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. The tournament is recognized as the U.S. Soccer Federation's national championship and is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. Within the U.S. Open Cup framework, teams can compete in each of the following categories: professional outdoor Division I (Major League Soccer), Division II (A-League) or Division III (USL D3 Pro League); or Amateur Division (USL Premier Development League & U.S. Amateur Soccer Association).
This weekend's match between the Rooks and the Cruisers is the first in the USL's new qualifying format which has 18 teams from the A-League and 17 teams from the D3 Pro League competing against each other in qualifying within 10 geographic groups. The Rooks and Cruisers are part of Group 10, where they will compete against the A-League's San Diego Flash. The 10 group winners and six wildcards will qualify for the tournament.
As in last year's tournament, all 12 MLS teams will begin play in the 32-team second round (scheduled for June 27, 2001) and will be joined by 16 teams from the USL's A-League / D3 Pro League qualifying groups, and four first-round amateur winners. The second round bracket will again be broken up into two 16-team brackets representing the East and the West, where the top eight seeds in each group will be designated and then blindly drawn against the remaining eight teams in their bracket. Similar to a tennis tournament, the teams will play through their bracket until two emerge for the championship game, tentatively scheduled for late October.
The amateur division will see four Premier Development League teams qualify for the first round and square off against four U.S. Amateur Soccer Association (USASA) teams for four positions in round two. To qualify for the first round, the PDL teams have been broken into three regional divisions, where each club will compete within their group in four individual Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifying matches. The three group winners, along with the best second place team, will advance to the first round of the tournament.
The U.S. Open Cup is a single-elimination tournament, with games tied after regulation being decided by two 15-minute sudden death ("Golden Goal") overtime periods. If neither team scores during the 30 minutes of overtime, the winner is decided on penalty kicks.
The Chicago Fire will try to become the first team in almost 20 years to win back-to-back U.S. Open Cup crowns when they try to defend their crown in 2001. Last year, the Fire captured the $100,000 first-place check after winning their second Open Cup title in three years. As 154 participating teams did in 2000, teams in the 2001 tournament will be competing for $180,000 in prize money, including $100,000 to the winner and $50,000 to the runner up.
In 2000, fans across the globe had the chance to follow the tournament on television for the first time with Fox Sports World, Fox Sports World Espanol and Fox Sports World International acquiring the rights to all the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches through 2003. Details on this year's broadcast schedule will be announced as they become available.
- June 3 - (qualifying): USASA and PDL qualifying completed
- June 13 - (First Round): Four USASA and four PDL teams will face off against each other in an abbreviated first round to be completed by June 13. All A-League/D3 Pro League qualifying completed.
- June 27 - (Second Round): Field of 32 teams competing in 16 matches across the country (12 MLS teams, 16 A-League / D3 Pro teams, and four amateur winners from first round). The second round is broken up into two 16-team East and West brackets, where the top eight seeds in each group will be designated and then blindly drawn against the remaining eight teams in their bracket.
- July 11 - (Third Round): The 16 winners from the second round will be paired against each other in eight games within their prospective brackets.
- July 24 - (Quarterfinals): The eight survivors from the third round will continue through their brackets and will be slotted against each other in four matches.
- August 22 - (Semifinals): The winners of the quarterfinals advance to the semis.
- October 27 - (Championship Game): The semifinal winners battle for the 2001 Lamar Hunt U.S. Cup crown.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%THE BREAKDOWN BY LEAGUE
- Major League Soccer (12 spots): 12 teams qualified
- A-League/D3 Pro League (16 spots): 35 teams eligible
- Premier Development League (4 spots): 46 teams eligible
- United States Amateur Soccer Association (4 spots): 61 teams were eligible in 2000
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%A-LEAGUE / D3 PRO LEAGUE QUALIFYING SUMMARY
The USL's A-League and D3 Pro League teams will compete in a mixed-group format for the first time in qualifying for the 2001 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The USL's 35 American professional teams (18 A-League, 17 D3 Pro) have been split into 10 geographic groups where each team will play six qualifying games in an effort to be one of the 16 professional USL teams to advance to the 36-team tournament. The 10 group winners will be joined by six wildcards.
A-League clubs will play two matches against A-League opponents and four against teams from the D3 Pro League. All A-League only matches will double as league games. Group 7, the only all-A-League group, will play its six matches within the group with the Indiana-Cincinnati and Milwaukee-Minnesota matches counting in league play. The A-League's Rochester Raging Rhinos are guaranteed a spot in the Open Cup as the defending league champions should they fail to advance from their group. To ensure competitive balance, cross-over matches will be utilized between Groups 1 and 2 and groups 8 and 10.
The D3 Pro League will be guaranteed at least five berths in the tournament, with those positions being filled by wildcards if up to five D3 Pro teams fail to win their groups. The defending regular season champion New Jersey Stallions will be the first wildcard as the D3 Pro League's highest finishing team from 2000. Once the five D3 Pro League spots are filled, the remaining berths will be determined based on qualification points. Four of the qualifiers will double as league games for D3 Pro League teams.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%THE LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP
In 1999, the U.S. Open Cup was renamed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to honor the longtime soccer supporter and pioneer. Hunt, the owner of the Kansas City Wizards and Columbus Crew of MLS and owner of the Dallas Tornados of the old North American Soccer League, was one of the sports first major ownership figures and is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.