Get ready for a US Open Cup like you’ve never seen it before.
The US Soccer Federation on Wednesday unveiled an expanded version of the domestic cup competition which will see all 16 US-based MLS clubs participating, a random selection process for home teams in select rounds and a champion crowned by the first week of August.
The MLS qualifying system employed in recent years has been scrapped and all 16 MLS teams eligible for participation – the three Canadian teams play in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship – will join the competition in the third round.
A total of 64 teams – a record number in the modern era of the USOC – will feature 32 professional teams, including all six NASL teams and all 10 USL PRO teams, as well as another 32 from the amateur ranks of the USASA (nine qualifiers), PDL (16 qualifiers), NPSL (6.5 qualifiers) and US Club Soccer (0.5 qualifiers).
As has traditionally been the case, MLS teams will join in the third round with matchups based on geography. MLS teams will only face each other beginning in the fourth round.
The USOC kicks off with the first round on Tuesday, May 15, with subsequent rounds played on Tuesdays in consecutive weeks to determine the final eight teams by June 5.
The quarterfinals then take place on June 26, the semis on July 10 and the final on Aug. 7 or 8.
The controversial blind-bid system used to determine home teams in past years has been scrapped in the earlier rounds in favor of a random selection process for venues that meet standard requirements and are interested in serving as hosts. The blind-bid system is then reintroduced again beginning with the quarterfinal stage.
Three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders are looking to become the first team to win the competitions four straight times and take home the $100,000 cash prize.