If you had to guess which country holds the third longest running open soccer tournament, most soccer fans probably wouldn’t guess the United States. However, the United States does in fact hold the third longest running open soccer tournament - it’s called the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The tournament has run every year since 1913.
This tournament is held during the MLS season and includes clubs from multiple levels of the game in the United States. The pool of clubs that compete in the tournament includes clubs from Major League Soccer, United Soccer League, and the North American Soccer League. Lower league clubs that are affiliated with upper league clubs cannot compete.
The tournament also includes clubs from the USL Premier Development League, National Premier Soccer League, the United States Adult Soccer Association, and US Club Soccer. The initial three rounds of the tournament hold matches between clubs from the aforementioned amateur leagues. The winning clubs will advance to face USL and NASL clubs in geographical pairings in the competition's third round.
MLS Enters The Picture
MLS clubs join the fray in the fourth round of competition. Once again, matches are determined by geographical location. After the fourth round no new teams are introduced in the tournament bracket and the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final follow. The U.S. Open Cup final is played in September. All matches are single elimination throughout the tournament and are played to extra time if clubs are tied at the end of regulation. Penalty kicks determine the winner if clubs are still tied after a period of extra time.
Two clubs have hoisted the U.S. Open Cup a tournament record five times. Bethlehem Steel FC and Maccabi Los Angeles stand above all other clubs in that category. Both teams, however, are now defunct.
Since Major League Soccer’s introduction to the U.S soccer landscape in 1996, the league’s clubs have dominated the tournament. The last non-MLS team to win the U.S. Open Cup was the Rochester Rhinos in 1999. The Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire both hold the record for most U.S. Open Cup titles by an MLS team.