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What will it take for the Chicago Fire to grab a spot in the U.S. Open Cup?

A different format in 2021 means only eight MLS clubs will earn a spot in the tournament

After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, the U.S. Open Cup is back in 2021. This season, only eight Major League Soccer clubs will earn a spot in the knockout tournament—a change from years past when all MLS sides would automatically join the competition.

So, how does an MLS team make it? The top eight teams through the first three match weeks will qualify. Do the Chicago Fire have a chance? Well, let’s see...

The Schedule

There are two factors working against the Fire here. First, while the team opens at Soldier Field, the next two weeks are on the road. On top of that, all three of these opponents should be pretty good.

How many points will the Fire need?

Luckily, the Fire’s new Football Analytics director did the math. Kevin Minkus sent these stats to Fire play-by-play announcer Tyler Terens, who shared them during a recent preseason match:

  • 7 points - >95% chance of qualification
  • 6 points - 75% chance
  • 5 points - 25% chance

So, two wins and a draw will almost surely be good enough. Two wins and a loss will probably work. One win and two draws gives the Fire an outside shot of qualification, and anything less than that probably means the Fire miss out. A win in the home opener seems vital.

Wicky wants a spot in the Cup

Fire head coach Raphael Wicky said while the qualification format isn’t ideal this season, he wants to earn a spot.

“Well, first, we always go into the games to win the games,” Wicky said. “So obviously we want to go into these three games as well and get as many points as possible and then it will be nice to be part of another competition. That’s the reason.

“Again, it’s usually a competition where everyone is in. This is a bit different this year. There’s teams who probably have more away games than home games. There’s teams that don’t have home games at all. All these things with only three games play a role but it is what it is, and we want to go into these three games making as many points as possible and then if we do that we will be qualified. But yeah, other than that, it will be nice to be in the Cup competition for sure.”

Will the Fire qualify?

If Chicago can manage to beat the Revs, there’s a chance. If it’s a draw or a loss in that first match, it’s doubtful. But with the team being back at Soldier Field, maybe there’s a bit of U.S. Open Cup magic at play, and the Fire will sneak in to a competition the club dominated many years ago.