The overall champion earn a total of $250,000 (up from $100,000 in recent years) in prize money. The tournament runner-up receive $60,000 (up from $50,000) and the team that advances the furthest from each lower division will win $15,000 (up from $10,000).
The competition dates back to 1913-14, when it was known as the National Challenge Cup. In 1999, U.S. Soccer honored one of American soccer's most important patrons, Lamar Hunt, by changing the official title of the tournament to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The winners of the tournament were awarded the Dewar Cup, donated by Sir Thomas Dewar for the promotion of soccer in America in 1912, until it was retired due to poor condition in 1979. It was brought back into use by the United States Adult Soccer Association in 1997, but is now back on permanent display at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York, and the recent winners of the tournament have been awarded a new, different trophy. Despite this, the name of each winning club is still added to the base of the original Dewar Cup.
Trophy awarded to the Rochester Rhinos in 1999
The National Challenge Cup was the first truly national cup competition in the United States, as previous cups had been effectively relegated to regional status by the difficulties in coordination and travel caused by the size of the United States in the early 1900s. While U.S. Soccer had initially administered the competition, in 1985 they handed over management to the USASA. In 1995, U.S. Soccer resumed its administration of the competition.
Since MLS' debut in 1996, MLS clubs have won the cup in all but one of those years. The Rochester Rhinos of the 2nd division A-League were surprise winners in 1999, defeating four MLS clubs, including the Colorado Rapids 2–0 in the championship match. The first professional team to win in the modern era were the Richmond Kickers of the USISL (the predecessor to the A-League, USL First Division, and USL Pro) in 1995, one year before the start of MLS. D.C. United were the first MLS team to win in 1996.
Through the 2011 edition, eight teams from each level of the American Soccer Pyramid took part in the competition proper, with each league narrowing its delegation separately in the spring before the competition officially began in the summer. In some cases, additional teams played in qualifying rounds to gain entry. One example was found with MLS clubs, as only the top six from the previous regular season received automatic bids, while the bottom U.S.-based MLS teams faced each other to qualify for the remaining two MLS slots.
Beginning in 2012, the competition was expanded from its previous 40 teams to 64, with the qualifying process radically changed. The National Premier Soccer League received six places, plus the possibility of a seventh in a playoff against a team from the amateur US Club Soccer setup. Nine clubs from the USASA earned places, as did 16 USL Premier Development League teams. Each of these organizations has its own qualifying process to determine its entrants. These 32 teams competed in the first round of the Cup, with the winners meeting all 16 USL Pro and NASL teams in the second round. The 16 U.S.-based MLS teams entered in the third round.
In 2013 the competition was expanded to 68 teams. All U.S. based Division I, II and III teams will participate in the tournament proper: 16 from Major League Soccer, six from the North American Soccer League and 12 from USL PRO. The remaining 34 spots in the tournament field will be filled by amateur teams from the Adult Council category. There will be 16 from the Premier Development League, eight from U.S. Adult Soccer Association regional qualifying, eight from the National Premier Soccer League, one from US Club Soccer and one from the United States Specialty Sports Association.
The process for determining the site for the Open Cup tournament semifinals and final was changed in 2013. In past years, the sites for the final three matches of the tournament had been determined through a sealed-bid process, but this year the hosts of those games will be determined by a coin flip. Home teams throughout the entire tournament will be determined by random selection.
Recently, the U.S. Open Cup has been the subject of criticism[weasel words] over its procedure of sealed bids to award home matches,[clarification needed] which has resulted in DC United hosting 11 straight matches including two finals from 2008-2010, and Seattle Sounders FC hosting 11 of 14 matches in its three championship seasons from 2009–2011.
^ abThe club, now known as Sporting Kansas City, was based in Kansas City, Missouri when it won its first U.S. Open Cup title in 2004. The club did not move to its current home of Kansas City, Kansas until 2007.