It is once again one of my favorite times of year: the US Open Cup starts its 104th edition tonight with a single game, but jumping into full gear tomorrow. A record 99 teams will compete for the Sir Thomas Dewar Cup and, while MLS has dominated the tournament in recent years, it is an exciting competition that allows the lower leagues to size themselves up against competition across the US soccer pyramid.
A brief history
The US Open Cup began in the 1913-1914 season as the National Challenge Cup; Brooklyn Field Club beat Brooklyn Celtic in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to claim the first trophy. The first trophy was donated by Sir Thomas Dewar, the creator of Dewar’s Scotch, to help promote soccer in the United States.
Through the majority of its existence, the tournament was contested by short-lived professional, semi-professional, and amateur teams from across the country; the old NASL did not participate.
The famed Bethlehem Steel and Maccabi Los Angeles hold the record for the most US Open Cup championships, with five apiece. In the modern era of the US Open Cup (1995-present), only two non-MLS teams have won the tournament: the Richmond Kickers in 1995 and the Rochester Rhinos in 1999.
Any soccer team in the country has the ability to qualify for the US Open Cup, except for professional teams that are owned by higher-level teams. That is why, for example, the Seattle Sounders U-23s of the PDL can participate, since they aren’t a professional team, while Seattle Sounders 2 of the USL cannot.
In the first round, which begins tonight, the qualifiers from various local amateur leagues take on teams from the two national amateur leagues, the PDL and the NPSL, in 28 matches. The winners of those matches will be drawn into games with the teams of the NASL and USL. There isn’t an official bracket until after the fourth round draw, when MLS teams enter the fray; each previous round is re-drawn to help limit travel and make sure that the hosting team has a proper venue.
When does D.C. United play?
D.C. United will enter in the fourth round of the tournament, which will happen in mid-June. They also have the current highest soccer in modern US Open Cup history on their team in Sebastien Le Toux, so look for him to get plenty of minutes. Especially for the first few games, expect Ben Olsen to run out as much of his reserves as possible; in previous years, he has played people out of position to make sure that he didn’t have to start any of his regular league players.
But D.C. United are not the only local team participating. Christos FC of Baltimore will take on Fredericksburg FC of the NPSL on the campus of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. The winner of that game will get to play the Richmond Kickers in the second round.
How can I watch?
Most of the games are streamed, but it is all dependent on the technological capabilities of the hosts. The first round is where there will be the most variation, as the second round introduces the USL and NASL teams who already have broadcast services set up. Video for the Christos FC-Fredericksburg FC match is still to be determined, but if you’re in the area you should go check it out!
How excited are you for the US Open Cup?