Friday, April 25, 2014

2014 US Open Cup Schedule

The 101st US Open Cup Schedule was released last week and boy are there lots of teams this year. Since the tournament changes from year to year it's tough to keep track of the format, so below I'll do my best to simplify it.

 ROUND 1 (May 7): 
WHO: 16 Amateur clubs (8 games)
WHAT'S GOING ON: These are teams from five different amateur leagues that worked on 2014 USOC qualifying last year (most of them).
WHO TO WATCH: All of them! Well, if you can.

 ROUND 2 (May 14): 
WHO: 8 First Round winners + 26 remaining amateur clubs + 14 USL Pro clubs (24 games)
WHAT'S GOING ON: More teams in the five amateur leagues that qualified last year plus the addition off all 14 USL Pro teams based in the United States. USL Pro is considered to be the third tier in North American soccer, so they are the first pro league to jump into the fray.
WHO TO WATCH: FC Schwaben AC v Dayton Dutch Lions. Game will be In Buffalo Grove, Illinois. Schwaben have an incredible US Open Cup history, read more about them.

 ROUND 3 (May 28): 
WHO: 24 Second Round winners + 8 NASL clubs (16 games)
WHAT'S GOING ON: The scrum of the first two rounds clears a bit and adds the eight NASL clubs in the US. Important to note that USOC organizers are trying to keep games regional when they can. Home and Away determined by blind draw.
WHO TO WATCH: Indy Eleven enter this round. Plenty of potential opponents based on draw... Rochester Rhinos, Reading United, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Harrisburg City Islanders to name a few.

 ROUND 4 (June 10-18): 
WHO: 16 Third Round winners + 16 MLS clubs (16 games)
WHAT'S GOING ON: Well, it's on here in this round. Every team taking part in the first three rounds wants a shot at an MLS team in this great tournament. MLS teams have never really dominated against lesser talent over the years. Some of the best games are in this round. Not only because you have the MLS guys but also because the team from each division that advances furthest gets $15k.
WHO TO WATCH: This is where the Columbus Crew jump in. I would expect Dayton or Indy Eleven to be the favorites to get matched up.

 ROUND OF 16 (June 24-25): 
WHO: 16 Fourth Round winners (8 games)
WHAT'S GOING ON: We are finally to a bracket style competition, similar to "March Madness."

WHO: 8 Fifth Round winners (4 games)
WHAT'S GOING ON: Here's when your really pulling any amateur club still going, by this point they would be five games in. In years past I would be pulling for USL Pro guys but they have since linked up with MLS as a "minor league" type thing. It sucks. I know NASL clubs will push for this round, I will be pulling for them as well. Last year the Carolina Railhawks made it here but they didn't field a full strength side in favor of regular season play.

 SEMIFINALS (Aug. 12-13): 
WHO: 4 Quarterfinal winners (2 games)
WHAT'S GOING ON: Winner in each of the two here is guaranteed at least $60k.

 THE FINAL (Sep. 30-Oct. 1): 
WHO: 2 Semifinals winners (1 game)
WHAT'S GOING ON: While the winner gets $250k (loser $60k), the real prize of this tournament is a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. For any club outside of MLS teams, it's the only way. The NY Cosmos have stated this as a goal for the club.

For updated fixtures and results, head over HERE.

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