The 2015 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is the Seattle Sounders' cup to lose, and they'll be trying to claim it from a record number of teams this year. Also, tournament officials continue to tweak the process of seeding and scheduling the competition as well as increased the winner's prize to $250,000. The biggest change is the introduction of a fixed bracket for the final round of 16, using one random draw in June to set the match-ups of potential winners all the way through the final.
Earlier rounds will continue to be determined by geography and qualifying pool, while avoiding matches between ownership-affiliated clubs. In the fourth round, MLS teams will still be matched up with lower-league opponents (with the exception of one MLS v MLS match).
The fifth round draw, however, has new significance. The random draw will determine potential matchups through to the final with a fixed bracket, as opposed to the re-seeding that has happened in previous years. The 16 remaining teams will be drawn into geographically-based sets of four, regardless of league.
The only snag is if two teams that share ownership end up matched in the semifinals, in which case those matches will be redrawn. Barring that, the 16-team bracket will be known in full on June 18th.
The field of teams entering the tournament reaches 91 in 2015, up from 80 in 2014. This is the fourth consecutive year of expansion and will be the biggest competition in the MLS era. This means more amazing opportunities for exciting "Cinderella stories" like this one. Also upsetting Cinderella stories like this bitter memory.
More importantly, the new seeding format opens the door for the Sounders to know their destiny if they continue their 2014 LHUSOC form and go deep into the tournament as they pursue their fifth national cup trophy.
See the full schedule and format, including the changes, at US Soccer.