U.S. Open Cup offers a great concept, but hasn't come close to realizing its potential. U.S. Soccer is trying to take some steps in the right direction, and today announced a new format for the 2012 tournament.
Key changes include an expanded field, including all 16 United States-based clubs from Major League Soccer. The MLS teams will begin plan in the third round, which begins in late May.
However, perhaps the biggest change is the switch to a random selection process for determining home teams from the first round through the quarterfinals, which gives each participating team with a venue meeting tournament standards an equal chance at hosting its possible opponent for these rounds.
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Sounders FC, of course, is the three-time defending champion and will be looking for a tournament-record fourth straight Open Cup title this season.
Here are the dates for the various rounds of the tournament:2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Schedule: April 29: Qualifying deadline May 15: First Round May 22: Second Round May 29: Third Round June 5: Fourth Round June 26: Quarterfinals July 10: Semifinals Aug. 7 or 8: Final