When TheCup.us calculated which National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) teams would qualify for the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, Chattanooga FC was ranked 12th. With 14 teams expected to get in, the club seemed on their way to participating in the tournament for the seventh time in the last nine seasons.
However, when the US Soccer Federation announced the format for the 2019 US Open Cup on Thursday, Chattanooga FC was nowhere to be found on the list of 14 NPSL clubs.
TheCup.us has learned that Chattanooga FC decided to decline their invitation to the tournament.
In a statement provided to TheCup.us, the club points out that it just has too much on its plate to take on the Open Cup this year.
“Chattanooga Football Club is experiencing significant growth and progress as we enter the second decade,” the statement from the Chattanooga FC read. “In preparing for our professional debut in the Founders Cup, we are focused on building our team and our supporter ownership offering. We have already scheduled 26 games for 2019, not including potential playoffs, which is our biggest schedule in our history. With the responsibilities for a successful 2019 season, our efforts are concentrated on our team, our community, and our fans. The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is a great tradition and we look forward to participating in future years.”
Chattanooga FC has enjoyed some success in the US Open Cup. They are known as the only NPSL club in history to eliminate multiple professional teams. In 2014, they defeated the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL Pro, Div. 3) 3-1 in regulation, and then, in a rematch the following year, they eliminated the Hammerheads in penalty kicks.
The winner in the situation is the Midland-Odessa Sockers FC. As it stood, the Sockers were in 15th place out of 14 teams, but with Chattanooga FC dropping out, Midland-Odessa jumped from 15th to 12th. Now that they’re in, the Sockers will take part in the competition for the second year in a row, and the third time in club history.
This is not the first team to qualify and then decline to enter. In 2013, a pair of NPSL clubs, the Erie Commodores and the now-defunct AFC Cleveland, both qualified but declined to enter. Erie cited travel and financial difficulties and Cleveland had issues with player availability. In the early days of the Modern Era, a small handful of MLS teams declined to enter. The Los Angeles Galaxy did not enter from 1996-1998, D.C. United declined to participate in 1998, and the New England Revolution did not enter in 1996, 1998 and 1999. Professional teams are now required to participate under current rules.