On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer unveiled Columbus Crew SC's path through the 105th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup — the Federation's single-elimination tournament open to all affiliated professional and amateur teams.
Crew SC raised the 2002 trophy — named after the Black & Gold's first Investor - Operator — after downing the LA Galaxy, 1-0.
Although Crew SC and other Major League Soccer clubs don't enter the field until the Fourth Round, the tournament officially kicks off on May 9 featuring a total of 94 teams from all levels of American soccer. The bracket-based tournament runs through the Final, tentatively scheduled for September 26, 2018.
Fifty-two non-professional sides (from the Premier Development League, National Premier Soccer League, and local qualifiers) will face off in the First Round before second-division United Soccer League-sides enter in the Second Round. The Third Round survivors will be drawn to face the U.S.-based MLS sides.
This year's U.S. Open Cup champion will win $300,000 — a $50,000 from last year — and an automatic qualification into the 2019 Concacaf Champions League.
In regular-season MLS action, Columbus travels to face the Philadelphia Union in another Eastern Conference showdown on March 17 at 2 p.m. ET before returning to MAPFRE Stadium on March 24 clash against D.C. United at 6 p.m. ET.
TOURNAMENT FORMAT, SCHEDULE AND OTHER KEY DATES:
Initial Pairings Announcement - April 4
First Round games as well as Second Round possibilities announced.
First Round - May 9
Number of Games: 26
Participants: 52 Open Division teams
Competition: Teams will be paired geographically with the restriction that teams from the same qualifying pool (e.g. local qualifiers, PDL, NPSL) cannot be paired to play each other. The restriction many be disregarded if doing so avoids extensive travel on balance for the participating teams.
Second Round - May 16
Number of Games: 24
Participants: 26 First Round winners and 22 Division II (USL) clubs
Competition: At the time the First Round pairings are made, each Division II team will be matched geographically to a specific First Round pairing and be scheduled to play its winner. The remaining First Round matchups not paired with a Division II side will be paired geographically, with the winners playing each other to complete the round.
Third Round - May 23
Number of Games: 12
Participants: 24 Second Round winner play each other.
Competition: After each Second Round matchup has been determined, the Second Round pairs will be bracketed geographically to create the Third Round matchups.
Fourth Round Draw - May 24
The Third Round winners and 20 MLS clubs will be divided geographically into groups of four, with teams who are precluded from playing each other until the Final per tournament regulations (i.e. pro teams and their affiliated Open Division sides) placed in different groups. Each group will have at least one and no more than two Third Round winners, with pairs drawn randomly but done so that each Third Round winner faces an MLS team.
Fourth Round - June 6 (tentative)
Number of Games: 16
Participants: 12 Third Round winners and 20 MLS clubs.
Competition: Twelve games will be between Third Round winners and MLS teams, while the remaining four matchups will be MLS vs. MLS affairs.
Round of 16 Draw - June 7
The Fourth Round winners will be divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four, with teams who are precluded from playing each other until the Final per tournament regulations (i.e. pro teams and their affiliated Open Division sides) placed in different groups. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, resulting in a fixed bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Should a precluded pair of teams reach the Semifinal Round and be scheduled to face each other, the matches will be re-drawn after the quarterfinals to avoid this outcome.
Round of 16 - June 20* (tentative)
Number of Games: 8
Competition: Fourth Round winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16 Draw.
Quarterfinals - July 18*
Semifinals - August 8* (tentative)
Final - September 26 (tentative)
Professional Teams Eligible to Participate (42 total):
Division I - Major League Soccer (20 teams, entering in the Fourth Round): Atlanta United FC, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles FC, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United FC, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City (defending Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champions).
Division II - United Soccer League (22 teams, entering in the Second Round): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, FC Cincinnati, Fresno FC, Indy Eleven, Las Vegas Lights FC, Louisville City FC, Nashville SC, North Carolina FC, OKC Energy FC, Orange County SC, Penn FC (formerly Harrisburg City Islanders), Phoenix Rising FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Reno 1868 FC, Richmond Kickers, Sacramento Republic FC, Saint Louis FC, San Antonio FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Open Division Teams (52 total, all entering in the First Round):