U.S. Soccer's Open Cup Committee has confirmed a modern-era record 100 clubs for participation and the process for determining matchups for the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer's National Championship, following the Dec. 31 professional team confirmation deadline. The 107th edition of the history-filled annual tournament kicks off March 24 with a record number of pro teams joining the country's best amateur sides to compete for the most important trophy offered by U.S. Soccer to its member clubs.
Modern-Era Record 100 Teams to Compete, Boosted by Record Number of Pro Clubs
One hundred teams will take part in the 2020 Open Cup, an increase of 16 over last year. The mark sets a tournament record in the modern era (1995-present), eclipsing the previous high of 99 set in 2017 when 43 pro and 56 amateur sides saw action.
Growth in the three professional divisions over the last three years is a primary driver of the record number of competitors, as a combined 62 Division I, II and III teams will battle against Open Division clubs and each other for U.S. Soccer's National Championship in 2020, eclipsing the previous high of 52 pro clubs set last year. The formation of the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), a Division III professional league that presented eight teams by the Dec. 31 confirmation deadline, accounts for much of the increase. Additionally, Division I Major League Soccer (MLS) continues its expansion with two new members in 2020, bringing its total to 23 U.S.-based clubs. Division II USL Championship (25) and Division III USL League One (6) have maintained their numbers from 2019 with several new sides replacing those who have departed since the end of last season.
Slot Allocation Determined for NPSL, USL League Two Teams
The Open Cup Committee confirmed allocating 14 slots to National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) sides and awarding 11 to USL League Two (USLL2) squads. Both leagues entered their teams via the Open Division National Leagues track under Open Cup regulations, opting to use 2019 league results to determine their 2020 qualifiers. Combining with the twelve teams that survived last fall's local qualifying rounds, along with the U.S. Amateur Soccer Association's 2019 National Amateur Cup champion (an automatic qualifier), a total of 38 Open Division clubs will participate (an increase of six over 2019), all entering in the First Round March 24-25.
Method for Determining Matchups for Each Round
Matchups throughout the tournament will be determined largely as they were in 2019 (see detail below) except for the Third Round. With nearly half of the competing MLS clubs entering at this stage (one round earlier than in recent years), the 40 Third Round participants will be pooled geographically into either nine or ten groups, with the 29 Second Round winners and 11 Division I clubs distributed as evenly as possible among the groups. From there, a random draw scheduled for April 10 will determine the pairings within each group, with all Division I sides paired to face a Second Round winner and not another Division I club. Any teams who are prohibited from playing each other until the Final per tournament regulations (see list below) will be placed in different groups. Instances where a logical geographic fit doesn't exist in determining the groups will be resolved by random selection. Pools will be re-created from scratch for subsequent draws.
First and Second Round Matchups to be Announced in late-January
U.S. Soccer will announce the First Round schedule on Jan. 22 and the Second Round pairings and possible pairings one week later on Jan. 29. Teams playing in the First Round will have nine weeks to prepare for their match, while those certain to play in the Second Round (all Division II and III squads) will have 10 weeks' notice.
The Second Round will set a modern-era record for most matches played in a single round (29) in the tournament proper, surpassing the 28 played in 2017's First Round.
Watch U.S. Open Cup Matches on ESPN+
For the second consecutive year and as part of a four-year deal, ESPN+ will be the home for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
- Each round will be conducted in a single-game-knockout format, with matches that are tied after 90 minutes of regulation time proceeding to a full 30 minutes of extra time. If still tied after 120 minutes, the team to advance will be determined by kicks from the penalty mark.
- Home teams will be determined by random selection among those who apply to host. Clubs whose venue meets minimum tournament standards will be given priority.
- The Open Cup Committee has determined the teams that are not permitted to be matched against each other throughout the tournament (e.g. an Open Division team and a parent professional club; a team who receives material technical support from another club; teams with shared ownership) except in the unlikely event that both sides reach the Final. These pairings are: Denton Diablos FC (NPSL) and Fort Worth Vaqueros FC (NPSL); LA Force (NISA) and FC Golden State Force (USL League Two); South Georgia Tormenta FC (USL League One) and South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 (USL League Two); and San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) and Reno 1868 FC (USL Championship).
