soccer community,” said Gary Stevenson, Deputy Commissioner and President of MLS Business Ventures. “We are confident that this partnership between U.S. Soccer and ESPN will drive the tournament to new levels and create more opportunities for fans to engage with this compelling content.”
This year’s competition will be the 106th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the world’s third-longest-running open soccer tournament. First played in the 1913-1914 season, the competition is open to professional and amateur teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The winning team qualifies for the Concacaf Champions League and wins $300,000 in prize money. The team that advances furthest in the tournament from each lower division is also awarded prize money. The Houston Dynamo are the defending champions, continuing a streak of dominance by MLS teams in the competition. While recent years have seen lower division sides come close to a winning run, the last non-MLS team to win the U.S. Open Cup since the league began in 1996 was the Rochester Rhinos in 1999.
ESPN+ is the multi-sport, direct-to-consumer video service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment and ESPN. It reached 2 million subscribers in less than a year and offers fans thousands of live events, on-demand content and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks, along with premium editorial content.
Programming on ESPN+ includes hundreds of MLB and NHL games, exclusive UFC and Top Rank boxing events, top domestic and international soccer (Serie A, MLS, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredivisie, International Champions Cup, USL, A-League, India Super League and more), thousands of college sports events (including football, basketball and other sports), Grand Slam tennis, international and domestic rugby and cricket, new and exclusive series, acclaimed studio shows and the full library of ESPN’s award-winning 30 for 30 films. Fans subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) and can cancel at any time.
ESPN+ is available as an integrated part of the ESPN App (on mobile and connected devices) and ESPN.com. They are the industry-leading all-in-one digital sports platform, delivering a rich, personalized experience to tens of millions of fans every month.
About the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup:
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – U.S. Soccer’s National Championship – has crowned a champion annually since 1914. The U.S. Open Cup is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the United States and the world's third-longest-running open soccer tournament. It is conducted on a single-game, knockout basis and open to all professional and amateur teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor United States soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.
About U.S. Soccer:
Founded in 1913, the U.S. Soccer Federation has been the official governing body of the sport in the United States for more than 100 years. During that time, the sport has grown tremendously at all levels. As U.S. Soccer looks towards the future, its mission is to make soccer the preeminent sport in the United States. With a long-term and strategic approach, U.S. Soccer aims to accomplish its mission by supporting its members to increase participation at the youth and adult levels, develop world class players, coaches and referees to consistently win at the highest levels on the international stage and serve the fans by engaging with them in deeper and more meaningful ways.
About Soccer United Marketing:
Soccer United Marketing (SUM) has become the preeminent commercial soccer enterprise in North America overseeing commercialization, marketing, promotion and operational execution of the region’s most successful soccer entities. SUM holds exclusive rights to Major League Soccer, the United States Soccer Federation, the Mexican National Team (for the U.S. market) and CONCACAF properties.