The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will happen in 2024 but it will be different than previous editions. Only eight Major League Soccer teams will utilize their first teams, the league announced. The competing MLS teams are the Houston Dynamo, who are the reigning champions from the 2023 edition, and the top seven U.S. based teams in the Supporters' Shield standings who didn't qualify for Concacaf Champions Cup. Alongside those MLS sides, 11 MLS Next Pro teams will also take part in the tournament including nine MLS affiliates and two independent clubs. Participation of those teams is also based on the 2023 MLS Next Pro final standings, excluding MLS teams either competing in Concacaf Champions Cup or already competing in the U.S. Open Cup.

MLS teams will enter in the round of 32 with at least four of those MLS teams having hosting rights in that round. Next Pro teams will enter in the first round of the tournament. During the tournament, MLS teams will only play lower-division sides until it can no longer be avoided. The reigning USL Championship league champions, Phoenix Rising FC, and the top seven teams form the 2023 standings will enter in the round of 32 while the remaining teams will enter in the first round of play. 

Running since the 1913-14 season, the U.S. Open Cup is the longest-running soccer tournament in American soccer, happening continuously, outside of a pause for COVID in 2020. The winner of the U.S. Open Cup will earn $300,000 in prize money and a berth in the 2025 Concacaf Champions Cup. The runner up will earn $100,000 and the team that advances furthest from each lower division will take home a $25,000 prize. 

Who is competing 

MLS: Seattle Sounders, Los Angeles FC, Houston Dynamo, Atlanta United, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City, San Jose Earthquakes

MLS Next Pro: Austin FC 2, Colorado Rapids 2, Crown Legacy, Red Bull New York 2, Chicago Fire 2, Minnesota United 2, New York City FFC 2, Portland Timbers 2, LA Galaxy 2, Carolina Core (Independent), Chattanooga FC (Independent)

Looking to ease schedule congestion, MLS initially expressed a desire to remove all first teams from the Cup, only including Next Pro teams, but that plan was rejected by U.S. Soccer leading to discussions that led to this compromise. Besides these changes, there will be improved economics for all participants including more travel being covered for away teams and a greater incentive for home teams to host due to the elimination of hosting fees. The inclusion of Next Pro teams will also provide those players with opportunities for competitive matches while easing burdens on each of their parent teams.

This means that after reaching the final last season, Lionel Messi's Inter Miami won't be competing in the tournament this season. MLS teams will be competing in Concacaf Champions Cup, Leagues Cup, the U.S. Open Cup, and the Canadian Championship but only the Vancouver Whitecaps and Houston Dynamo first teams will compete in three of the four cup offerings. The League didn't rule out participation changing during 2025.

What's next

"Using competitively based criteria was what we felt was the fairest and best way to determine how we would have MLS representation in 2024 only," Executive Vice President of Sporting Product & Competition Nelson Rodriguez said. "Again, everything will be up for reevaluation as we work with U.S. Soccer and the other constituents in building out the Open Cup for the future."

The format could again change in the future, but with the first round of the tournament kicking off on March 19 with amateur clubs and 11 members of USL League Two entering the competition alongside MLS Next Pro, time was running out to plan a new format. Some teams have now come out with statements about their lack of participation in the cup as not all teams were in agreement surrounding their participation.

St. Louis City SC: "Our preference would have been to be able to play in this competition. ... Every decision that (MLS) needs to make ... you're bound to find places where part of the teams are in support and part of them have different opinions.", president Diego Gigliani said.

FC Cincinnati: "As we look ahead to 2025, we believe that each MLS franchise should be given the option to decide their own approach to participating in Open Cup. Our team and staff want every opportunity to compete for trophies, and never want to be excluded from such competitions."

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin: "You guys know my love for the competition. It's a great one. ... I don't think that the solution that comes out for this season will be necessarily the solution forever."

Cincinnati's success as a USL side in the Open Cup is well documented as they had a run to the semifinals in 2017. Showing what they could do in the tournament was part of what led to Cincinnati's place in Major League Soccer today. The statement makes it clear they they want to be part of the tournament moving forward but discussions will need to happen to see what that looks like.

2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Schedule

First Round
Tuesday, March 19 - Thursday, March 21
Second Round Tuesday, April 2 - Wednesday, April 3
Third Round Tuesday, April 16 - Wednesday, April 17
Round of 32 Tuesday, May 7 - Wednesday, May 8
Round of 16 Tuesday, May 21 - Wednesday, May 22
Quarterfinal Tuesday, July 9 - Wednesday, July 10
Semifinal  Tuesday, Aug. 27 - Wednesday, Aug. 28
Final Wednesday, Sept. 25