- Professional teams who are majority-owned or otherwise controlled by higher division professional clubs are expressly excluded from Open Cup competition. For 2020, there are 15 such teams. From USL Championship (10): Atlanta United 2, LA Galaxy II, Loudoun United FC, New York Red Bulls II, Philadelphia Union II (known in 2019 as Bethlehem Steel FC), Portland Timbers 2, Real Monarchs SLC, Rio Grande Valley FC, Sporting Kansas City II (known in 2019 as Swope Park Rangers) and Tacoma Defiance; from USL League One (5): FC Tucson, League One Miami, New England Revolution II, North Texas SC and Orlando City B.
- In a new competition policy, if a match has kicked off and is terminated prior to the end of the first half or is otherwise tied at the time of termination and the termination is not due to the conduct of one of the teams, the match shall be restarted at the point of termination if restarted within two days of the original match date (games are required to be rescheduled for the next day unless mitigating circumstances prevent this). Otherwise, the match shall be replayed in its entirety if the rescheduled date is three or more days following the original match date.
2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Competition Schedule
Jan. 22: First Round pairings announced
Jan. 29: Second Round pairings and possible pairings announced
March 24-25: First Round (Open Division teams enter)
April 7-9: Second Round (Division II and III teams enter)
April 10: Third Round Draw
April 21-23: Third Round (11 lower-seeded Division I teams enter)
April 24: Round of 32 Draw
May 19-20: Round of 32 (12 higher-seeded Division I teams enter)
May 21: Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw
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
2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round-by-Round Competition Format and Pairings Methodology
- A team playing its first Open Cup match cannot be paired against another club from the same qualifying pool also playing its first Open Cup match (an exception to this restriction will be made in the First Round in the interest of avoiding extensive travel for Open Division teams).
- If three or more teams/pairings are from the same proximity, pairings for these teams will be made by random selection. Instances where a logical geographic fit doesn't exist will be resolved by random selection.
- Pairings will be arranged to exclude the possibility of a team being matched up with a parent club, a club with common ownership, or a team from whom material technical support is obtained, except in the event that both teams in a prohibited pairing reach the Final. If pairings in a given round are determined via random selection (as opposed to being matched up geographically), the teams excluded from facing each other will be entered into separate pools prior to selection.
First Round (March 24-25)
- Number of Games: 19
- Participants: 38 Open Division teams (12 local qualifiers, 1 USASA Amateur Cup champion, 14 NPSL, 11 USL League Two)
- Pairings Format: Teams will be paired geographically against clubs from other qualifying pools
Second Round (April 7-9)
- Number of Games: 29
- Participants (58): 19 First Round winners, 14 Division III teams (8 NISA, 6 USL League One), 25 Division II clubs (USL Championship)
- Pairings Format: After the First Round pairings are made, each First Round pairing will be matched geographically to a specific Division III or Division II team. The remaining Division III and Division II sides will be paired to play each other (avoiding any remaining Division III clubs from playing other Division III sides and any remaining Division II clubs from playing other Division II sides), with these pairings also made geographically.
Third Round Draw (April 10)
- Participants (40): 29 Second Round winners, 11 lower-seeded Division I clubs (MLS)
- After completion of the Second Round, participants in the Third Round will be pooled geographically into either ten groups of four (with nine groups having three Second Round winners and one Division I club and one group having two Second Round winners and two Division I clubs) or nine groups (with seven groups consisting of three Second Round winners and one Division I side and two groups having four Second Round winners and two Division I teams), with the number of groups (either ten or nine) based on geographical considerations. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, with all Division I sides paired to face a Second Round winner and not another Division I club.
Third Round (April 21-23)
- Number of Games: 20
Round of 32 Draw (April 24)
- Participants: 20 Third Round winners, 12 higher-seeded Division I clubs (MLS)
- After completion of the Third Round, participants in the Round of 32 will be pooled geographically into eight groups of four, with four groups having two Third Round winners and four groups having three. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, with all Division I sides playing their first tournament game paired to face a Third Round winner and not another Division I club playing their first tournament game.
Round of 32 (May 19-20)
- Number of Games: 16
Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw (May 21)
- The Round of 32 winners will be divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, resulting in a fixed bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Should a prohibited pair of teams reach the Semifinal Round and be scheduled to face each other, the matches will be re-drawn after the Quarterfinal Round to avoid this outcome.
