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U.S. Open Cup to begin with Round of 16 due to COVID-19

The U.S. Open Cup will be back in 2021, but has seen a major change in the tournament’s schedule.

U.S. Soccer announced on Monday the return of the annual cup competition, which will now begin with the Round of 16. The Open Cup normally welcomes 101 eligible teams, but has been reduced for the 2021 edition due to COVID-19’s continued impact around the country.

“After meeting with the Committee and listening to our members and our medical professionals, it became clear that the difficulties of staging the Opening Round given the current environment made the decision to not play the correct one, as we will always prioritize the health and safety of the players and staff first,” said U.S. Open Cup Commissioner Paul Marstaller.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and hope for more positive news in three weeks as it relates to the Round of 16. Crowning a champion in the most history-filled soccer competition in the USA, something we missed doing in 2020 for the first time in 107 years, is an annual highlight in the U.S. Soccer calendar that we always look forward to.”

The Open Cup Committee has approved methods to decide the 16 representatives for the upcoming tournament, which will feature teams from the top four divisions of the U.S. Soccer Pyramid.

The top eight USA-based Major League Soccer clubs from the 2021 regular season play based on average standings points per game as of May 3 will be included (after three weekends of action). In addition, the USL Championship 2020 semifinal playoff teams of El Paso Locomotive FC, Louisville City FC, Phoenix Rising FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies will also be included.

The 2020 National Independent Soccer Association Fall Champion Detroit City FC and the USL League One 2020 Regular Season Champion Greenville Triumph SC have also been guaranteed places. A random draw to be conducted on April 7 to include the following as the final two spots:

  • One Open Division Local Qualifier drawn randomly from among 12 eligible
  • One National Premier Soccer League team drawn randomly from among 13 eligible
  • One USL League Two team drawn randomly from among 10 eligible
  • 2019 U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Amateur Cup champion Newtown Pride FC (Conn.)

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

Here’s a full updated schedule of the tournament:

  • 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

* If conditions for holding Round of 16 cannot be met on April 19, 2021 tournament will be canceled.


  1. i assume the deal is outside the truly professional teams you wouldn’t have the same bubble protocols and testing, or money to spend every week on same. not sure why they didn’t make it a USL + MLS tournament. maybe they want to narrow down the participant list and just get it completed.


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