On Thursday morning US Soccer put out a press release with the details for the 2014 U.S. Open Cup, the 101st edition of the national tournament. Generally the cup will be the same as previous years with amateur teams playing in the early rounds before USL Pro, NASL, and MLS teams join later. The major difference between last summer's tournament and this one's is the sheer number of teams participating.
In 2013 68 total teams participated in the Open Cup, all 16 US-based MLS teams, 6 teams from the NASL, 12 USL Pro teams, 16 teams from USL's Premier Development League (PDL), 8 teams from the US Adult Soccer Association (USASA), 8 teams from the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), and 1 team from each of US Club Soccer (USCS) and US Specialty Sports Association (USSSA).
You got that bowlful of alphabet soup?
This year's competition will again feature all 16 MLS teams from the US, 8 US-based teams from the NASL, and 14 USL Pro teams for a total of 38 professional sides. The amateur clubs participating will consist of 19 PDL teams, 10 USASA teams, 11 NPSL teams, and again 1 from each of USCS and USSSA. For those of you doing the math at home... that equals a grand total of 80 teams participating.
A massive increase in teams required an additional round of games before MLS teams join the fray. Whereas the Revolution entered the cup in the Third Round to play the Rhinos on a rainy night in May last year, the Revs would come in for the Fourth Round in the middle of June.
Rochester, as a member of the third division USL Pro, will join the competition in the Second Round to face an amateur side. If the Rhinos manage to beat that team from any of the acronymed leagues mentioned above (the club has never lost in its opening round of the Open Cup) and then win in the Third Round, there is a chance that we may see a repeat of last year.
The committee that schedules the U.S. Open Cup match-ups tends to be creature of habit. In 2012 the Rhinos faced the winner of a First Round match between the Brooklyn Italians (NPSL) and GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL). Last year the Rhinos hosted GPS Portland Phoenix after that team beat Mass Premier Soccer (USASA). If the Rhinos were paired with the winner of GPS Portland Phoenix's match two years in a row, there's a strong probability the Revs may end up facing its USL Pro affiliate again.
US Soccer's press release mentioned that lower division teams will not be pitted against their "parent club" but doesn't address inter-league affiliations. The press release uses Portland Timbers U-23 (PDL) and Portland Timbers (MLS) as an example but ignores Portland's relationship with Sacramento Republic FC (USL Pro) or any of the other 8 MLS and 7 USL Pro clubs that could be affected.
Even if that match doesn't happen, there will again be questions over whether the Revolution will want Rochester to use loaned players in the Open Cup. If Luis Soffner, Alex Sundly, Jossimar Sanchez, or Donnie Smith play for Rochester they will be cup-tied to the Rhinos and unable to appear for the Revs in the cup. Last year Bilal Duckett played for the Rhinos in an earlier round and was cup-tied to Rochester but Gabe Latigue and Tyler Polak both suited up for the Revs to play against the Rhinos at Sahlen's Stadium in that 5-1 game.
Outside of the Revs and the Rhinos, four other lower division teams from the greater New England area will be competing in the 2014 U.S. Open Cup. GPS Portland Phoenix (Maine), Vermont Voltage, and Western Mass Pioneers will represent the PDL while Mass Premier Soccer qualified to the big show through the USASA.
The first two rounds of the tournament have already been set:
GPS Portland Phoenix will host FC Sonic Lehigh Valley (NPSL), Vermont Voltage will travel to New York Red Bulls U-23s (NPSL), and Western Mass Pioneers will face off against Mass Premier Soccer on May 7. The following week on May 14, the Rochester Rhinos will host the winner of that third match.
If any of these teams make it out of the Second Round, they will have a Third Round meeting to win before the chance of playing against the Revolution in the Fourth Round.