The United States Soccer Federation announced Tuesday afternoon the official format of the 2013 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the 100th edition of the national championship tournament. Picking up where the organizers left off a year ago, the tournament will see further modifications this year with more teams, additional changes in how hosts are determined and in the prize money available.
Prize Pool Nearly Doubled
Perhaps fitting with the tournament hitting the centennial mark, the champion will not receive the long-establish $100,000 prize of years past, but instead a vastly increased sum of $250,000. In fact, all of the various prize amounts were increased across the board with the runner-up increasing from $50,000 to $60,000 and the three lower divisional tiers (Division II, Division III, Amateur) going from $10,000 to $15,000 for the best finish. Overall, the sum for the entire prize pool jumps from $180,000 to $355,000, nearly doubling in size.
The increase in prize money comes after two years in which the tournament finished in the black according to the federation’s posted financial statements that only include the tournament’s total revenues and expenses. Revenues are believed to include items such as entry fees, hosting fees and gate commissions while expenses are largely travel reimbursements and prize money. According to the past eight years of figures that are available, the expenses of the event have remained relatively consistent between $370,000 and $440,000 while revenues have more than tripled, growing from around $180,000 to nearly $630,000.
More Teams, More Organizations in the Field
Last year marked the introduction of US Club Soccer into the field of teams participating in the US Open Cup. This year the little-known United States Specialty Sports Association, heretofore referred to as Specialty Sports at TheCup.us to avoid acronym confusion with longtime participant USASA, will be included. Specialty Sports will have one team participate in the event just as US Club Soccer did last year, and both will enter the tournament via the Preliminary Round with games against sides from the National Premier Soccer League, which saw its entry allotment increased from seven to eight.
The US Specialty Sports Association was formed in 1997 to oversee softball, baseball, basketball and golf leagues. It added soccer to the organization in 2001 and became a member of US Soccer. The Specialty Sports soccer division appears to consist of seven regional ‘state’ associations in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kansas/Missouri, Nevada and Tennessee.
Last year, US Club Soccer conducted a qualifying tournament in Fresno, California with Stanislaus United Turlock Express earning the berth into the Preliminary Round where they defeated the NPSL’s Bay Area Ambassadors, 3-0, to reach the First Round.
The increase in teams will result in two Preliminary Round contests in 2013 with the US Club Soccer entry and the Specialty Sports qualifier each playing a member of the NPSL. The qualifying details for the three organizations is not known at this time. It is also worth noting that according to US Soccer spokespeople that the Preliminary Round this year is part of the ‘tournament proper’ and players will be cup-tied. It was not a year ago.
Random Determination Now for All Hosts
The US Soccer release announced that the controversial sealed-bid process long-used by the federation to determine hosts has now been completely eradicated after being utilized only for the semifinals and final a year ago. The hosts during the final four will be determined by coin flip.
The release also states that “home teams throughout the entire tournament will be determined by random selection,” but does not state if there are pre-requisite hosting criteria that must first be met such as hosting fees or gate shares as was used a year ago. UPDATE: US Soccer spokespeople clarified after the initial announcement that teams are also no longer permitted to purchase hosting rights from the winner of the coin flip.
Schedule Remains Compact
There will be no rest yet again for the Cinderella hopefuls from the amateur ranks with four consecutive weeks of games beginning with the Preliminary Round set for May 7. The First Round featuring all of the amateur flight clubs along with four USL Pro teams (bottom-finishing sides Dayton and Pittsburgh plus newcomers Phoenix and Tampa Bay), will be May 14 with the 18 winners advancing to the Second Round where the remaining lower division pro clubs from USL Pro and the NASL enter. The May marathon concludes with the Third Round entry of the 16 MLS teams. From that point there will be at least two weeks between each round with the tournament conclusion at the opening of October.
2013 US Open Cup Participating Teams
Major League Soccer (Division I – 16 teams): Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City.
North American Soccer League (Division II – 6 teams): Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Minnesota Stars FC, San Antonio Scorpions, Tampa Bay Rowdies.
USL Pro (Division III – 12 teams): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Eagles, Dayton Dutch Lions, Harrisburg City Islanders, Los Angeles Blues, Orlando City, Phoenix FC Wolves, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Rhinos, VSI Tampa Bay FC, Wilmington Hammerheads.
USL Premier Development League – 16 places: The top two American-based teams from each division’s 2012 league standings. The teams will be: Austin Aztex, Carolina Dynamo, Des Moines Menace, FC Tucson, GPS Portland Phoenix, Laredo Heat, Michigan Bucks, Ocala Stampede, Ocean City Nor’easters, Orlando City U23s, Portland Timbers U23s, Reading United, Real Colorado Foxes, River City Rovers, Seattle Sounders U23s, Ventura County Fusion | PDL entry details [+]
National Premier Soccer League – 8 places: To be determined.
U.S. Adult Soccer Association – 8 places: The field consists of the top two teams from each of the four USASA Open Cup regional tournaments.
US Club Soccer – 1 place: To be determined.
U.S. Specialty Sports Association – 1 place: To be determined.
2013 US Open Cup Match Schedule
Preliminary Round – Date: May 7 – Number of Games: 2 – Teams: 2 NPSL vs 1 Specialty Sports & 1 US Club Soccer
First Round – Date: May 14 – Number of Games: 18 – Teams: Preliminary Round winners plus USASA, NPSL, PDL entries and 4 USL Pro teams (Dayton Dutch Lions, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Phoenix FC Wolves and VSI Tampa Bay FC).
Second Round – Date: May 21 – Number of Games: 16 – Teams: First Round winners join remaining 8 USL Pro and 6 NASL teams.
Third Round – Date: May 28 – Number of Games: 16 – Teams: 16 Second Round winners are paired against 16 MLS sides.
Fourth Round – Date: June 12
Quarterfinals – Date: June 26
Semifinals – Date: Aug. 7 or 21
Final – Date: Oct. 1 or 2
US Open Cup Financial Details