2012 marks the 99th edition of the U.S. Open Cup and thanks to a formatting change, it also marks the first time every professional soccer team in the country will participate. The 2012 format includes 32 professional teams: the 16 U.S.-based Major League Soccer clubs, 6 U.S.-based North American Soccer League clubs, the 10 U.S.-based United Soccer Leagues-Pro clubs; and 32 amateur teams: 16 from the Premier Development League, 6.5 from the National Premier Soccer League, 9 teams from United States Adult Soccer Association, and .5 teams from US Club Soccer (one team from NPSL will face off against the USCS representative in a one game play-in match).
The 2011 U.S. Open Cup only included only 40 teams; 8 from MLS, 11 from USL-Pro, 9 from PDL, 4 from NPSL, and 8 from USASA. This means that more teams are entering the tournament from every division this year. NASL teams were disallowed from the 2011 cup partially because of late sanctioning and partially for political reasons. Fortunately, for the sake of competition and integrity, all domestic-based professional teams are participating this season.
During the first round, the 32 amateur teams will face off on Tuesday May 15. The following Tuesday, the 22nd, the winners of round 1 will play against the 16 NASL/USL-Pro clubs. On May 29, the next Tuesday night, the winners of round 2 will face the 16 MLS clubs. The fourth round will be contested on Tuesday June 5. Following a three week break, the quarterfinals will be held on May 26 before the semifinals two weeks later on July 10. The final is scheduled for either the 7th (Tuesday) or 8th (Wednesday) of August.
Another important difference between this year’s and last year’s competition is the removal of the sealed and secret bidding process. After Seattle Sounders won their third U.S. Open Cup last year, I wrote:
“A lot of fuss has been made of Seattle’s relatively easy road to the US Open Cup Final because they never played away from home. By virtue of the somewhat shady closed bidding process, Seattle won the rights to host every game they’ve played for a number of years in the cup.”
An SBNation post from around the same time elaborate on the bidding process which includes:
“information like expected attendance, whether or not the game will be on radio or televised and, most controversially, how much money the team is willing to guarantee the federation… they can offer to open up CenturyLink Field the way they did for last year’s Open Cup final. Almost no team in the league can compete with that bid, as the Sounders would be able to guarantee a much larger crowd than virtually any other team. “
This year’s budding process will be open up through the quarterfinals. Both teams can apply to host the match and if the stadium is up to snuff (U.S.S.F. regulations), a blind draw will select the host. However, the semifinals and the finals’ hosting process will still be governed by the shadowy financial bid which is tantamount to official bribery.
The United States Adult Soccer Association qualifying is already underway. USASA is split into 4 regions across the country. Each region gets two entrants to the U.S. Open Cup Proper, but Region 1 (due to its past and present successes in the tournament) have been awarded an extra berth. Region 1 includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York (with two associations), Pennsylvania (also with two associations), Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia (and the District of Columbia), and West Virginia. Despite having 15 member associations, only 6 of them entered the 2012 USASA Region 1 Open Cup Tournament.
On April 1, Battery Park Gunners (Massachusetts) will play Greek American Atlas (Eastern New York region) in game 1, while in game 2 West Chester United Predators (Eastern Pennsylvania) face off against Aegean Hawks (of Virginia/D.C.). The winner of game 1 hosts the Jersey Shore Boca (New Jersey) on April 22, and on the same night Maryland Bays (Maryland) visit the game 2 winner.
The two winners of those semifinal matchups will advance to the 2012 U.S. Open Cup proper, as well as the winner of the third place match which will be held on April 29. The following Tuesday, the 2012 U.S. Open Cup kicks off as 63 teams look to unseat the Seattle Sounders.
If you Western New Yorkers are wondering, there hasn’t been a USASA team from the area entered into the U.S. Open Cup qualifying in over a decade. Last season, however, FC Buffalo of the National Premier Soccer League attempted to qualify through their league. In the end the second year club narrowly lost to the Brooklyn Italians (a club founded in 1949), 1-0 in Brooklyn. There’s video highlights of that match, and if FC Buffalo had beaten Brooklyn Italians they would have faced FC Sonic Lehigh Valley to decide the entrant to the U.S. Open Cup .
For this season’s tournament, FC Buffalo will not be participating, but the Rochester Rhinos of USL-Pro have been gearing up for a great season which may very well include a deep cup run. If Rochester does win the right to host a match, like they did against Chicago Fire last year, let’s make sure to create the proper atmosphere for our Rhinos.