Changes are coming to the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and no one is happier than FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman.
The conflict-ridden blind-bidding system is gone for most rounds, all U.S.-based MLS teams will play and the field is expanded to 64 teams.
“It’s great news this will be happening,” Hyndman said, who liked the changes announced by U.S. Soccer last week for the 99th edition of the tournament.
The biggest news is the elimination of the blind-bidding system until the quarterfinal round.
Instead a random draw will be used for clubs that apply to host and meet the requirements as a host venue.
Critics charged that teams were able to buy home games too easily and ensure an easier path to an Open Cup title.
“The rich got richer,” Hyndman said of the previous system. “It becomes more of a fairer event now.”
Also gone for 2012 is the MLS qualifying system for clubs.
The top six MLS teams from the previous season used to get an automatic berth, with the remaining MLS teams playing a series of qualifying matches for the last two spots.
Now, all 16 MLS teams based in the United States will play in the third round. Match-ups for who the MLS teams play will be geographically based.
The soonest two MLS teams could play each other would be the fourth round.
“The fact we’ll be starting in the third round is good,” Hyndman said.
The first four rounds occur weekly from May 15 to June 5. The quarterfinals are June 26, semifinals July 10, and the final is either Aug. 7 or 8.
Seattle Sounders have won the last three U.S. Open Cup titles. Seattle knocked out FC Dallas in last year’s semifinals.
FC Dallas’ connection to the tournament with Lamar Hunt isn’t lost on Hyndman either. The coach thinks the changes properly honor Hunt’s soccer legacy.
“This gives greater prestige to the event,” Hyndman said.
THE PARTICIPANTS - 2012
Professional Teams (32 total)
Major League Soccer (Division I – 16 teams)
North American Soccer League (Division II – 6 teams)
USL PRO (Division III – 10 teams)
Amateur-Level Team Spots (32 total)
U.S. Adult Soccer Association Regional Qualifiers – 9 places
United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League – 16 places
National Premier Soccer League – 6.5 places
US Club Soccer – 0.5 place
Note: One team from the National Premier Soccer League will face a US Club Soccer representative for the final place in the tournament.