For the first time in three years, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is back, and Orlando City is set to be part of this year’s tournament in just a couple of weeks. With the Lions’ opponent to be selected this Friday, April 8 and the game happening between April 19-21, we wanted to get you up to speed on American soccer’s most historic tournament.
It’s been going on a long time - The U.S. Open Cup began in 1913, making it the oldest ongoing soccer competition in the United States. It was played 106 years in a row up until 2020, when it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After not being played in 2021, the tournament is back for 2022. It is named after Lamar Hunt, the late owner of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and multiple MLS clubs, who was one of the backers behind the original NASL and helped found MLS in 1996.
It is open to anyone - Have an organized soccer team? You can play in the U.S. Open Cup! The competition is open to any team in the United States that plays in a U.S. Soccer member league, plays at least 10 matches in a league with at least four teams, and isn’t a reserve or affiliate team of a current MLS club. Often, teams from the fourth tier or even lower go far enough in the tournament to face MLS teams.
The MLS teams come in closer to the end - After many qualifying matches between lower league teams, most MLS sides enter the tournament in the third round, when 64 teams remain in the field. This is where Orlando City will enter this year. Eight MLS teams, the four CONCACAF Champions League sides and the two next-best 2021 finishers in each conference, get a bye to the Round of 32.
Orlando City has done well in it before - The last time the tournament was played, Orlando City went all the way to the semifinals, falling to eventual champions Atlanta United. The Lions’ run included the legendary “Running of the Wall” game, when the supporters’ section scrambled to the south end of Exploria Stadium to back goalkeeper Adam Grinwis in what would be a winning penalty-kick shootout in the quarterfinals against NYCFC.
Oscar Pareja has done really well in it before - The Lions’ Head Coach is a former U.S. Open Cup champion, having won the tournament in 2016 with FC Dallas. Pareja also took Dallas to the semifinals in 2014 and the quarterfinals in 2017. This will be Pareja’s first time in charge of Orlando City for the U.S. Open Cup.
Orlando’s opponent will be determined by a random draw - This Friday, Orlando will find out who it plays in its opening match. The Lions’ opponent will be randomly drawn from a pot, but it will definitely be a lower-division team and it will likely be a club geographically near Orlando, as the U.S. Open Cup separates teams into groups of either four or six based on location. The nearest lower-league teams that have qualified for the third round are the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Miami FC, and the North Carolina Fusion U23s, formerly known as the Carolina Dynamo.
The reward for winning is substantial - There is tremendous incentive to win the U.S. Open Cup. The victors automatically qualify for the 2023 CONCACAF Champions League, the most prestigious soccer tournament in North America and one in which Orlando City has yet to play. The winning club also gets a $300,000 prize and the U.S. Open Cup trophy.
You could see it live - We won’t know until the draw if Orlando City is hosting in any given round, but any U.S. Open Cup game in Orlando will be open to the public. Who knows, you might even get to run with the Wall again!