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US Soccer: MLS NEXT Pro teams ineligible for 2024 US Open Cup

The federation refused to grant MLS the necessary waiver after the league made the surprise announcement to leave the tournament.

Columbus Crew 2 won the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Cup | Courtesy Columbus Crew

No MLS NEXT Pro teams owned by MLS clubs will take part in the 2024 US Open Cup.

In an announcement made moments ago, Major League Soccer stated that they were unable to get the necessary waiver from US Soccer, the federation that governs the sport in the United States, that would allow MLS NEXT Pro teams owned by MLS clubs to participate in the tournament.

The full statement from MLS is at the end of this post.

This announcement follows on the news released last Friday evening that the First Teams of MLS clubs will not participate in the 2024 US Open Cup. The decision made by MLS commissioner Don Garber to leave the tournament has since been widely criticized.

Last Friday, Garber announced that MLS instead would field teams from MLS NEXT Pro, the third-division reserve league. But he seemingly didn’t get the required approval from US Soccer. With this ruling, teams such as NYCFC II will not be eligible to compete in the 109th edition of the Open Cup. Instead, only MLS NEXT Pro teams that are not owned by MLS sides will be allowed to compete. That leaves only Chattanooga FC and Carolina Core.

In a call with members of the media, MLS chief of staff Nelson Rodriguez said the decision was not due to a “fear of losing” to lower division teams. Rodriguez said the league expected the negative reaction that was seen by a large portion of fans and media. 

Rodriguez said there were multiple discussions for possible solutions for the 2024 tournament. One of which was a format where both MLS and Next Pro teams both compete, though it is important to note this was never talked about with USSF. But Rodriguez noted these discussions have been on-going.


Major League Soccer recently proposed to U.S. Soccer a plan for MLS NEXT Pro teams to represent the League in the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.  MLS took that step because it believes that there are several essential goals and concerns that must be addressed in connection with the tournament, including developing young professional players and providing them with greater opportunity to play before fans in meaningful competition in a tournament setting, prioritizing player health and safety, reducing schedule congestion for MLS clubs, and enhanced investment from U.S. Soccer.

U.S. Soccer has subsequently notified MLS that the Federation is not prepared to grant the necessary waiver for MLS NEXT Pro clubs owned by MLS owners to participate in the Open Cup. Independently owned MLS NEXT Pro clubs such as Chattanooga FC and Carolina Core remain eligible for the 2024 Open Cup.

MLS is committed to finding a viable solution for the 2024 tournament and is working to find a pathway that addresses its goals and concerns. Moving forward, MLS will remain focused on increasing opportunities for up-and-coming players, a key component of the League’s player development strategy that ultimately benefits the U.S. national team program.