The United States Soccer Federation announced details of this year's Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Thursday as the nation's oldest annual soccer tournament enters its 98th edition.
Similar to England's FA Cup and other domestic knockout tournaments throughout the world, the US Open Cup is, as the name suggests, open to almost all teams throughout the nation, whether professional or amateur.
The Cup's first round gets underway on June 14 with 16 games. In all, five rounds lead to the final on Oct. 4.
More than 155 teams enter the initial stages of the tournament with a series of qualifying matches whittling that number down to 40 — including 19 professional (eight from MLS) and 21 amateur — for the tournament proper.
Those eight MLS teams join the bracket at the tournament's third round, which will be played on June 18. Six MLS teams have earned automatic berths by way of their overall regular-season finishes, while the remaining two berths will be decided through a series of play-ins.
The Seattle Sounders are the defending champions and have won the last two competitions. Since the inception of MLS in 1996, only one non-MLS team has won the tournament: The USL A-League Rochester Raging Rhinos defeated the Colorado Rapids, 2-0, in 1999.
This year's quarterfinals will be played on July 12 and the semifinals will be played on Aug. 30. All Cup matches are scheduled to be played on Tuesdays.
The 2011 champion collects a $100,000 cash prize, while the runner-up wins $50,000. The top Division III and Amateur Division clubs each receive a $10,000 prize. According to the USSF, no Division II teams will participate in this year's tournament as the North American Soccer League did not obtain provisional sanctioning in time to be included.
2011 LAMAR HUNT US OPEN CUP SCHEDULE
May 30: Qualifying Deadline
June 14: First Round (32 teams from USL PRO and Amateur Division)
June 21: Second Round (First round winners)
June 28: Third Round (Second round winners paired against eight MLS teams)
July 12: Quarterfinals
Aug. 30: Semifinals
Oct. 4: Final
Major League Soccer (Division I – 8 teams): Six automatic qualifiers based on the 2010 regular season standings and two qualifiers from a play-in competition that features 10 teams.
Automatic Qualifiers (6 berths): Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders
Play-in Qualifiers (2 berths): Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City
United Soccer Leagues PRO (Division III – 11 teams): All US-based clubs automatically qualify.
Automatic Qualifiers (11 berths): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Eagles, Dayton Dutch Lions, Harrisburg City Islanders, Los Angeles Blues, FC New York, Orlando City, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Rhinos, Wilmington Hammerheads
United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (Amateur – 9 teams): The top US-based club from each of nine PDL divisions will qualify based on the results of four pre-selected 2011 regular season games. Each of the 54 teams eligible will play two home and two away matches that will serve as qualifiers.
US Adult Soccer Association (Amateur – 8 teams): The first and second place teams from each of the four US Soccer regions will advance to the tournament. Approximately 50 teams entered qualifying at the local or state level.
National Premier Soccer League (Amateur – 4 teams): The process for determining NPSL qualifying teams will be announced in the coming weeks. The 36-team national amateur league is affiliated with the USASA. In previous years its teams participated via USASA regional qualifying.