The Houston Dynamo lift the trophy after winning the 2018 US Open Cup title. Photo: Houston Dynamo
While the country is enjoying the Gold Cup and international fans are still recovering from Italy and Argentina triumphs abroad, the smaller teams in the United States will soon have their own major competition to look forward to. US Soccer has quietly added applications for 2022 US Open Cup Open Division Local Qualifying to the tournament’s website (here). As of this writing, teams from the amateur divisions are able to sign up and pay for qualifying which is set to begin in September.
The deadline to apply is Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The price to apply is $1,200 and includes the non-refundable entry fee ($200) and refundable performance bond ($1,000), the latter which will be returned to teams at the conclusion of their run should they follow all competition rules.
Teams that enter will be grouped geographically, at least for the early portion of the competition, in a single elimination format. Qualifying will last for at least three rounds running between September and November. Should it be deemed necessary a fourth round of qualifying will be held in late December (a time of the year which isn’t unfamiliar in the long history of the National Challenge Cup). US Soccer has only implemented a fourth round one time (2019 qualifying).
This will be the sixth qualifying tournament since the USSF consolidated open division local qualifying into one single-elimination competition. The last tournament took place in 2019 and saw 12 teams from across the country qualify for the 2020 US Open Cup. None of that group ended up playing in the 107th edition of the competition when it was suspended and eventually cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All twelve were set to take part in the 2021 edition of the tournament but when that field was cut down only the National Amateur Cup champion Newtown Pride FC and USL League Two’s FC Golden State Force were randomly selected to represent the amateur field.
As of now, the 2021 tournament is still postponed with US Soccer exploring the possibility of holding some version of the competition later this year. This will be a rare situation where a US Open Cup begins a new competition before the previous year’s champion has been crowned.
Since 2015 when US Soccer took over the Open Division Local Qualifying competition, there have been 410 entrants. The farthest any local qualifier has gone in the tournament proper is the Fourth Round, achieved by Santa Ana, California side La Máquina FC (2016), Maryland’s Christos FC (2017), and Dallas-based NTX Rayados (2018).
Besides local qualifying, non-professional teams have two other routes to take to earn qualification. The first is to be a high finishing team in a national amateur league the previous season, of which there are two (the National Premier Soccer League and USL League Two). The other is to win the National Amateur Cup tournament, whose champion has earned a spot in the first round since the 2019 tournament.
The 2021 Amateur Cup is down to it’s national finals with champions of each region heading to Chicago next month, Aug. 7-8. Those teams are Lansdowne Yonkers FC (New York, Region I), Springfield FC (Illinois, Region II), Nashville United (Tennessee, Region III), and Cal FC (California, Region IV).
Key dates (taken from the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Open Division Handbook):
- Wednesday, Aug. 18 – U.S. Soccer announces teams approved for Open Division local qualifying competition, preliminary allocation of slots among Open Division qualifying pools. Window opens for teams participating through the Open Division local qualifying track to submit player roster data (25 player limit)
- Monday, Aug. 23 – Matchups for first qualifying round announced
- Wednesday, Sept. 1 (4 p.m. CT) – Fall roster submission deadline for teams participating through the Open Division local qualifying track (25 player limit, no additions allowed after the deadline)
- Thursday, Sept. 16 (4 p.m. CT) – Roster approval/clearance deadline for first qualifying round (players must be approved by their team’s league and cleared by U.S. Soccer to play)
- Saturday, Sept. 18 through Sunday, Sept. 19 – First qualifying round
- Monday, Sept. 20 – Matchups for second qualifying round announced
- Thursday, Oct. 14 (4 p.m. CT) – Roster approval/clearance deadline for remaining qualifying rounds
- Saturday, Oct. 16, through Sunday, Oct. 17 – Second qualifying round
- Monday, Oct. 18 – Matchups for third qualifying round announced
- Saturday, Nov. 20, through Sunday, Nov. 21 – Third qualifying round
- Monday, Nov. 22 – Matchups for fourth qualifying round (if needed) announced
- Saturday, Dec. 18, through Sunday Dec. 19 – Fourth qualifying round (if needed)