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Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup FAQ

On Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco, two teams with varying amounts of history, and from different leagues, will meet in their first match-up ever. While this would otherwise be unremarkable, the game featuring El Farolito and the Burlingame Dragons comes in the First Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, one of the longest running soccer tournaments in the world.

What is the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup?

In its 104th annual edition, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is the second-oldest continuously running cup competition in the world after the Irish Cup. Each year, all the professional teams in the United States and select qualifying amateur teams from each of the various amateur leagues in the world take part in a knockout competition in which the last man standing wins. Think of it as the United States’ FA Cup, only with much more travelling, and many more teams that you haven’t heard of.

Why does it matter?

Short and sweet: in theory, you and I could make a team of 11 and win the tournament, and garner the CONCACAF Champions League spot that comes with it. As MLS sides have won all but one of the editions since the league kicked off in 1996, that’s highly unlikely, but squads like Cal FC have gained attention with late runs in the tournament and players have been signed to professional contracts based on their performances in the tournament.

What local teams are involved in the tournament?

Overall, seven Northern Californian teams are involved in the tournament, with the aforementioned El Farolito and the Burlingame Dragons meeting in the first round in a NorCal derby. Also in the competition are the Sonoma County Sol, the Fresno Fuego, the San Francisco Deltas, Sacramento Republic FC, and the San Jose Earthquakes. Of the three latter — the professional teams — the Deltas and Republic won’t enter the tournament until its second round, while the Earthquakes won’t enter all the way until the fourth round.

Who has won it in the past?

Surprisingly, of all the teams who have won it in Northern California, the only squad involved in the current tournament to have lifted the trophy before are El Farolito, who won the Cup in 1993, when it was completely an amateur tournament. However, several other Northern Californian sides have won the tournament, especially in the last years of said amateur era. In addition to El Farolito, Greek-American A.C., San Francisco I.A.C., and the San Jose Oaks have all captured championships.

How can local teams participate?

LIGA NorCal will be hosting a Regional League this fall for teams to compete in a 10 game season. All teams who participate and interested will be awarded the opportunity to compete in next season’s Open Cup. LIGA Regional’s Adult League is designed for competitive adult teams interested in competing in a competitive, organized, and reliable structure but not interested in traveling far from home. Winners of the LIGA Regional Adult League are also awarded the opportunity to promote to the top state level, LIGA Premier. More info can be found at liganorcal.com.