This Year’s US Open Cup Is Going To Be A Lot Different

First round matchups, second round possibilities to be set April 6
by Ray Marcham   |   Monday, April 04, 2016

The changes keep on coming to the 2016 US Open Cup, and we’re just over a month away from kicking this off.

For a number of amateur and lower-level sides, the changes have been very beneficial.

We’re finally set for the first-round of the USOC, and the matchups for May 11 will be determined by US Soccer on April 6. There will be 46 teams who will find out how their Cup adventure will begin in Round 1, with a record 92 clubs being a part of the Cup tournament for 2016.

With the Houston Dynamo requesting that their new USL club, Rio Grande Valley, be removed from the USOC this week has shaken up the scheduling again, but it also presented a massive opportunity for two clubs. The Kitsap Pumas from the PDL and the NPSL’s Chattanooga FC have both been given first round byes as their league’s top qualifiers.

Of course, there have been changes to that, as well. The weekend before the first-round draw was supposed to be the final qualifying round of the USOC, but with the changes in professional slots, especially in the USL, all 14 clubs that were scheduled to play were placed in the first round. Those include 10 clubs that are making their first-ever appearance in the USOC, meaning new memories for those involved.

The PDL and NPSL also benefitted from the changes. The PDL got four new slots and now has 19 spots, 18 in the first round and one (Kitsap) in the second. The NPSL saw their allotment increased to 15 from 13, with 14 in Round 1 and Chattanooga in Round 2. That means over half of the USOC field will be Open Division (amateur/4th Division) sides, making up 48 of the 92 clubs. That number is up from 2015, when the Open Division had

Spots for the lower professional leagues have also been adjusted. The USL now has 17 teams coming into Round 2, down from 21 in 2015. That’s because of the elimination of MLS-owned sides from the tournament, but also adding on the new USL teams in Cincinnati and San Antonio. The NASL still has 9 teams coming into the tourney in Round 3, losing the Atlanta Silverbacks and San Antonio Scorpions but adding on Rayo OKC and Miami FC.

No changes this year with the number of MLS clubs in the USOC, as that stays at 17. They will come in for Round 4, with one MLS-vs-MLS matchup being set up as in 2015 (when Seattle hosted Portland).

The number of professional sides in the USOC will increase over the next few years. In 2017, MLS will add Atlanta and possibly Minnesota, while the NASL will have San Francisco and maybe Chicago. The USL will be adding at least one team in Reno, with any further expansion still to be determined.

Once again, the pairings will be set up to be as geographically close as possible, but sometimes that’s not always the case. In 2015, the first year that US Soccer attempted to draw in a semi-geographic format, Virginia Beach City did have to travel to AC Connecticut in Round 1, while in Round 2 Michigan Bucks (PDL) hosted Portland Timbers 2 (USL), Utah’s Real Monarchs (USL) traveled to play at Long Island (PDL and New Hampshire’s Seacoast United (PDL) went to Tulsa to play the USL’s Roughnecks. Early round matchups this year may have the same problem.

Also of issue, but much more minimally than usual, are the lower-level teams owned by higher-level professional clubs. This is an issue with MLS clubs, of course, with their USL and PDL teams. But this year an NASL team had to make a decision, as well. While New York Cosmos B won the NPSL championship in 2015, the parent club decided to not put them into the USOC (meaning Chattanooga is the NPSL’s top qualifying team). This leaves the PDL U-23 sides owned by the New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers as the last remaining teams where US Soccer will make sure the PDL side and its MLS parent don’t meet until the Final.

There are some interesting dates in the USOC this year. The final is tentatively set for September 21, with the semis happening on August 10. The Round of 16 is currently set for June 15, an off-day during the Copa America Centenario. The first two rounds will be on May 11 and May 18, with Round 3 on June 1, so the first few rounds will be done in a few weeks. The quarterfinals are set for July 20, meaning that the final rounds will again be separated by about a month between each match. Of course, the chances that US Soccer even has to worry about that are almost nil.

Prize money for 2016 includes $250,000 to the winning club, $60,000 for second place and $15,000 for teams in the NASL, USL and the Open Division that advance the farthest in the tournament. The Cup champions also gains a spot in the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League.

The Season of the Cup is just around the corner. After April 6, we’ll know where the first couple of rounds will take us. 

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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