Dating back to 1914, the U.S. Open Cup is the oldest cup competition in United States soccer and is among the oldest in the world. Open to all affiliated amateur and professional teams in the United States, the annual U.S. Open Cup is a 100-year-old single-elimination tournament.
In a nutshell, the U.S. Open Cup is very similar to domestic cup competitions popular throughout Europe, South America and the rest of the world. Cup competitions, which usually run concurrent with a country’s league season, are open in the early stages to any club that can qualify, giving local amateur teams a chance to compete against the best teams a country has to offer.
In leagues like the Premier League in England, the Serie A in Italy and the Bundesliga in Germany, cup competitions are prestigious tournaments waged between countries’ strongest teams like Manchester United, AC Milan and Bayern Munich, and smaller teams like the amateur French side Calais that made it to the finals of the 2000 French Cup only to fall to defending champions Nantes on an injury time penalty kick. Watford F.C. in England, was another small-time club that hit it big in 1984 by making it all the way to the F.A. Cup Final. Unfashionable Chesterfield of the Second Division (the third flight in England) advanced to the semifinals of the 1997 F.A. Cup in England before finally losing. The winner of each country’s domestic cup competition, in addition to taking home the prize money, is automatically placed into a tournament to compete against neighboring countries’ cup winners.
In 1999, the U.S. Open Cup was renamed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to honor the long-time soccer supporter and pioneer. Hunt, who died in 2006, was one of the sport’s first major ownership figures and is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. His family continues to operate FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer.
The winning team of the U.S. Open Cup has their name engraved on the Dewar Challenge Trophy, which has been permanently retired and remains at U.S. Soccer House in Chicago.