USSF announces monumental format changes to 2012 US Open Cup

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  • January 11, 2012

Lamar Hunt US Open Cup logoUPDATE (4/26/12): TheCup.us has learned the fee structure for hosting games. All hosts will pay the USSF 15% of any gross receipts over $100,000. In addition, in Round 3, the hosts must pay the federation a $12,000 fee in advance, which increases in to $18,000 in Round 4, and $25,000 in the Quarterfinals.

The United States Soccer Federation has announced sweeping changes to the 99th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, many of which confirm reports by TheCup.us. The competition will feature a Modern Professional Era (1995-present) record 64 teams, including every US-based professional club in the American soccer pyramid from Major League Soccer (16 teams), the North American Soccer League (6 teams), and USL PRO (10 teams). The remaining 32 spots will be filled by amateur clubs from the Premier Development League (16 teams), United States Adult Soccer Association (9 teams), National Premier Soccer League (6.5 teams), and US Club Soccer (0.5 team). An NPSL club will square off with a representative from US Club Soccer for a spot in the 2012 competition.

As reported by TheCup.us last week, another significant change is the elimination of the sealed bidding process for determining the host team for each round through the quarterfinals. This year, each team can apply to host each round and if both teams’ venues meet USSF’s standards, and pay the federation 15% of the gross gate receipts, then they will conduct a blind draw to determine the host. In the past, in addition to meeting USSF venue standards, teams would have to submit a financial bid, and the team that bid the most was awarded the home game. That process, a sometimes controversial method profiled in depth recently by TheCup.us, will remain in effect for just the Semifinals and the Final this year.

“USL is thrilled with the modifications made to the tournament format and structure for 2012,” said USL President Tim Holt. “Certainly, the greater level of participation by professional and amateur teams alike will attract the most attention and deservedly so; yet, just as importantly as the tournament expansion are the reforms to the determination of which teams host in each round.  This will favorably impact competitive equity and expose this special tournament to a greater variety of markets.”

Another change for 2012 will be the dates for the competition, which will start earlier and will be much more condensed than in previous years as to minimize fixture congestion, and conflicts with the CONCACAF Champions League. The match dates for the Open Cup remain scheduled for Tuesday nights to avoid conflicts with weekend-heavy league schedules. The qualifying deadline is April 29, which only really applies to the USASA, which is the only organization who still has not solidified it’s entries into this year’s tournament.

As was reported by TheCup.us, the first four rounds of the 2012 Open Cup will be fast and furious with each stage taking place on consecutive weeks. The tournament will begin on May 15, the earliest the Open Cup has begun in the Modern Pro Era, with the 32 amateur clubs (also a Modern Pro Era record) matching up in geographic fashion. The teams will be separated, like in recent years, into groups of four, with no teams from the same qualifying pool sharing a group. The winners of those games will move on to Round 2 the following week, May 22, where the 16 NASL and USL PRO clubs will enter. The week after that, on May 29, Major League Soccer will take on the Second Round winners as the Seattle Sounders will begin their quest to win an unprecedented fourth straight Open Cup title. With the number of teams, a fourth round will added and will take place June 5. The Cup hasn’t had a fourth round since a four-year run from 2003-06.

Three weeks later, the tournament will hold the Quarterfinals on June 26, followed by the Semifinals on July 10, and the Open Cup Final on either August 7 or 8. Holding the championship game in early August will mark the earliest it has been held since 1994 when Greek American AC (San Francisco) defeated Bavarian SC (Milwaukee) 3-0 on July 30.

It was not part of US Soccer’s original announcement, but was revealed in the 2012 US Open Cup handbook acquired by TheCup.us, the Third Round, Fourth Round and Quarterfinals will require a hosting fee, in addition to paying 15% of any gross gate receipts over $100,000. If both teams in a particular matchup are interested in hosting, they must meet USSF’s venue standards, and submit a check for the hosting fee for that particular round. Round 3, when Major League Soccer joins the competition, will require a fee of $12,000, which increases to $18,000 in Round 4, and then to $25,000 for the Quarterfinals. If both teams do that, then a blind draw will determine who hosts with the winner having their check deposited and the loser having their check sent back.

