U.S. Soccer announced details of the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and the San Jose Earthquakes will have a difficult start to the tournament.
In addition to increasing the winner's purse and abolishing the sealed-bid system of determining which teams host the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament, U.S. Soccer laid out the dates for early round matches. The overall field of 68 teams starts things off with a series of rounds featuring lower division teams from the NPSL, US Club Soccer, USSSA, USL-PRO, and NASL, while Major League Soccer enters the tournament in the round of 32.
Each U.S. based MLS team will be paired up with one of the surviving lower division teams in the third round of the knock-out competition. Matches are to be played on May 28, but the host teams will be determined by random draw earlier in the month.
The San Jose Earthquakes, who lost to the Seattle Sounders in the quarterfinal round a year ago, would start their quest for the Open Cup on a Tuesday sandwiched between two weekend regular season road matches. The Earthquakes travel to FC Dallas on Saturday, May 25 and to Real Salt Lake on Saturday, June 1.
If San Jose is not chosen as a host city for round three, the Earthquakes could see their efforts in the tournament complicated by a very difficult travel situation. Best case scenario has the team hosting the match as part of a return week of training in the Bay Area.
The one game final of the tournament is scheduled for early October and the winning team will receive $250,000. Last year the figure was only $100,000, and the added incentive is expected to boost interest in the tournament from both the participating teams and their supporters. The Open Cup runners-up will receive $60,000.
Sporting Kansas City captured the trophy last year, and with it, a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. The Earthquakes will also be playing in the CCL this summer, with group play matches likely to start in late July. The winner of the 100th U.S. Open Cup will be granted automatic entry into next year's CCL tournament.