2020 U.S. Open Cup brings changes, loses familiar faces

In December the USSF unveiled some changes to the format of the U.S. Open Cup, but not all of them went over well with clubs or supporters. In a surprise move, USSF decided to change the schedule, allowing clubs more time between matches. The expanded schedule has at least two weeks between each round, allowing clubs more time to market the matchups and generate revenue.

While that benefits clubs, the new schedule rubbed some clubs the wrong way. Due to the changes the tournament begins on March 24, the earliest start ever. This change prevents collegiate players from participating due to NCAA rules. As a result, some clubs that compete within USL League 2 that rely heavily on that player pool have decided to decline their invitations to the tournament. 

Most notably, Reading United AC and Flint City Bucks have opted out of the tournament this year. Both clubs have released statements expressing their displeasure with the change to the new schedule. Midland-Odessa Sockers FC also withdrew from this year’s tournament for the same reason. Flint City famously upset MLS’ Chicago Fire in one of the most unexpected results in Open Cup history. Flint City and Reading United are among some of the most successful clubs in USL League 2.

Even with the controversy over the schedule, there was another major change that was widely acknowledged as beneficial by the football community at large. During the announcement on December 12, MLS clubs found out that some of them would be entering the tournament sooner than ever before.  

Historically, MLS clubs have entered during the fourth round of the competition. This year, however, 11 MLS clubs will enter in the third round, while the rest enter in the fourth. The change allows opportunities for up to 20 lower division clubs to potentially reach the round of 32, up from 11 in 2019.

What does this mean for New Mexico United? 

At the moment, not much. United will enter the tournament in the second round, but their opponent is unknown at this time. Once again the tournament teams are being divided up geographically and the potential second-round pairings will be announced on January 29. 

Along with United, 24 others from USL Championship, 6 USL League One, and 8 NISA clubs will enter in the second round. The first-round pairings have already been announced and there are definitely some interesting matchups.

2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Competition Schedule

First Round

Northeast Region

March 24Western Mass Pioneers (USLL2) vs. GPS Portland Phoenix (USLL2)7 p.m. ETLusitano Stadium; Ludlow, Mass.
March 24West Chester United SC (NPSL) vs. Vereinigung Erzgebirge (Pa.)7 p.m. ETWCUSC/PF Kildare’s Pub Turf Field; West Chester, Pa.
March 24Virginia United FC (Va.) vs. Christos FC (Md.)7:30 p.m. ETHowison Homestead Soccer Complex; Woodbridge, Va.
March 25FC Motown (NPSL) vs. New York Pancyprian Freedoms (N.Y.)7 p.m. ETMontclair State University Soccer Park; Montclair, N.J.
March 25Atlantic City FC (NPSL) vs. Newtown Pride FC (Conn.)7 p.m. ETRowan University Soccer Stadium; Glassboro, N.J.

Southeast Region

DateGame (home team listed first)TimeVenue
March 24North Carolina Fusion U23 (USLL2) vs. South Carolina United Bantams (USLL2)7 p.m. ETMacpherson Stadium; Greensboro, N.C.
March 25The Villages SC (USLL2) vs. South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 (USLL2)4 p.m. ETThe Villages Soccer Complex; Summerfield, Fla.
March 25Miami United FC U23 (Fla.) vs. Naples United FC (NPSL)7 p.m. ETTed Hendricks Stadium (Milander Park); Hialeah, Fla.
March 25Nashville United (Tenn.) vs. Cleveland SC (NPSL)7 p.m. CTVanderbilt University Soccer/Lacrosse Complex; Nashville, Tenn.

Central Region

DateGame (home team listed first)TimeVenue
March 24Chicago FC United (USLL2) vs. Minneapolis City SC (NPSL)7 p.m. CTSeatGeek Stadium; Bridgeview, Ill.
March 24Tulsa Athletic (NPSL) vs. Fort Worth Vaqueros (NPSL)7 p.m. CTCase Soccer Complex (Oral Roberts Univ.); Tulsa, Okla.
March 25Louisiana Krewe FC (La.) vs. Corpus Christi FC (USLL2)6 p.m. CTRagin’ Cajuns Soccer/Track Facility (Univ. of Louisiana); Lafayetta, La.
March 25Des Moines Menace (USLL2) vs. Med City FC (NPSL)7 p.m. CTLions Field (Des Moines Christian School); Urbandale, Iowa
March 25Denton Diablos FC (NPSL) vs. NTX Rayados (Texas)7 p.m. CTUniv. of North Texas Soccer Stadium; Denton, Texas

West Region

DateGame (home team listed first)TimeVenue
March 24ASC San Diego (NPSL) vs. Chula Vista FC (Calif.)6 p.m. PTTriton Soccer Stadium (UC San Diego); La Jolla, Calif.
March 24Cal FC (Calif.) vs. Ventura County Fusion (USLL2)7:30 p.m. PTOrange County Great Park, Field 5; Irvine, Calif.
March 25FC Boulder Harpos (Colo.) vs. Crossfire Redmond (NPSL)7 p.m. MTRegency Athletic Complex (Metropolitan State Univ. of Denver); Denver, Colo.
March 25FC Golden State Force (USLL2) vs. FC Arizona (NPSL)7:30 p.m. PTRio Hondo Stadium; Whittier, Calif.
March 25Olympic Club (Calif.) vs. FC Davis (NPSL)7:30 p.m. PTNegoesco Stadium (Univ. of San Francisco); San Francisco, Calif.

Matchups to Watch

FC Golden State Force vs FC Arizona 

Denton Diablos FC vs NTX Rayados

The Villages SC vs South Georgia Tormenta FC 2

Virginia United FC vs Christos FC

Each of these matchups showcases some of the best in U.S. Soccer’s lower divisions. No matter who advances, the USL Championship clubs will have their hands full if they get matched up against any of these clubs.

As with last year, all of the U.S. Open Cup matches will be broadcast live on ESPN+. As a subscriber to that service, I can’t recommend it enough if you aren’t already a subscriber. This is an opportunity to find a club that supporters aren’t familiar with and a chance to build the support local soccer movement. 

As soon as the possible second-round pairings are announced, we’ll have a follow-up article previewing the potential opponents for New Mexico United. 

Seth Biddulph is a reporter for Dadventures Media covering New Mexico United. He can be found on Twitter.