“Playing the tournament within a tighter period will keep the Open Cup continuously in the consciousness of American soccer fans through the summer as well as allow PDL and other amateur teams to remain intact if they were to pull off what would be a remarkable run to the Final,” said Holt, who also serves as the co-chair of the Open Cup committee. “We applaud US Soccer Federation leadership for endorsing and enabling these changes which will help further raise the credibility, visibility, and relevance of the competition.  Our USL PRO and PDL teams once again look forward to matching up against the other best soccer teams in the United States this summer.”h

With the earlier schedule, this makes it impossible for amateur clubs that depend on college players like the PDL, NPSL and US Club Soccer to hold qualifying, so as previously reported by TheCup.us, the PDL teams that will take part will be the 2011 division winners, and the runners-up. If any of the teams aren’t US-based, then the next eligible club will be taken. The list of teams who will compete for the PDL are as follows:

Central Conference
Michigan Bucks
– 1st place in Great Lakes Division – record 9th appearance (9-7-1 all-time), last appearance: 2008
Chicago Fire PDL – 2nd place in Great Lakes Division – 5th appearance (6-4-0), 3rd straight appearance
Des Moines Menace – 2nd place in Heartland Division* – 6th appearance (6-5-1, 1-0 in PKs) – Last appearance: 2010
Real Colorado Foxes – 3rd place in Heartland Division * – 2nd appearance (1-1-0), 2nd straight appearance
*Canadian club Thunder Bay finished 1st

Eastern Conference
Long Island Rough Riders – 1st place in Mid Atlantic Division – 5th appearance, 3rd as a PDL team (3-5-0 all-time, 1-2-0 as a PDL team) …  Last appearance: 2010
Reading United AC - 2nd place in Mid Atlantic Division … 6th appearance, 4th as a PDL team (0-5-0 all-time, 0-3-0 as a PDL team) … 4th straight appearance (tied for the amateur record)
MPS Portland Phoenix – 1st place in Northeast Division … 1st appearance
Carolina Dynamo – 1st place in South Atlantic Division … 8th appearance, 3rd as a PDL team (10-8-0 all-time, 5-3-0 as a PDL team) … 2nd straight appearance

Southern Conference
Laredo Heat – 1st place in Mid South Division … 2nd appearance (0-0-1, 0-1 in PKs … lost to Dallas Roma FC in 2006, who went on to make their magical run) … last appearance: 2006
El Paso Patriots – 2nd place in Mid South Division … 10th appearance, 5th as a PDL team (8-7-3, 1-2 in PKs all-time, 2-3-2, 1-1 in PKs as a PDL team) … 2nd straight appearance
Mississippi Brilla – 1st place in Southeast Division … 2nd appearance (0-1-0) … last appearance: 2009
Orlando City U23s (previously Central Florida Kraze) – 2nd place Southeast Division … 5th appearance (0-4-0) … 3rd straight appearance

Western Conference
Kitsap Pumas – 1st place in Northwest Division…. 4th appearance (2-3-1, 1-0 in PKs), 4th straight appearance (Amateur record) … have qualified in every year of their existence
Portland Timbers U23s – 4th place in Northwest Division* … 1st appearance
Fresno Fuego – 1st Southwest Division … 2nd appearance (3-1-0) … last appearance: 2003 (advanced to the Fourth Round and lost to the Los Angeles Galaxy. 1 of only 3 PDL teams to ever advance beyond the Third Round)
Ventura County Fusion – 2nd Southwest Division … 3rd appearance (1-1-1, 0-1 in PKs), 3rd straight appearance
*Canadian clubs Victoria Highlanders and Vancouver Whitecaps U23s were 2nd & 3rd

The entries for the NPSL will be determined at the league annual general meeting currently being held at the NSCAA convention in Kansas City. The entry for US Club Soccer is unknown at this time.

“US Soccer is excited about the changes made to the US Open Cup,” said USSF spokesperson Neil Beuthe. “In recent years, an increasing number of teams have shown a greater commitment to participate and win the tournament, which definitely played a factor in these changes. By having professional teams and a larger field from the amateur ranks allows for more opportunities for some intriguing match-ups throughout the competition. We hope these changes will create more overall interest and excitement.”

The prize money remains the same for 2012, with the winner taking home $100,000, the runner-up receiving $50,000 and the three teams that advances the furthest among Division 2, Division 3 and amateur clubs will be awarded $10,000 each.