The 8 MLS First Teams that will Participate in the Lamar U.S. Open Cup

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U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer (MLS) have officially announced that eight MLS First teams and 11 MLS NEXT Pro (MLSNP) teams will take part in this year’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition following the not so sure participation of the MLS in the tournament

 The eight MLS clubs that will be competing in the 2024 Open Cup tournament are:

  • Atlanta United FC (2019 U.S. Open Cup Winner)
  • FC Dallas (1997 and 2016 U.S. Open Cup Winners)
  • Houston Dynamo FC (2018 and 2023 U.S. Open Cup Winners)
  • LAFC
  • Real Salt Lake
  • San Jose Earthquakes
  • Seattle Sounders FC (2009, 2010, 2011, and 2014 U.S. Open Cup Winners)
  • Sporting Kansas City (2004, 2012, 2015, and 2017 U.S. Open Cup Winners) 

And the 11 MLS NEXT Pro teams that will be participating are:

  • Austin FC II
  • Carolina Core FC
  • Chattanooga FC 
  • Chicago Fire II
  • Colorado Rapids 2
  • Crown Legacy FC
  • Minnesota United FC 2
  • LA Galaxy II
  • New York Red Bulls II
  • Portland Timbers 2

Why Only Eight?

Well, according to MLS Executive Nelson Rodriguez, schedule congestion and unfair economics were major factors to the decision of which MLS teams will participate in the competition.

From a business standpoint, MLS decided to stand by a fair and fitting revenue and winning option when it came to traveling and hosting games as most amateur and semi-pro teams are reimbursed by the U.S. Soccer federation for these expenses.

“…no team should participate in the U.S. Open Cup at a loss… it’s not fair,” stated Rodriguez.

Because of this, we might see the federation cover either most or all of the participating clubs’ travel costs and matchday expenses for hosting teams.

Now in terms of schedule congestion, MLS decided to not allowed any clubs participating in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, apart from the defending champions Houston Dynamo, to compete in the U.S. Open Cup.

Regardless of the back and forth by U.S. Soccer and MLS, Nelson had this to say about the agreement: “It remains a great honor for Major League Soccer to participate in the tournament as the competition is valued greatly by our clubs and fans… I’m glad that U.S. Soccer has been able to format the tournament in a way that is satisfactory.”

What does this mean now for USL and MLSNP?

With the number of MLS First Team participants dropping down to eight, it gives all United Soccer League (USL) teams a greater opportunity to compete more and an incredible possibility of  winning the whole tournament as a lower-division club.

In the MLS NEXT Pro’s case, this is also a huge win as MLS have been massively investing in getting their development league some meaningful competition.

“…we think that the Open Cup is a perfect spot for their [MLSNP] talent to have meaningful games of consequence, games under the pressure of results, and under the watchful eye of committed fans,” said Rodriguez.

Although, it’s not what the league first wanted with them requesting their affiliated squads to fill in for its first teams, but it’s a start. And it’s something that could definitely change the course and future of the MLS NEXT Pro and the U.S. Open Cup.

Small Tweak to the 2024 Format

In this year’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition, all 32 First Round matchups will exclusively be between amateur and professional teams, marking the first time since 2008 that this kind of format is implemented. With this in place, the tournament will feature the most First Round games between amateur and professional teams in the competition’s 109-year long history.

Open Cup Schedule

  • Round 1: March 19 to 21
  • Round 2: April 2 to 3
  • Round 3: April 16 to 17
  • Round of 32: May 7 to 8 and May 21 to 22
  • Quarterfinals: July 9 to 10
  • Semifinals: August 27 to 28
  • Final: September 25

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