Today, US Soccer came out with their announcement of the format for the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. This will mean another game for the Indy Eleven 0n May 28, though we don’t yet know if it’ll be at home or away, or who we’ll be playing. Exciting news!
What’s the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup?
The US Open Cup is one of the oldest soccer tournaments in the world, starting in 1914 (which just happens to make this the 101st Open Cup). But if you’re new to following US club soccer, you might not know what this is all about. It’s a nationwide knockout tournament, with teams spanning from amateur leagues through MLS. Teams compete in a single-knockout tournament, facing each other one time to determine who goes through to the next round. If you’re used to English soccer, it’s basically the FA Cup for the US.
Lower-level teams have to qualify, while the bigger professional leagues get passes into later rounds. Last years’ tournament went seven rounds, with the final contested between Real Salt Lake and DC United at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT. DC United won 0-1, on a goal from Lewis Neal at 45′. MLS teams have won the last 14 US Open Cups, with the Rochester Rhinos the last non-MLS team to win, back in 1999. NASL teams have done reasonably well, including a trip to the quarterfinals last year for Carolina, where the RailHawks lost to eventual runners-up Real Salt Lake. It’s worth noting, though, that this is the US Open Cup, so Edmonton and Ottawa need not apply.
1997 US Open Cup Final
As an aside: I’ve mentioned it before, but Indy Eleven fans will want to take a special look at the 1997 US Open Cup final — because it was played at The Mike! Carroll Stadium hosted the championship between the Dallas Burn and DC United, with Dallas winning 5-3 in a penalty shootout, after a 0-0 draw through regulation and extra time. Pretty exciting game! Mostly though, it’s just great to see that Carroll has a serious history with the Cup, long before the Eleven moved in. It’s weird but cool to see the stadium host such a big match 17 years ago.
2014 US Open Cup
Today, the initial draw and format for the cup have been announced. The tournament has been enlarged to 80 teams. Now that the NASL has expanded sufficiently, they’re rewarded with their “own round” of the cup. USL Pro teams will enter in the second round, while NASL teams will join at the third round. MLS teams will then take part starting in the fourth round. Teams will be regionally matched for the first few rounds, though there are exceptions that ensure, for example, that MLS teams won’t face their reserve teams (at least until the final, if it came to that).
First and Second Round
The first round consists of 16 amateur teams, taken from the PDL, NPSL, USASA, USSSA, and US Club Soccer. They’ll play their games on May 7. The second round will see a total of 48 teams (24 games). It takes the 8 winners from round 1, adds 26 more amateur teams (PDL, USASA, and NPSL), and also adds the 14 USL Pro clubs. These games take place on 14 May (except for one on 13 May). These games have all been scheduled, though there are contingencies based on ensuring that pairings don’t come from the same qualifying pool.
The NASL teams (well, the US-based ones, anyway) enter in the third round. Those 8 teams will combine with the 24 winners from round 2, for a 32-team, 16-game round. Home teams will be decided by a coin flip. These games will be played on Tuesday 28 May — so clear your calendar now!
The matchups haven’t been announced yet, but we’re told that they’ll be regional. I’m not sure how they define regions, but I can make some guesses. The closest teams, which must definitely be part of our pool, are the Dayton Dutch Lions of USL Pro and Schwaben AC (Buffalo Grove, IL) of the USASA. Depending on how things line up, it could also be the winner of Michigan Bucks (PDL, Pontiac) vs either Detroit City FC (NPSL) or RWB Adria (USASA, Chicago). If the Michigan teams are in our pool, there’d be a third match that would figure into our region, but I’m not really sure which it’d be. We’ll see.
Either way, there’s a 50/50 chance that the match will be held at Carroll Stadium. If not, we’ll wait to see where we travel, but it’s likely to be a drivable distance.
The fourth round adds the 16 US-based MLS teams to the mix. They’ll face off against the 16 winners from round 3. So if the Eleven win, they’ll have a cup match against a MLS team. Those games are scheduled between 10-18 June, with flexibility based on the teams’ schedules. (However, MLS and NASL begin their World Cup breaks around that time, which makes it easier.) These matchups will be regionally-based too, so if the Eleven make it that far, they’re likely to face someone like the Chicago Fire or Columbus Crew.
Making a deep cup run can be a bit of a mixed bag. The good news is that, hey, more games, another trophy to play for. But it adds workload to the team, too. I’d love to see the Eleven do well, though, and hopefully we’ll get at least one game against MLS opponents. First things first, though; let’s take on that Round 3 game and see how we fare against lower-division opponenets. Fun stuff!