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U.S. Open Cup to return in 2021 with shortened field


The U.S. Open Cup will be back in 2021 after a one-year hiatus with a shortened format due an already busy schedule.

U.S. Soccer announced on Tuesday the return of the annual cup competition, which will involve 24 teams who will play five rounds from May 4’s opening round to the projected final of either June 29-30. The Open Cup normally welcomes 101 eligible teams, but has been reduced for the 2021 edition.

“As we looked at our scheduling options, the Open Cup Committee first prioritized the health and safety of the players and decided against scheduling matches in both March and April due to the ongoing circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Open Cup Commissioner Paul Marstaller said in a release. “We also took into consideration the extended June FIFA window and the Concacaf Gold Cup taking place through August 1, along with the semifinal and final rounds of the 2021 Concacaf Champions League being scheduled in the fall.”

“In the end, we all felt a shortened version for this year was the best format, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to crown a champion after not being able to in 2020.”

The Opening Round will see eight USL Championship clubs, Four Open Division teams, Two USL League One teams, and Two NISA teams take part, with the winners advancing to the Round of 16. Those eight winners will be joined by eight MLS clubs, who have not yet been determined.

If the Opening Round can’t be played due to COVID-19 and the Open Cup begins with the Round of 16 instead, two Open Division teams, two USL League One/NISA teams (one each) and four USL Championship teams would be allocated. Those teams would join the eight MLS sides in the Round of 16.

Atlanta United is the defending U.S. Open Cup Champion after defeating Minnesota United in the 2019 final.

Here’s a full projected schedule of the tournament:

  • March 29 – Date for confirming Opening Round
  • March 31 – Opening Round matchups announced
  • April 19 – Date for confirming Round of 16
  • April 21 or 28 – Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw (held earlier if Opening Round is not played)
  • May 4-5 – Opening Round (16 teams total)
  • May 18-19 – Round of 16 (8 MLS teams vs. 8 winners from Opening Round)
  • May 25-26 – Quarterfinals
  • June 15-16 – Semifinals
  • June 29 or 30 – Final

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