U.S. Open Cup eliminates first-round games, will begin with 16 teams

The U.S. Soccer Federation announced that due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup field has been reduced to 16 teams, resulting in the cancellation of the previously planned opening round.

The decision was made by the USSF's Open Cup Committee at a meeting last week. The opening round was scheduled to take place from May 4-5. The round of 16 -- the de facto first round -- is now set to take place on May 18-19.

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This is the 107th edition of the tournament. Last year it was canceled due to the pandemic. The Open Cup Committee will meet again on April 19 to confirm if the tournament can go ahead. The final is scheduled to take place on June 29th or 30th.

"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 16 teams will be comprised of eight from MLS, four from the USL Championship, one from USL League One, one from the National Independent Soccer Association and two from the Open Division.The top eight U.S.-based MLS teams enter the competition based on the league standings as of May 3. The four USL Championship sides will be comprised of last year's semifinalists: El Paso Locomotive FC, Louisville SC, Phoenix Rising FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies. NISA's entrant will be 2020 fall champions Detroit City FC, while the League One entrant will be last year's regular season champion, Greenville Triumph SC. The two Open Division slots are still to be determined.