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U.S. Open Cup format sans Philadelphia Union announced



As anticipated, the Philadelphia Union will not participate in the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup but two local teams – West Chester United and Vereinigung Erzgebirge – will represent the area in American soccer’s oldest competition.

The format for the competition, officially announced by U.S. Soccer on Friday, will include 96 teams across the amateur and professional ranks but will include just eight MLS teams this time around.

It’s partially a win for the MLS strategy of wanting little to do with anything they don’t themselves control but will still feature a wide range of teams and markets, including 11 MLS Next Pro teams.

The Philadelphia Union have made the Open Cup final three times but with Concacaf Champions Cup and the Leagues Cup (unfortunately) taking priority their involvement in the competition has been limited to one-and-done road games the last couple years.

Still, the competition does suffer not having full participation.

A USL Championship team winning will be looked at differently just as an MLS winner will be deemed more the best of the rest than a rightful cup winner. The rebuttal to that will still be DC United since they were a bottom of the table team that won the Open Cup in 2013, however.

Union head coach Jim Curtin, who won the competition as a player and has been part of three finals, was asked about the Open Cup prior to the announcement during a press conference on Friday.

“You guys know my love for the competition, it’s a great one,” Curtin said. “I don’t think that the solution that comes out for this season will be necessarily the solution for ever that’s kinda all I can say about that without getting in trouble or something.”

The Union and Union II, along with the first and second teams of other Concacaf Champions Cup teams were excluded from the competition. Next Pro teams not excluded were determined based on last year’s standings.

One benefit of the new format is that the first round will feature amateur teams playing a professional side in all 32 matches for the first time. That means both West Chester and VE will play a professional side instead of matching up against each other in the first round. That’s definitely a win for local soccer.

U.S. Soccer is touting what it is calling “its largest-ever investment in the tournament in 2024.” New commercial partners include Marriott, Michelob Ultra, New York Life and Nike and U.S. Soccer has prioritized enhanced financial incentives for participating teams, including significantly increased travel reimbursement.

“After extensive discussions, we have put together a competitive format specific to the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, promising exciting matchups from the First Round and through the entire tournament,” U.S. Soccer CEO JT Batson said in a news release. “U.S. Soccer values the tradition and importance of the U.S. Open Cup, and we will continue to have conversations with all our members to explore avenues for enhancing future editions of the tournament and how we all work together to grow soccer in every community in the country.”

2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Schedule

First Round               Tuesday, March 19 – Thursday, March 21
Second Round           Tuesday, April 2 – Wednesday, April 3
Third Round              Tuesday, April 16 – Wednesday, April 17
Round of 32              Tuesday, May 7 – Wednesday, May 8
Round of 16               Tuesday, May 21 – Wednesday, May 22
Quarterfinal               Tuesday, July 9 – Wednesday, July 10
Semifinal                        Tuesday, Aug. 27 – Wednesday, Aug. 28
Final                              Wednesday, Sept. 25

*Dates are subject to change

Complete List of Teams for 2024 Open Cup Proper

Professional Division Teams

Division I
8 teams
Major League Soccer 
(All 8 teams enter in the Round of 32)
Atlanta United FC
FC Dallas
Houston Dynamo FC (Defending U.S. Open Cup Champion)
Los Angeles FC
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
Seattle Sounders FC
Sporting Kansas City

Division II 
24 teams 
USL Championship 
(16 teams enter in the Third Round and 8 teams in the Round of 32)

Birmingham Legion FC
Charleston Battery*
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC*?
Detroit City FC
El Paso Locomotive
FC Tulsa
Hartford Athletic
Indy Eleven
Las Vegas Lights FC
Loudoun United FC
Louisville City FC
Memphis 901 FC
Miami FC
Monterey Bay FC
New Mexico United
North Carolina FC
Oakland Roots SC
Orange County Soccer Club*
Phoenix Rising FC*
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC*
Rhode Island FC
Sacramento Republic FC*
San Antonio FC*
Tampa Bay Rowdies*
* USL Championship league champion (Phoenix Rising FC) and next seven best teams from 2023 standings enter Round of 32 

Division III
32 teams
USL League One, NISA, MLS Next Pro 
(All teams entering in the First Round)
USL League One
12 teams
(Teams entering in the First Round)
Central Valley Fuego FC
Charlotte Independence
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
Forward Madison FC
Greenville Triumph SC
One Knoxville SC
Lexington SC
Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC
Richmond Kickers
South Georgia Tormenta FC
Spokane Velocity FC
Union Omaha

MLS Next Pro
11 teams
(Entering in the First Round)

Austin FC II
Carolina Core FC
Chattanooga FC
Chicago Fire II
Colorado Rapids 2
Crown Legacy FC
Minnesota United FC2
LA Galaxy II
New York City FC II
New York Red Bulls II
Portland Timbers 2

NISA (National Independent Soccer Association) 
9 teams
(Teams entering in the First Round)
Arizona Monsoon FC

Capo FC
Club de Lyon FC
Georgia Lions FC
Irvine Zeta FC
Los Angeles Force
Maryland Bobcats FC
Michigan Stars FC
cSavannah Clovers FC

Open Division Teams

Division IV/Open 
32 teams
(Teams entering in the First Round) 

SC MesoAmerica (California / USASA / USASA National Amateur Cup Winner)
AS Frenzi (Florida / UPSL Spring Champion) 

Open Division Local Qualifiers
11 teams – winners from the Four Rounds of Local Qualifying / Fall 2023 
Azteca FC (Colorado, Colorado Premier League / USSSA-Soccer)
Chicago House AC (Illinois / Midwest Premier League / USASA)
Christos FC (Maryland / Maryland Super Soccer League/ USASA)
FC America CFL Spurs (Florida / United States Soccer League / USSSA-Soccer)
FORO SC (Texas / UPSL)
SCU Heat (South Carolina / UPSL)
Brockton FC United (Massachusetts / UPSL)
Vereinigung Erzgebirge (Pennsylvania / United Soccer League of Penn. / USASA)
Miami United FC (Florida / United States Soccer League / USSSA-Soccer)
FC Folsom (California / UPSL)
Irvine Zeta FC II (California / UPSL)

National Premier Soccer League (NPSL)
8 teams – based on 2023 league competition
Tulsa Athletic (Oklahoma)
Apotheos FC (Georgia)
West Chester United SC (Pennsylvania)
El Farolito (California)
Steel City FC (Pennsylvania)
FC Motown (New Jersey)
Lubbock Matadors SC (Texas)
Duluth FC (Minnesota) 

USL League Two 
11 teams – based on 2023 league competition
Ballard FC (Washington)
Chicago City SC (Illinois)
Asheville City SC (North Carolina)
Brave SC (Formerly The Villages SC, Florida)
Redlands FC (California)
South Carolina United Bantams (South Carolina)
Des Moines Menace (Iowa)
Western Mass Pioneers (Massachusetts)
Vermont Green FC (Vermont)
Hudson Valley Hammers (New York)

*Final team to be announced soon

Matthew Ralph is the managing editor of Philadelphia Soccer Now / Brotherly Game. He's covered soccer at all levels for many years in the Philadelphia region and has also written for, NPSL, PrepSoccer and other publications. He lives with his wife and two young children in Broomall, Pa., but grew up in South Jersey and is originally from Kansas.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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