The United States Open Cup is the oldest cup competition in American soccer. It’s how most of the country’s best amateur teams get into the National Soccer League, which is a big deal for those teams since the majority of them don’t receive any financial support. Clubs that fail to qualify for their respective league’s playoffs are given an opportunity to play in the US Open Cup instead. For these underfunded clubs, qualifying for it is basically a license to earn money and increase their popularity. That makes it all the more important that they make it. This year will mark its 113rd edition of the tournament, or rather its 99th as it was suspended during World War II from 1940 to 1945 and then again from 1941 to 1946 due to World Cup participation. The first edition was played in 1913 with five clubs competing; it was expanded to include 64 clubs by 1966 and has remained at that number ever since.
The competition starts with regional qualification events before culminating in a single-elimination knockout format. Its current format started in 2011 when MLS teams were barred from participating yet again due to scheduling conflicts with Major League Soccer’s schedule. In its previous version, only amateur clubs without any affiliation with professional leagues were eligible to participate, but that exclusion was lifted starting in 2015 as MLS teams returned as well as other professional teams like NASL side Fort Lauderdale Strikers who joined USL franchise Miami FC along with their reserve team North American Soccer League (NAS
The United States Open Cup is an institution that, despite being 103 years old, still has all the hype and intrigue of its younger years.
It’s an exciting competition for all involved: the fans are entertained by a mix of professional and amateur club teams, and the clubs themselves have a chance to make money for their underfunded organizations. The tournament also gives players opportunities to earn their next contract or even just get their foot in the door of the pro leagues. With so much on the line and so many players fighting for their careers, it makes sense why it would be important to watch this year’s edition.