The longest running soccer competition in the U.S. and the third longest in the world released the format that it will run under this year. There aren't many changes to the format except that starting in the Round of 16 a "geographically-based random draw" will be used along with a fixed bracket to the Final. This years Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will feature a record 91 teams that will battle and whittle down to 2 that will play for the championship on either September 29th or 30th.
The competition starts out with amateur clubs from USASA regional qualifiers, PDL, NPSL, etc in the First Round, USL Pro teams join in the Second Round and play the First Round winners, NASL teams will play those winners in the Third Round, and finally MLS will enter in the Fourth round. Historically, the pairings have been based on geographical proximity to minimize travel for teams, but that hasn't always been the case. NASL side Carolina Railhawks have, for the past 3 years, played the LA Galaxy from MLS. Even though they are 2,500 miles apart, they always seem to be paired-up against each other; the Railhawks have also gone 3-0 in those contests against the 5-time MLS Cup winners. I think the Galaxy took notice...
The San Antonio Scorpions have played NTX Rayados, Laredo Heat, FC Tucson, Charlotte Eagles, FC Dallas, & Houston Dynamo since their first entrance into the competition. It's pretty safe to say that the earlier rounds will also produce match-ups between geographically close clubs. The Scorpions most likely opponents in the Third Round are familiar foes (NTX Rayados, Laredo Heat) in addition to USL Pro side, Austin Aztex. Should they advance, a match against FC Dallas or Houston Dynamo would be the most likely scenario. The furthest that the Scorpions have advanced in the tournament is the Fourth Round but will be looking to make a deep run in the tournament this year.
While the Cup gives lower division teams the opportunity to beat MLS teams, MLS teams have dominated the Cup since the league's beginning in 1996; however, the Rochester Rhinos won it all in 1999 & the last non-MLS team to make the Final was the Charleston Battery in 2008 when they lost 1-2 to D.C. United. The Cup happens during the MLS/NASL/USLPro regular seasons so some teams don't always put their best side forward. From blogs and posts that I've seen, it seems that there is a push from supporters to have their clubs take the competition more seriously than they historically have. I am in full support of teams trying their best to win the Cup. There isn't another tournament that gives clubs from all levels the chance to prove themselves against the "Big Boys" in the U.S.
It is rumored that Fox Sports will broadcast the Final live for the 2015 edition of the Cup. This is a great first step to getting more exposure to the tournament and garner more fan interest of soccer in the U.S. It is a great way to grow the game & I encourage you to watch as many of these games as you possibly can. You never know what is going to happen. It's a great opportunity to witness a Cinderella story!
If you want to find out more about the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, visit:
Soccer On -ASC
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