2011 USOC team allocations, dates set

Posted by | February 17, 2011

The United States Soccer Federation’s US Open Cup committee has finalized the dates and the team allocations for the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The 98th edition of the tournament will begin on June 14 with 40 teams entering and will wrap up with the championship game on October 4.

The only professional entries in this year’s tournament will be eight Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs and all 11 USL Pro teams (Third Division). With 16 U.S.-based MLS  teams eligible, it’s clear that MLS qualifying will return, in some form, for the fifth year in a row.

Aside from the US Soccer Federation’s exclusion of the five U.S.-based NASL (Second Division) teams, which was announced on Monday, the most notable changes to the 2011 edition of the Open Cup is on the amateur side of the competition. For the first time since the league began play in 2003, the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) will have four slots set aside for the competition. In the past, the Fourth-Division amateur league has had to qualify for the Open Cup through the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA), which retains the eight spots that it has held since 2004. The Premier Development League (PDL) will get an extra team into the tournament this year, giving the league nine entries, the most they have ever had.

CONCACAF’s official twitter account recently confirmed what most people assumed, which is that the 2011 US Open Cup champion will still qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.

The two-time defending champion Seattle Sounders FC will earn an automatic bid to the Open Cup, and have the chance to be the first team in over 40 years to win three consecutive Open Cups. The last team to achieve that feat was the New York Greek-Americans (1967-69). Only three teams in the history if the tournament have won three straight championships.

The Sounders will be joined by five other automatic qualifiers, based on the MLS league standings from 2010. The Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake and the Supporters’ Shield winning Los Angeles Galaxy will all enter the tournament in the third round.  The 10 remaining U.S.-based MLS clubs (Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, DC United, Houston Dynamo, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City) will battle for the remaining two slots.

Can the Sounders become only the second team in the tournament's 98-year history to win three straight US Open Cup titles? Photo: Seattle Sounders FC

Each league chooses how their teams will qualify, and will announce their criteria at a later date. Since 2007, MLS has held a play-in tournament, with the last two years having the games separate from the regular season schedule. 2007 and 2008 saw regular season games double as Open Cup qualifiers.

While it is unknown which format MLS will take for play-in games this year, the play-in games from the last two years have struggled to spark fan interest. In 2009, the qualifying games, which were separate from the regular season schedule, drew less than 5,000 fans per game, and last year, the average fell to less than 2,500.

The PDL will keep a similar format with each U.S.-based team having four regular season games selected (usually two home, two away) to double as Open Cup qualifiers. The top team from each of the nine divisions will earn a berth into the First Round.

The USASA will keep the same qualifying format they have had for the last seven years where each of the four regions submits both finalists in their US Open Cup tournament.

MLS (8 teams – First Division): Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders FC + 2 qualifying teams
USL Pro (11 teams – Third Division): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Eagles, Dayton Dutch Lions, FC New York, Harrisburg City Islanders, Los Angeles Blues, Orlando City, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Rhinos, Wilmington Hammerheads
PDL (9 teams – Amateur): Teams to be determined
USASA (8 teams – Amateur): Two finalists from each of the four regional tournaments
NPSL (4 teams – Amateur): Teams to be determined

The prize money also remains the same as last year with the winner of the tournament earning $100,000, the runner-up getting $50,000 and the Third Division (USL Pro) and Amateur team that advances the furthest gets $10,000.

Much like recent Open Cup tournaments, games are scheduled to take place on Tuesdays and the first three rounds will be played in consecutive weeks with the remaining games spaced out over the rest of the season until the October 4 final.

The dates for each round are as follows and are subject to change:

May 30: Qualification Deadline
Tuesday, June 14: First Round
Tuesday, June 21: Second Round
Tuesday, June 28: Third Round
Tuesday, July 12: Fourth Round
Tuesday, August 30: Semifinals
Tuesday, October 4: Final


  • ERic says:

    Very disappointed. Two slots being fought over by 10 MLS teams. That’s ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. I can’t adequately express how ridiculous it is.

    On the plus side, it’s nice to see them actually announce things now, right after saying the NASL can’t be in. It indicates that they did have plans already in the pipeline and it gives some support to the ‘we can’t include the NASL’ reasoning.

