Messi and Inter Miami to skip US Open Cup

Messi and Inter Miami to skip US Open Cup

Alkass Digital

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 on 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.

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.

MLS announced December 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 August 27 and 28 and the championship on September 25.