UPDATE (3/7/19 – 4:02 p.m.): The change involving caps on the length of suspensions is not a new addition to the handbook. Red card suspensions are kept on the books for 10 years, while suspensions imposed by the Adjudication and Discipline Panel are in place for 20 years. Upon further review, this policy change was added in 2015.
Without fanfare, the handbook for the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup has received some updates.
The handbook lists all the rules and policies of the competition, as well as a full list of players who are suspended from playing due to red cards or a discipline panel decision. Since the 2018 Open Cup concluded with the Houston Dynamo lifting the trophy for the first time, there have been some significant changes, many of them related to increasing standards to set the stage for the United States Soccer Federation’s plans to broadcast every match when its 106th edition begins in May.
In preparation for the upcoming broadcast deal, home teams are now required to have space for a TV truck at all matches, sufficient lighting and additional staff in place. Here is how the handbook reads:
In the most exciting addition in the tournament’s modern era, U.S. Soccer is arranging for all matches in the tournament to be broadcast (an announcement will be made soon). As a result, home teams will be required moving forward to have additional staff in place, including a broadcast operations manager, a “red hat” and an electrician on-site (page 34). Further, the local commercial rights available to home teams are being modified to include the first three rounds (page 32).
Stadium requirements now include:
Sufficient floodlights for TV broadcasts
Suitable area to park TV production truck
Team eligibility also was clarified so that only teams in good standing in leagues and organizations that are in good standing can participate in the tournament. Leagues also must have regular schedules.
To enter the Open Cup, a team must be an outdoor soccer team based in the United States and a regular playing member in good standing competing in an ongoing league competition of an Organization Member of the Federation, with said league competition and Organization Member also in good standing with the Federation. Such league competition must be regularly scheduled (i.e. not infrequent) each year and formatted such that member teams play games against fellow members, with only these results (i.e. league matches) used to determine a set of standings or ranking table. The league competition must consist of at least four (4) teams, with each playing at least ten (10) league matches (excluding any pre-season and/or post-season playoff or cup matches) each calendar year.
There is also additional clarification on the definition of a new team in a new or existing league.
For the purpose of this Policy, any team having not played in its league’s regular competition for the full season ending immediately prior to the entry deadline for its respective competition division (e.g. Open Division, Outdoor Professional League) shall be considered a team starting its first season, whether in an existing or new league.
With these two rules changes, the loophole that the three NASL teams fielding teams in the NPSL (New York Cosmos, Miami FC, and Jacksonville Armada FC) used to enter last year’s tournament, is now closed.
Following suit of other cup competitions, a fourth substitution is now allowed in extra time.
A team may use not more than 3 substitutes from its match day roster unless a match proceeds into extra time, in which case an additional substitution shall be granted.
Team benches now may have as many as nine coaches or team officials in its Technical Area, up from seven in 2018.
Each team shall have no more than seven (7) players and nine (9) coaches or team officials in its Technical Area. The name of each coach and team official shall be included on the roster sheet provided to the referee before the match.
Other Open Division handbook highlights
- Criteria was developed for Open Division National League status (USL League Two and NPSL have National League status)
- The method for allocating Open Division slots into the First Round proper among the various qualifying pools (i.e.: local qualifiers, any national leagues) has changed to a prorated system based on the number of teams entered. This is why NPSL received 14 slots and USL League Two received 10 slots, as NPSL had 98 teams and USL League Two had 69.
- All teams (professional and open division) must now post a $1,000 performance bond in addition to their entry fee.
- Player eligibility was clarified for foreign work visa players on professional teams, stating that “any conflicting Outdoor Professional League roster rules shall not apply to the number of foreign players allowed to compete in the Open Cup.” This could be considered the “LAFC rule” after last year’s controversy where they fielded an ineligible player and nearly had to forfeit their Quarterfinal win over the Portland Timbers.