The U.S. Open Cup will have more exposure than ever starting in 2019, with ESPN+ and U.S. Soccer agreeing to terms on a deal that will feature every match of the tournament on the streaming platform.
The deal, which runs through 2022–the same year U.S. Soccer and MLS's current TV rights deal expires–will begin the first week of May, with the first round that features 38 amateur and third-division professional teams. MLS teams enter the competition in the fourth round, beginning June 12. In recent years, U.S. Open Cup visibility has been limited largely to spotty team- and U.S. Soccer-run streams, with ESPN providing coverage of the final.
“We are extremely pleased by the commitment from ESPN+ to broadcast every game of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the next several years,” U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn said in a statement. “This landmark agreement demonstrates U.S. Soccer’s commitment to making soccer the preeminent sportin the United States and is the result of growing audience demand for soccer in the U.S. It will provide a national platform for more fans to follow the game in their communities throughout the country.”
This year marks the 106th edition of the U.S. Open Cup, which was most recently won by the Houston Dynamo last season. The winner gets $300,000 in prize money and automatically qualifies for the Concacaf Champions League. MLS teams have won the competition the last 19 years, with the Rochester Rhinos the last non-MLS team to win it, doing so in 1999.