Messi and Inter Miami to skip US Open Cup, which has just 8 Major League Soccer teams enter

CHICAGO (AP) — Lionel Messi and Inter Miami won’t compete in this year’s U.S. Open Cup and just eight of Major League Soccer’s 26 American teams will enter the competition.

Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles FC, Salt Lake, San Jose and Seattle will enter the 96-team competition, the U.S. Soccer Federation said Friday.

Houston is the defending tournament champion and the others were among the top seven teams from last year’s regular-season Supporters’ Shield standings who are not in this year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup.

MLS teams will enter in the fourth round and face only lower tier squads until a head-to-head MLS matchup is unavoidable. Last year, 18 MLS teams entered in the third round and eight in the fourth.

Houston beat Miami 2-1 in last year’s final. Messi missed the game because of an injury.

Since the start of MLS in 1996, the only team not from the first tier to win the competition was the 1999 Rochester Raging Rhinos of the USL’s second-tier A-League, which beat the Colorado Rapids 2-0 in the final.

MLS announced Dec. 15 it was pulling all its teams from the nation’s oldest soccer competition, which started in 1914, and was replacing them with third-tier developmental sides from MLS Next Pro.

The USSF said five days later it was treating MLS’s decision as a request that it was turning down.

In its announcement, the USSF said it improved financial incentives, increased travel reimbursement and added new commercial partners.

MLS said it will enter 11 teams from its third tier: Austin, Carolina, Chattanooga, Chicago. Colorado, Crown Legacy, Minnesota, LA Galaxy, New York City, New York Red Bulls and Portland.

The second tier United Soccer League Championship is entering all 24 teams.

First-round matches will be scheduled for March 19-21, followed by the second round on April 2 and 3, the third round on April 16 and 17, the fourth round on May 7 and 8 and the fifth round on May 21 and 22. Quarterfinals will be July 9 and 10, semifinals on Aug. 27 and 28 and the championship on Sept. 25.


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