  • Dave says:

    16 US based MLS teams. They can enter in the Round of 32. Problem solved. WAKE UP YOU PEOPLE!!!

  • A. Pic. says:

    Honestly I don’t see how every team in the MLS is not automatically qualified. I realize we don’t have the ability for the bottom 2 top tournament like in the FA Cup, but next year I’d really like to see everyone in our “top flight” at least get a shot.

  • Michael says:

    qualifying is ridiculous…if they have to pare it down. just take last year’s usoc winner (if they come from mls) and the next 7 teams on pts/game average with a cutoff date of end may/top june. they’ll have plenty of games under their belts by then. if i’m not mistaken…they’ll have reserve teams back this year..so, they don’t need these supposed ‘extra’ games (1 for most teams) to get some others on the field. they’ve already proven that 25% or less of the teams actually field a ‘strong’ team for these games. waste of money and time!

  • Mic says:

    The current system makes perfect sense with the top 6 MLS teams getting automatic bids. All MLS teams have a shot at the Open Cup whether they automatically qualify or have to play extra games to qualify for a spot. Until MLS teams start taking the tournament more seriously, there is no reason to allocate those teams extra slots.

  • Ian says:

    I second Mic’s comment. A lot, if not most, MLS teams simply don’t take the U.S. Open Cup as seriously as teams like Seattle and D.C. United do. Frankly, I’ve never understood why that’s the case, since winning the cup these days punches your ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League.

    Until everyone in MLS takes it seriously, those Cup spots should be open to the teams who actually want to be playing those matches. On a semi-related side note, being from Central Pennsylvania, the U.S. Open Cup wouldn’t feel right without the Harrisburg City Islanders getting the opportunity to embarrass somebody like they seem to do every year.

  • Disclaimer says:

    It really does seem like all 16 MLS teams should be in one way or another. Round of 32 would make a ton of sense.

    I’d still love it if we could just dump the whole seeding thing and go with random pairings – but I suppose you can’t tell an Amateur team in California that their first game is going to be in Rochester…

  • Darrin says:

    I have been a huge follower of the U.S. Open cup for 4 years now. With the growth of the MLS, there really should be a way for all 16 teams to go in without qualifying. This would take care of the lack of interest in play in games. Imagine if the bottom half of the EPL had to qualify for the FA Cup. It seems to me that the USSF doesn’t really like this competition and is trying to find some way to dump it. I for one love this site because it’s the only place I can easily find information about the tournament’s early stages. Keep up the good work and sorry about the quick changes in topics in my reply.

  • Mike says:

    If the MLS wanted more slots, they’d have more slots. Sadly, most MLS teams still treat the cup as a distraction and don’t see it as an opprotunity to grow the sport and their fan base.

  • Robert says:

    In last year’s tournament, we saw the peculiar inclusion of a single team from the US Club Soccer ranks — the Los Gatos Storm from the Bay Area in California. Will there be any other USCS teams trying to gain entry into this year’s competition, and if so, what is the procedure?

    • Josh Hakala says:

      US Club Soccer apparently has a growing interest in participating in the tournament. However, there are not enough teams from USCS who want to participate currently to warrant awarding the organization a spot in the tournament. They can’t just enter USASA qualifying because USASA and USCS are competing organizations. However, I’m told some folks from USCS are interested in having them play more of a role in the US Open Cup in the future. Frankly, I don’t care as long as it increases participation in the tournament. The USASA hasn’t set the bar that high in terms of getting teams to take part (You’re telling me there isn’t a single amateur team who wants to participate from Ohio? Or only 2-3 teams in the state of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois or Florida?), so if US Club Soccer can do a better job of getting more amateur teams involved, then by all means, let’s give them a shot.

  • George says:

    In addition to the comments already made I would like to add this: Why is the final to be held on a Tuesday? Why can’t the USSF make it on a Saturday night and get it on ESPN? Anybody home at USSF?

  • T.C says:

    I am a Harrisburg CI fan (a bigger Union fan), however I believe the format is fine… We beat NYRB but it was practily their reserve squad… If MLS wants more spots bring Henry and Marquez to HBG, Union bring Le Toux and big names for games… thats how you prove your serious…

  • dennis says:

    I disagree with a the automatic berth to the MLS teams. I dont know if the east coast hacks whould have seen Seattle Sounders or the Portland Timers until we in the northwest kicked em in a few USL-MLS us cup games. Charleston Battery made to to the final in 2008. In fact this whould be good for MLB a us cup of Baseball the best minors and majors New York Yankess lose to the Everit AquaSox?

