Nashville SC take on Atlanta United tonight in the US Open Cup. It’s the first time the Coyotes have played in the competition as an MLS club. So what is the US Open Cup?
Separate from MLS
Founded in 1914, the US Open Cup is is the oldest soccer cup competition in the United States. Until 2020, the tournament had been played every year, but went on hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s a separate competition from Nashville’s regular slate of MLS games. It’s a different tournament that Nashville will play in during their regular season, with games being played midweek. The final is currently slated for early September.
103 teams entered the 2022 edition across the US soccer pyramid. 71 are professional sides; 23 from MLS Next Pro, NISA or USL League 1, 23 from the USL Championship, and all 25 American MLS clubs.
MLS teams enter the competition in later rounds. The majority enter in Round Three, while the top four from each MLS conference the prior year enter in the Round of 32. Nashville finished third in the Eastern Conference in 2021, thus they enter with the final group of MLS teams.
All games must have a winner. Unlike MLS, there are no draws. If the match is tied at the end of the 90 minutes, they’ll go to extra time. Teams will play two 15 minute halves in their entirety, and if the score is still level, the match will be decided on a penalty kick shootout.
What’s at stake?
Other than the historic aspect of the tournament, the winner gets $300,000 in prize money and the runner up wins $100,000. The prize money is minimal.
The real prize is that the U.S. Open Cup winner earns a spot in the Concacaf Champions League, where they’ll face the top teams from the region in another knockout style tournament. The Seattle Sounders just became the first MLS side ever to win CCL, but the chance to go head to head with the best sides from Liga MX is a significant opportunity for a young club.
How seriously will Nashville take the Open Cup?
We won’t know for sure until Nashville publish the lineup, but I expect they’ll take the Cup seriously. It’s a knockout match against a regional rival, upping the stakes.
Nashville have historically taken the Open Cup seriously, including knocking out the Colorado Rapids as a USL side in 2018. It makes sense for them to take it seriously for the first time as an MLS club.