US Soccer released the format, match dates and early-round pairings of the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Thursday, setting out the details of the historic tournament's largest field since the advent of Major League Soccer.
Defending champions D.C. United and the other 15 US-based MLS clubs will enter the Open Cup in the fourth round in mid-June, with the potential to play their games in a window that runs June 10-18, which could lead to modern-era professional clubs playing weekend tournament games for the first time.
That rare occurrence is made possible by the World Cup break observed by MLS and second-division league NASL during the group stage of the 2014 World Cup. The 101st edition of the Open Cup includes 80 teams, up from 68 last year.
This year's field includes 42 amateur teams and 39 professional ones from MLS, USL PRO and the NASL. Pairings will be organized according to geography, with steps taken to prevent lower-division teams like reserve sides from meeting their parent clubs.
A prize of $250,000 is on offer for the winners of the single-elimination tournament, with $60,000 earmarked for the runners-up and $15,000 for the team from each level (Division II, Division III, amateur) which advances furthest in the competition. Play opens on May 7 with a full slate of opening-round games between amateur sides.
Full 2014 US Open Cup schedule
• First Round - May 7 (16 amateur teams: 5 PDL, 4 USASA regional qualifiers, 5 NPSL, 1 US Club Soccer, 1 USSSA): Teams from the same qualifying pool cannot be paired with each other.
• Second Round - May 14 (8 First Round winners, 26 remaining amateur teams [14 PDL, 6 USASA regional qualifiers, 6 NPSL], and 14 Division III [USL PRO] clubs): Teams from the same qualifying pool cannot be paired with each other.
• Third Round - May 28 (24 Second Round winners and 8 Division II [NASL] clubs): Each Division II team will be matched geographically to play the winner of a specific Second Round pairing. The winners of the 16 remaining Second Round matches not paired with a Division II side will play each other.
• Fourth Round - June 10-18 (16 Third Round winners vs. Division I [MLS] clubs): Each Division I team will be matched geographically to play the winner of a specific Third Round pairing. The exact date for each match will be determined by the club selected as the home team from among those dates where the visiting team does not have a league game already scheduled. The date selected must allow the visiting team at least two rest days before and after the match date.
• Fifth Round - June 24-25 (16 Fourth Round winners face each other): Each Fourth Round pair will be matched geographically with another Fourth Round pair to determine the Fifth Round possibilities.
• Quarterfinal (Sixth) Round-July 8-9: Each Fifth Round pair will be matched geographically with another Fifth Round pair to determine the Quarterfinal Round possibilities.
• Semifinal Round - Aug. 12-13: Each Quarterfinal Round pair will be matched geographically with another Quarterfinal Round pair to determine the Semifinal Round possibilities.
• Final: Sept. 30-Oct. 1
In addition to the 15 US-based MLS clubs and their respective USL PRO affiliates entering the tournament, several MLS-operated teams will participate.
U-23 teams from Orlando City (PDL), Portland Timbers (PDL) and New York Red Bulls (NPSL) will enter in the first two rounds. The New York U-23s will host the Vermont Voltage at the Red Bulls' training facility in Whippany, N.J., on May 7. One week later, in the second round on May 14, the Timbers U-23s will host USL PRO club Arizona United at Providence Park and the Orlando City U-23s will host NPSL club Jacksonville United in Sanford, Fla.
LA Galaxy II, meanwhile, will also enter in the second round and will host Open Cup legend Cal FC, which reached the fourth round in 2012 following an upset of the Portland Timbers.