February 4, 2015
THIS CUP RUNNETH OVER
91-team field will be largest for U.S. Open Cup
CHICAGO - The 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which kicks off in late April, will feature a record number of participating teams and a revised format, setting a fixed bracket beginning at the Round of 16 to the championship match.
The 102nd edition of the tournament will feature 91 teams, an increase from the 80 that competed last year, including the largest field of professional teams with 47 from Division I, II and III. The tournament will be played over the course of five months with the opening play-in matches taking place from April 22-26 and culminating with the Final on Tuesday, Sept. 29 or Wednesday, Sept. 30.
A significant update to the tournament format will be a geographically-based random draw that will determine the Round of 16 matches and set a fixed bracket. The change was implemented to minimize the possibility of clubs being required to travel long distances for matches. As in earlier editions, matches from the beginning of the tournament to the fourth round will be determined on a geographic basis, with certain restrictions in place.
This year's winner will earn $250,000, a berth in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions' League and have its name engraved on the Dewar Challenge Trophy, one of the oldest nationally contested trophies in American team sports. The runner-up will take home $60,000, while the team that advances the furthest from each lower division will earn $15,000.
2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Format Changes
Record Tournament Field
The 91 teams competing in the tournament mark the largest field in the modern era (1995-present). This year also marks the fourth consecutive competition in which all U.S.-based Division I, II and III professional teams will participate in the tournament proper: 17 from Major League Soccer (entering in the fourth round), nine from the North American Soccer League (starting in Round 3) and 21 from USL PRO (whose first matches will be in the second round).
The field's remaining 44 spots will be filled by amateur teams: 19 from the Premier Development League, 11 from U.S. Adult Soccer Association regional qualifying, 12 from the National Premier Soccer League, one from US Club Soccer and one from the United States Specialty Sports Association. Forty of the 44 amateur sides will start in the first round, while the US Club Soccer and USSSA representatives each will face a USASA side in a play-in round to kick off the 2015 competition between April 22-26.
New Round of 16 Draw
The 16 winners from the fourth round will be divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four, with teams that have a shared-ownership affiliation precluded from being in the same cluster. A random draw, scheduled for Thursday, June 18, will determine the pairings within each group for the fifth round. The two winners from each group will subsequently face each other in the quarterfinal (sixth) round.
Each group will also be paired geographically with another group to pre-determine the pairings for the semifinal round. Should two ownership-affiliated teams reach the semifinal round and be scheduled to face each other, the matches will be re-drawn to avoid this outcome.
Geographic Pairings and General Provisions
Matches from the beginning of the tournament to the fourth round will be determined on a geographic basis, with certain restrictions in place. Those restrictions include that pairings will be arranged to prevent a lower division team from playing a parent club, and teams playing in their first Open Cup match cannot be paired against another club from the same qualifying pool (an exception to this last restriction will be made in the fourth round when two MLS teams will meet in their first tournament game). In the event that three or more teams are within the same proximity, pairings for these teams will be made by random selection.
Tournament Format and Match Dates
Qualifying Deadline, March 29
Initial Pairings Announcement, April 8: play-in and First Round games as well as Second Round possibilities announced.
Play-In Round, 2 games, April 22-26: participants: US Club Soccer and USSSA representatives each will face the USASA side geographically closest to it.
First Round, 21 games, May 13: participants: 2 winners from play-in round are joined by remaining 40 amateur sides; Description: Teams will be paired geographically with the restriction that teams from the same qualifying pool (e.g. USASA regional qualifiers, PDL, NPSL, etc.) cannot be paired to play each other.
Second Round, 21 games, May 20: participants: winners of 21 First Round games face 21 USL PRO clubs; Description: At the time the First Round pairings are made, each USL PRO team will be matched geographically to a specific First Round pairing and be scheduled to play its winner.
Third Round, 15 games, May 27: participants: winners of 21 Second Round games are joined by nine NASL sides; Description: After each Second Round match has been determined, each NASL team will be paired geographically to a specific Second Round match and be scheduled to play its winner. The 12 remaining Second Round matches not paired with a Division II side will be paired geographically, with the winners playing each other.
Fourth Round, 16 games, June 16-17: participants: winners from 15 Third Round games are joined by 17 MLS clubs; Description: After each Third Round match has been determined, 15 of 17 MLS teams will be paired geographically to a specific Third Round match and be scheduled to play these winners, while two MLS teams will face each other to complete the bracket.
Fifth Round Draw, June 18: The Fourth Round winners will be divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four, with teams who have a shared-ownership affiliation precluded from being in the same group. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, resulting in a fixed bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Should two ownership-affiliated 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.
Fifth Round, 8 games, June 30-July 1: Fourth Round winners face each other as determined by the Fifth Round Draw.
Quarterfinals, July 21-2
Semifinals, August 11-12
Final, Sept. 29 or 30
Note: The day following each of the dates listed above is reserved as a make-up date in the event of a weather postponement.
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, recognized as U.S. Soccer's National Club Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The tournament has crowned a champion for 101 consecutive years, dating from 1914. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor American soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.
Seattle Sounders FC is the defending U.S. Open Cup champion, having won a fourth tournament title (following triumphs in 2009, 2010 and 2011) after a 3-1 overtime road victory against the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 16, 2014.