Source: 2024 U.S. Open Cup gets go-ahead under proposed new format

Is Lionel Messi being used as a bargaining chip in U.S. Open Cup dispute? (1:53)

Herc Gomez discusses how MLS are using players such as Lionel Messi as bargaining chips for their team's participation in the U.S. Open Cup. (1:53)

Preliminary plans for the 2024 edition of the U.S. Open Cup have been approved by a subcommittee of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors, though the tournament likely won't look like recent editions, a source close to the USSF told ESPN.

The source indicated that complete details are still being ironed out, but the decision to have a tournament in 2024 has been made and what will likely gain final approval is a hybrid type of tournament with not every MLS team participating. The precise level of team participation from MLS and USL clubs is still to be determined.

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The source added that the plan calls for the federation to make its largest financial investment ever to ease the cost of travel and assist with promotion, especially for lower-division teams.

The source also indicated this format would be for 2024 only, and there are ongoing discussions with all stakeholders about working collaboratively to find a permanent long-term format for the tournament.

The future of the tournament, the first edition of which was completed in 1914, has been in doubt ever since MLS announced in December that its first teams wouldn't participate in the competition, and that teams from MLS Next Pro would take their place.

In an interview with ESPN late last week, MLS commissioner Don Garber said about the Open Cup, "Everybody in the soccer business [needs] to rethink how competitions have been organized to ensure that we can continue to evolve and manage what is the single biggest issue for all professional soccer, and that's the management of our schedule."

While the MLS schedule has become more crowded in recent years, some of that is the league's own doing with its creation of the Leagues Cup in collaboration with Liga MX.

MLS' announcement of nonparticipation appeared to be at odds with the USSF's Professional League Standards, designed to set minimum standards for items like minimum finances of owners, stadium capacity and market size.

The league standards state that teams from a topflight outdoor league "must participate in all representative U.S. Soccer and CONCACAF competitions for which they are eligible."

The USL declined to comment on the most recent news, but back on Dec. 20, it responded by stating via X, formerly known as Twitter, that "United Soccer League clubs have competed in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for nearly 30 years, including 46 USL clubs in the 2023 edition. We believe the Open Cup is a historic and integral part of America's soccer culture.

"We stand with fans across the country who want to see it remain an authentic and inclusive competition. Regarding the future of the Open Cup, we will continue working with our owners and U.S. Soccer on what the tournament will look like going forward."

Five days after MLS' statement, the USSF announced, "Major League Soccer has requested to allow MLS Next Pro teams to represent MLS in the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. After thoughtful consideration, we have informed MLS that the U.S. Soccer staff recommendation, which was adopted by the Pro League Taskforce, is that the request be denied."

When asked if he thought MLS was above playing in the Open Cup, Garber said, "What has happened over time is the tournament has not resonated enough with fans and commercial partners and sponsors, and certainly media partners in a way to justify the level of participation that had been required of us in the past. And over time, MLS has come into the tournament at different levels. We've had different numbers of teams, all ways that the league and the federation and the U.S. Open Committee have worked to try to ensure that the tournament is working for everybody."

Whatever is decided, it will be the decision of the subcommittee and approval from the federation's board of directors is not required. The subcommittee, which formed last December and is comprised of seven board members, was created with the belief that the Open Cup needed a reset in 2024 while also having discussions with stakeholders about the tournament's format. This is despite the USSF already having a U.S. Open Cup committee.

That approach proved to be too much for the Open Cup committee chairman and former USSF board member, Arthur Mattson, who told ESPN that he had resigned his position as committee chair over the weekend after being told multiple times by his superiors in the federation to "stand down" in terms of trying to find a solution. He also stated that the future of the Open Cup was in "grave danger."

For the moment, that danger appears to have been averted.