  • Ray says:

    Why doesn’t the MLS Cup winner get an automatic bid? They get a bid into CONCACAF Champions League! It appears that the USSF makes tournament and playoff play in top pro league somewhat irrelevant.

  • Chris says:

    I believe that all US-based should participate in the Open Cup proper. If the 10 MLS teams outside of the top 6 are going to play in a qualifying tournament, why not just incorporate said qualification tournament into the Open Cup proper using the earlier rounds? The same number of games will be played, and they’ll be in the tournament proper.

  • Chris says:

    That is, all US-based MLS clubs should participate … (It kept cutting out some of my words.)

  • Jack2010 says:

    All I have to say is that all of the 16 US based should be in the tournament. It should be a 32 teams tournament. MLS teams will have 16 spots while the non MLS teams have 16 spots.

  • Jay Walk says:

    Each division should have a fair go at the Open Cup. It also doesn’t help that the NASL weren’t included this year so berths will need to be allotted to them in the next. Giving all MLS teams entry would be unfair and frankly the low-end of the league shouldn’t have a go at it.

  • Darrin says:

    Jay Walk, I disagree with your statement about the low-end of the league not having a go at it. By that logic, the low-end of any division should not have a go at it. So some usasa team that finished at the low end of their league but has the guts to play shouldn’t have a chance? I personally would love to see all eligible teams participate in the cup and maybe someday the cup will mean enough in this country that all teams will want to participate. Until then, at least let all of our top teams participate. Not having the NASL teams is crazy. Only allowing 8 MLS teams to be in the cup proper eliminates half of the fan base for MLS immediately from caring about the competition. Do you think Chivas USA fans care about this competition this year? I don’t. I’m glad DC won last night, I’m hoping to go to the next qualifying game but would love to know its an actual cup game instead.

  • charles r. west says:

    I have been following the beautiful game of WORLD FOOTBALL for over forty years. One of the most intriguing and wonder aspects of its grandest of tournaments “THE WORLD CUP” that the smallest of countries are afforded the means to claw, scratch, climb there way into the spotlight. Now ,if this is an OPEN tournament than there has to be a means for any and all would contestants to battle their way in. Open means open, i.e. all comers tournament. Do the movies, Tin Cup and the Hoosiers ring any bells.

  • Jayse says:

    The bottom line here is, the cup and it’s format to me are irrelevant. Did soccer fans and executives in this country not just witness Real Salt Lake come within inches of being the first MLS team (representing the USA) to go to the FIFA Club World Cup? Marketing tactics people. Why not use RSL’s run as an inspiration to this competition? Yes, they won the MLS Cup and not the US Open cup but hell, winning this gets you a spot in the champs league and in the champs league, RSL showed us what is possible and what could be possible. This competition is the perfect opportunity for soccer to gain a head of steam – based on RSL’s successes. For all those teams that won’t win the MLS cup or have a shot at going pro….c’mon how is this not an opportunity to really promote the possibility of the Champs league? Yes, Americans still can’t get over the Mexican hump but we can keep trying and one day we will get there.

  • Dylan says:

    Yes, it would be grand if the MLS teams would take the Open Cup seriously, as it does punch ones ticket to CONCACAF Champions League. But there in lies the rub. Most MLS don’t take CONCACAF Champions League seriously either. For them it’s MLS and nothing else. When you have your backup keeper between the pipes for the Open Cup matches and CL matches–you aren’t taking it seriously. I’ve only seen Houston games like this, but I’d gather it’s the same for other clubs. Anyone want to guess if Chech will not start in Champions League for Chelsea next cup season? He will. The only way he doesn’t if if he’s hurt, and then…maybe.

  • Vasquez-Fuego says:

    Whats rediculus is how our boys in Fresno (Fuego – PDL) didnt get the birth from the south west division, going 4-0-0, and having +10goal differential.

    With the amount of high level teams in our conference its a fact that even though Fresno didn’t qualify, they are arguably better 8 other teams that did qualify, and not only does the club history, or the 4-0-0 qualifying record aprove this statement, the 4,000-8,000 fans that show up every weekend to see our games also do.

    What to do? In the case of identical records in qualifying a playoff match should be played. end of discussion, best team goes through.

    Disgruntled fan who would have loved to see the boys play at Home Depot Center

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