Three Reasons You Need To Watch The US Open Cup

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Throughout history, domestic cups have played a huge role in soccer. In England, the FA Cup is regarded as a must-watch tournament. In Germany, the DFB Pokal offers rare parity in a country where Bayern Munich reigns supreme. Athletic Bilbao always seem to show up in the Spanish Copa del Rey.

However, America’s domestic cup, the US Open Cup, doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves. Part of this is because the playoff format of the domestic league, the MLS, is relatively similar to the Open Cup. The Concacaf Champions League (which no American team has ever won) is also similar in style and format.

But the US Open Cup is far more than just another playoff of MLS teams. Here are three reasons you need to watch the US Open Cup:

1. Diversity

Soccer is slowly becoming more popular in the United States, but that wasn’t always the case. Because of this, many originally successful teams were founded by or for immigrants, which leads to a lot of diversity in the competitors.

Indeed, past winners include New York Greek American AA, Brooklyn Italians, and Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals among others. However, it isn’t just international diversity: teams are spread throughout the country, from Los Angeles to New York.

The Open Cup also offers representation for cities lacking MLS teams: currently, 31 clubs outside of the first tier of American soccer still have a chance to win the tournament.

2. Underdogs

Everyone loves a good underdog, don’t they?

Whilst the tournament has almost always been won by an MLS team since it was formed, it doesn’t mean that upsets are out of the question. The 2019 edition, the last time the Open Cup was hosted (because of COVID) had two USL (essentially the second tier of US soccer) teams reach the Quarterfinals. Both teams, Saint Louis FC–now defunct–and New Mexico United, beat multiple MLS teams along the way.

Even the MLS teams that win can sometimes be considered underdogs. Houston Dynamo, for instance, didn’t qualify for the playoffs in 2018 and yet won the Open Cup. All’s possible when it comes to the Cup.

3. Star Power

This, of course, is where I talk about the quality on MLS teams. The hot prospects. The former stars. Players in their prime. But if that’s what you want to see, why not watch the MLS?

The Open Cup is a different kind of stage for teams to display their talents. This is when minor leagues can show off the players they have and possibly have players earn career moves. Take Jose Gallegos, for example: the San Antonio FC prospect was just 17 when he made his debut for the club in the US Open Cup. He now plays in the top tier of Denmark.

With clubs worldwide starting to take notice of lower-tier American teams—Bayern Munich have registered interest in numerous USL prospects—you could be watching the next Christian Pulisic when you watch Richmond Kickers vs. Carolina Dynamo.


With the US Open Cup returning for the first time since 2019, it’s bound to have magical moments. Can Atlanta United pick up where they left off three years ago? Will a non-MLS team surprise us all? Can Gonzalo Higuain actually score against a USL team? Let me know in the comments!

Note: The Third Round of the Open Cup starts April 19th and can be watched on ESPN+.

Image Courtesy of Hayden Schiff from Cincinnati, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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