The US Open Cup will look different in 202, but that has not stopped Orange County SC from releasing a special shirt for the tournament. There will not be the full array of MLS teams competing in 2024, much to the frustration of many soccer fans in the United States. Yet, the tournament will still have ample drama. Teams in the United Soccer League and other leagues throughout the United States are sending their first-team squads to one of the oldest cup competitions in the world.

Orange County unveiled the kit that it will wear in the US Open Cup this season. The USL Championship side has only reached the round of 16 once in the new era of its history. However, the kit pays homage to the first edition of the US Open Cup in 1914. Back then, it was called the National Challenge Cup, and 40 teams competed. Brooklyn Field Club defeated Brooklyn Celtic. Most teams came from New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Orange County has said it is giving tribute to the winners of that competition. Moreover, it shows the importance of cup competitions and the growth of soccer in the United States. Many critics from the United Soccer League and smaller divisions have said MLS is not allowing soccer to grow organically. The US Open Cup is open to any registered team in the US Soccer umbrella. Even if MLS clubs have been dominant in terms of winning the competition, it provided some great drama in recent years with giant killers and ‘cupsets.’

The Magic of the US Open Cup on Orange County SC shirt

Even if Orange County itself has not been the beneficiary of these cupsets in recent seasons, they have happened. Last season, for example, two USL Championship teams reached the quarterfinals. Birmingham Legion and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds each defeated MLS teams in their runs to the last eight. That included taking down the eventual MLS Cup Champion Columbus Crew.

Seeing a USL Championship side directly mention the importance of cup competitions and the growth of soccer adds energy to the debate about whether what MLS is doing is right. There is no guarantee that MLS clubs will be able to send their second teams, or MLS NEXT Pro teams, to the competition. US Soccer blocked those teams from competing in place of MLS clubs.

When looking abroad, English clubs have used younger squads for fixtures in the FA Cup or League Cup. Still, as the competition advances, they used their ‘bigger names’ to lock in the potential of a trophy. Even Inter Miami, with Lionel Messi in the fold, played star players as it reached the US Open Cup Final last year. Messi did not play due to injury, but that contributed to MLS’s decision to prevent teams from playing. It wants to avoid injuries to its players in a competition that is not MLS-specific.

US Open Cup starts with some MLS teams

The US Open Cup starts in less than one month as the first round features 32 teams. US Soccer and MLS are in discussions for the future of the US Open Cup and Major League Soccer teams. Once the third round starts, the first MLS teams will join the competition. Time will tell what the competition will look like when the top teams join the fray.