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2021 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup format to feature 24-team bracket

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No word yet on which MLS teams will actually participate in this year’s field.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup Final-New York Red Bulls at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

US Soccer has revealed that the 2021 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament field will be condensed and shortened due to the global pandemic that is still going on.

This year’s Open Cup will involve 24 teams that play five rounds from May 4-5 through the final June 29-30. The tournament normally has upwards of 104 teams and eight rounds, though that’s deemed not feasible for this year’s edition.

The Opening Round of the Open Cup could still be canceled, with U.S. Soccer setting a date of March 29 to determine if conditions allow it to take place. If those conditions are not met, the Committee will next review have a review on April 19 to determine whether the Open Cup may begin with the Round of 16 on May 18-19.

Who makes this year’s tournament

Opening Round

  • Eight USL Championship teams
  • Four Open Division teams
  • Two USL League One teams
  • Two NISA teams

Round of 16

  • Eight Opening Round winners
  • Eight MLS teams (not yet determined)

The 24 qualifiers still need to be selected and will be announced in the coming weeks, per U.S. Soccer. Normally all American MLS teams would enter, though this year we will only see a third of the 24 teams in the tournament.

If the Opening Round can’t be played 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. They’d join the eight MLS sides.

Full schedule

The winner gains an automatic spot in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League.

  • 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

So could FC Dallas miss out on this year’s tournament? It is possible since we don’t know the parameters of how the eight MLS teams will qualify.

According to Sports Illustrated, all options are on the table. We could see options for selecting teams includes looking at 2020 end-of-the-year standings, a blind draw or a combination of the two.

Should the end-of-year standings be used, FC Dallas could be on the outside looking in. But if the final results based on the playoff results, FC Dallas could get in thanks to them reaching the conference semifinals.

What do you all make of a condensed bracket for 2021? Disappointed that only eight MLS sides will participate? Let us know below.