More teams and a new format will hopefully bring more excitement to the Open Cup this year. The Houston Dynamo and their USL Pro affiliate the Charleston Battery are both participating in the tournament. In the past Houston has not placed top priority on the tournament something that may change with a new coaching staff in place.
Increased from 80 to 91 teams, the Cup will start off in late April and last for five months with the final game happening at the end of September. The draw will now be geographically based to determine the Round of 16 and fixed bracket for the Final.
The draw includes a provision that "pairings will be arranged to prevent a lower division team from playing a parent club" but it is unclear if affiliations such as the Dynamo with the Battery would fall under such a rule.
The winner of the tournament will receive $250,000 while the runner-up get $60,000. The winner will also get a berth in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions' League.
Initial pairings will be announced April 8 with the play-in round happening from April 22-26. The First Round will then take place May 13 with the Second Round to follow on May 20 and a Third Round to take place on the 27th of May. The Fourth Round is when MLS teams will enter the competition and will take place June 16-17. A Fifth Round draw will be held on June 18 and that round will play out from June 30-July1. Things will then get serious with the Quarterfinals July 21-22, Semifinals August 11-12 and the Final happening September 29 or 30th.
Participating Professional Teams (47 total):
Major League Soccer (Division I - 17 teams, entering in the Fourth Round): Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City
North American Soccer League (Division II - 9 teams, entering in the Third Round):
Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada, Minnesota United FC, New York Cosmos, San Antonio Scorpions, Tampa Bay Rowdies
USL PRO (Division III - 21 teams, entering in the Second Round):
Arizona United, Austin Aztex, Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Harrisburg City Islanders, LA Galaxy II, Louisville City FC, New York Red Bulls (USL PRO), Oklahoma City Energy, Orange County Blues, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Portland Timbers 2, Real Monarchs SLC, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Rhinos, Sacramento Republic, Saint Louis FC, Seattle Sounders 2, Tulsa Roughnecks, Wilmington Hammerheads
Distribution of Amateur-Level Places (44 total):
U.S. Adult Soccer Association Regional Qualifiers (11 places [nine entering in the First Round, two entering in the Play-In Round): Region I - Maryland Bays, New York Greek American Atlas; Region II - KC Athletics (Kan.), Madison Fire (Wis.); Region III - NTX Rayados (North Texas), Triangle Brigade (N.C.); Region IV - Cal FC (Calif.-South), Chula Vista FC (Calif.-South); Wild Card Berths (3): Mass Premier Soccer (Mass.), PSA Elite (Calif.-South), RWB Adria (Ill.). Five USASA regional qualifiers advanced to the third round in 2014, including Cinderella story PSA Elite, who reached the fourth round and faced the eventual champion Seattle Sounders.
Premier Development League (19 places, entering in the First Round): Division Winners: Des Moines Menace, FC Tucson, Jersey Express, Kitsap Pumas, Michigan Bucks, Ocala Stampede, Seacoast United Phantoms, Ventura County Fusion, West Virginia Chaos; At-Large Berths: AC Connecticut, Burlingame Dragons, BYU Cougars, Golden State Misioneros, Laredo Heat, Long Island Rough Riders, Midland/Odessa Sockers, Reading United, SW Florida Adrenaline, Western Mass Pioneers. The PDL is a national amateur league affiliated with the USASA. Two PDL sides advanced to the fourth round in 2014 (Orlando City U23s and Laredo Heat, which had the only amateur victory over a Division II club when they came from behind on the road to knock off the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3-2 with a penalty kick in the last act of regulation time).
National Premier Soccer League (12 places, entering in the First Round):
Brooklyn Italians, Chattanooga FC (Tenn.), Greater Binghamton Thunder (N.Y.), Lansing United (Mich.), Miami United (Fla.), Tulsa Athletics (Okla.), Upward Star (S.C.), five others to be determined in March. The NPSL is a national amateur league affiliated with the USASA. Two NPSL clubs (Brooklyn Italians and Chattanooga FC) reached the third round in 2014.
US Club Soccer (one place, entering in the Play-In Round):
US Club Soccer is an organization member of U.S. Soccer participating in its fifth Open Cup tournament in the last six years. San Francisco City FC won the US Club Soccer qualifying place on Jan. 31 and is making its first trip to the tournament.
U.S. Specialty Sports Association (one place, entering in the Play-In Round):
The USSSA is an organization member of U.S. Soccer participating in its third consecutive Open Cup tournament. Its qualifier will be decided on March 15 from among seven teams: Colorado (3): Colorado Rovers, FC Denver, Harpos; Florida (2): KC Kaiser Internationale, Mellow Mushroom; Texas (2): Austin Thunder, Wickham FC.