Madison’s newest sports team will compete in the nation’s oldest tournament.
US Soccer on Thursday announced the format of the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Thursday, revealing that Forward Madison FC would be one of six USL League One clubs to automatically qualify for the first round, which will take place May 7 and 8. Their opening opponent will be announced on April 10. In a post on its website, the team said the opening round pairings tend to be geographically based, so the match should be within easy traveling distance of Madison.
Thirty-two other teams, semi-pro and amateur teams who won qualifying matches, will also enter in the first round. The tournament is a one-and-done affair — there’s no group stage, so the loser in each match is out. That also means there are no draws — if the match is tied after 90 minutes, the teams play another 30 — even if someone scores, they play the full 30 — then go to a shootout if necessary.
In the second round, the 19 first-round winners will join 25 USL Championship sides, and the 22 winners of those matches will face each other in round three. The 11 round three winners will then join the 21 clubs of Major League Soccer in round four, and it’s a straight march to the championship from there.
The US Open Cup, currently held by Houston Dynamo, was first played in 1914. It’s one of the only tournaments in the US with a chance for lower-division, “minor league” clubs to make a statement.
“I’m super excited about that,” said Forward Madison Managing Director Peter Wilt in an interview back in June. “That’s your chance for David versus Goliath. I love that tournament. Without promotion and relegation it’s the only chance for these lower division teams to prove themselves against the higher division.”
Wilt knows his way around this tournament — he won for Cups as general manager of the Chicago Fire.
And his David versus Goliath theory was proven just last year, when FC Cincinnati, then a USL team, made it all the way to the semifinals, proving the club ready to join MLS, which it will do this year.
The club from each division who makes it the farthest gets $25,000, and the champion takes home $300,000 and is automatically eligible for the CONCACAF Champions League the following season, playing against the top teams from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Forward Madison FC has announced 11 player signings so far, with a few more coming soon. It has also announced its league schedule, which gets underway in April.