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Compromise solution means Sounders will play in 2024 U.S. Open Cup

Sounders will get a chance to become first MLS team to win five U.S. Open Cup titles.

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2 min read

After much back and forth, MLS and U.S. Soccer have finally come to a formal agreement that paves the way for the U.S. Open Cup to move forward in 2024. The compromise solution will see eight MLS teams enter the tournament along with 11 MLS Next Pro sides. Among those MLS entrants will be the Seattle Sounders. Ballard FC will also participate, having qualified by winning USL League 2 last year.

The Sounders will be attempting to become the first MLS team to win five U.S. Open Cup titles, which would tie them for the most in the 109-year history of the tournament.

MLS had originally tried to send all MLS Next Pro teams in place of their first-team squads, but that request was rejected by U.S. Soccer. At the time, it seemed as if the situation was settled and that the tournament would proceed as normal. But behind the scenes, MLS and U.S. Soccer continued to negotiate with rumors persisting that the league was still looking for ways to limit its involvement.

On Friday, they announced the compromise solution: the seven teams ranked highest in the Supporters' Shield standings that weren't already playing in the Concacaf Champions Cup would enter the Open Cup, along with defending tournament champion Houston Dynamo. All eight of those teams will enter the tournament in the Round of 32. Joining the Sounders and Dynamo are Atlanta United, FC Dallas, LAFC, Real Salt Lake, the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City.

In an added twist, there will also be nine MLS-affiliated MLS Next Pro teams heading to the U.S. Open Cup and entering in the first round along with the 32 qualifying amateur teams. Those will be the nine remaining teams whose first-teams weren't already playing in the Open Cup or Concacaf Champions Cup, along with the two independent MLS Next Pro teams: Austin FC II, Carolina Core (independent), Chattanooga FC (independent), Chicago Fire II, Colorado Rapids 2, Crown Legacy FC, Minnesota United FC2, LA Galaxy II, New York City FC II, New York Red Bulls II and Portland Timbers 2.

That leaves nine U.S.-based MLS teams without any involvement at all: New England Revolution, Columbus Crew, Orlando City, Philadelphia Union, Nashville SC, FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami and St. Louis City, who all have teams in the Concacaf Champions Cup; and D.C. United, who does not have a MLS Next Pro affiliate.

The USL Championship teams will enter over two stages. The first batch of teams will enter in the Second Round, with the top 8 teams entering in the Round of 32 alongside MLS.

Along with altering the way teams were entered into the tournament, U.S. Soccer announced several other changes. Among them were an increased investment in the prize pool, revenue share and travel expenses. The new format will also guarantee that all 32 amateur teams face professional opponents in the first round and that MLS teams will face lower-division opponents until it can not be avoided.

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