Round of 16 (June 10 or June 23-24)
- Round of 32 winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw
Quarterfinal Round (June 23-24 or July 14-15)
- Round of 16 winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw
Draw to Determine Hosts for Semifinals and Final (June 25 or July 16)
Semifinal Round (July 14-15 or Aug. 11-12)
Final (Aug. 11-12 or Sept. 22-24)
2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Participating Teams
Professional Division Teams (62) Eligible to Participate:
Division I - Major League Soccer
Teams entering in the Round of 32 (12): Atlanta United FC (defending Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion), D.C. United, Los Angeles FC, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United FC, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders FC. The four USA entrants to the 2020 Concacaf Champions League and the next four best American regular-season finishers in 2019 in each of the league's Eastern and Western Conferences were granted the extra bye.
Teams entering in the Third Round (11): Chicago Fire FC, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, FC Cincinnati, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Inter Miami CF, Nashville SC, Orlando City SC, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City
Division II - USL Championship (excludes teams majority-owned or otherwise controlled by a higher division professional club)
Teams entering in the Second Round (25): Austin Bold FC, Birmingham Legion FC, Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, El Paso Locomotive FC, FC Tulsa, Hartford Athletic, Indy Eleven, Las Vegas Lights FC, Louisville City FC, Memphis 901 FC, Miami FC, New Mexico United, North Carolina FC, OKC Energy FC, Orange County SC, Phoenix Rising FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Reno 1868 FC, Sacramento Republic FC, Saint Louis FC, San Antonio FC, San Diego Loyal SC, Tampa Bay Rowdies
Division III - USL League One (excludes teams majority-owned or otherwise controlled by a higher division professional club)
Teams entering in the Second Round (6): Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, Forward Madison FC, Greenville Triumph SC, Richmond Kickers, South Georgia Tormenta FC, Union Omaha
Division III - National Independent Soccer Association
Teams entering in the Second Round (8): California United Strikers FC, Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, LA Force, Michigan Stars FC, Oakland Roots, San Diego 1904 FC, Stumptown Athletic
Open Division Teams (38), entering in First Round:
Local Qualifiers (12):
East Region: Christos FC (Md.), New York Pancyprian Freedoms (N.Y.), Vereinigung Erzgebirge (Pa.), Virginia United* (Va.); Central Region: Louisiana Krewe FC (La.), Miami United FC U23 (Fla.), Nashville United (Tenn.), NTX Rayados* (Texas); West Region: Cal FC* (Calif.), Chula Vista FC (Calif.), FC Boulder Harpos (Colo.), Olympic Club (Calif.)
* Participated in 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
2019 U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Amateur Cup champion: Newtown Pride FC (Conn.)
National Premier Soccer League (14):
Listed by region in order of rank: Northeast Region (3): Atlantic City FC, West Chester United SC, FC Motown*; South Region (4): Tulsa Athletic, Naples United FC, Denton Diablos FC, Fort Worth Vaqueros FC; Midwest Region (3): Cleveland SC, Minneapolis City SC, Med City FC; West Region (4): ASC San Diego, FC Arizona, FC Davis, Crossfire Redmond
* Participated in 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Note: The NPSL entered its teams via the National Leagues track under Open Cup regulations, opting to use 2019 league results (a combination of playoff finishes and regular season success) to determine its qualifiers for the 2020 tournament.
USL League Two (11):
Division winners: Chicago FC United, Des Moines Menace*, FC Golden State Force*, North Carolina Fusion U23, South Georgia Tormenta FC 2*, The Villages SC*, Western Mass Pioneers. Wild card entries (in rank order): GPS Portland Phoenix, SC United Bantams, Ventura County Fusion, Corpus Christi FC
* Participated in 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Note: USL League Two entered its teams via the National Leagues track under Open Cup regulations, opting to use 2019 regular season league results (division winners ranked highest) to determine its qualifiers for the 2020 tournament.
About the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
In its 107th year, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup - U.S. Soccer's National Championship - has crowned a champion annually since 1914. The history-filled tournament is conducted on a single-game, knockout basis and open to all professional and amateur teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. In 1999, the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the United States and the world's third-longest continuously running open soccer tournament was renamed to honor United States soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt .
The 2020 U.S. Open Cup winner will earn $300,000 in prize money, a berth in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League and have its name engraved on the Dewar Challenge Trophy - one of the oldest nationally-contested trophies in American team sports - now on permanent display at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco, Texas. The runner-up will earn $100,000, while the team that advances the furthest from each lower division will take home a $25,000 cash prize.
Atlanta United FC is the defending Open Cup champion, having earned the club's first tournament title thanks to a 2-1 victory against Minnesota United FC on Aug. 27, 2019, in front of an Open Cup Final record 35,709 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.