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U.S. Soccer announces 2021 U.S. Open Cup format, MLS qualification procedure

Tournament will commence with the Round of 16, will feature eight MLS teams

MLS: U.S. Open Cup Final-New York Red Bulls at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. Soccer today revealed the adjusted bracket and tournament procedure for the 2021 edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition.

As with nearly everything nowadays, the 108 year-old competition has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. After being canceled for the first time in 106 years last year, the tournament is back, albeit with a vastly reduced field and adjusted format. The 2021 edition will feature only 16 teams from the tiers of American soccer, and will therefore commence in the Round of 16.

Major League Soccer will have eight representatives in the tournament this year. Those teams will be determined by the regular season standings as they stand at the conclusion of three weeks of MLS league play (as of May 3). At that point, the eight US-based MLS sides with the highest number of regular season points per game will qualify for the tournament. Tiebreakers will be determined first by goal differential, then goals for. Additional tiebreakers after that, along with the full league explainer, can be found here.

Joining the MLS sides will be four USL Championship sides, as determined by the semifinalists from 2020 season: El Paso Locomotive FC, Louisville City FC, Phoenix Rising FC, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Those four teams make up the Division II slots. Two Division III teams — NISA side Detroit City FC and USL League One side Greenville Triumph FC — take up another two slots.

The final two slots will go to two teams that mean one of these four qualifications: an Open Division Local Qualifier drawn from 12 eligible; one NASL team drawn among 13 eligible; one USL League Two team drawn from 10 eligible; and 2019 U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Amateur Cup champion Newtown Pride FC (Conn.). The two teams will be selected by a draw on April 7.

The date for confirming the Round of 16 is set for April 19. After that, their is the date for determining which MLS teams will partake — May 3 — and the date for the Round of 16 Draw — May 4. Rules for how teams will matched up for the draw can be found here.

The Open Cup will begin play on May 18 and will go to either June 29 or June 30. All matches will be broadcasted on ESPN+.