Rookie Kofie Sarkodie put forth a good performance in Houston's USOC loss vs. Sporting KC.
Courtesy of Houston Dynamo

USSF, CONCACAF announce competition format changes

In the past month, the United States Soccer Federation and CONCACAF announced changes to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League competition formats. The Houston Dynamo will take part in both tournaments this year, with USOC set to kick off May 15 and CCL set to begin late July.

In previous years, the top six MLS squads from the previous season were given an automatic berth into the main draw of the U.S. Open Cup. The remaining U.S. squads played a series of qualifying matches for the final two berths given to MLS. This year, the tournament field will be expanded to 64 teams and all 16 U.S. MLS clubs will be given an automatic berth into the third round of the tournament which will begin on May 29.

2011 was the first season that Houston played in the qualifying draw of the Open Cup. The Dynamo hosted Sporting Kansas City, in College Station, and lost 1-0 on a C.J. Sapong overtime goal. Houston's best Open Cup results came in 2006 and 2009 when the Dynamo lost to the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, respectively, in the semifinal round.

The other change to the USOC format came with regard to host sites. Previously, the host sites were determined by a secret bidding process with the highest bidder earning the right to host each match. Beginning with this year's campaign, for all matches before the semifinals and final, teams will be asked to submit a bid rumored to be between $12,000-$15,000 and if both teams do so and satisfy USSF stadium requirement, the home team will be determined by a blind draw. In the semifinals and final, the bid process will be used where each team submits a sealed financial bid to the USSF and the team that bids the most money gets to host the match.

CONCACAF Champions League is another annual tournament that saw changes to its competition format. In previous editions, the MLS Cup winner and Supperters' Shield winner were granted automatic berths into the group stage, whereas the the MLS Cup runner-up and U.S. Open Cup winner competed in the qualifying stage. As 2011 MLS Cup runner-up, the Dynamo were slated to play in the qualifying round of the 2012-13 CCL tournament.

Under new rules, the qualifying round has been eliminated and all four MLS clubs will enter a 24-team field that will compete in the group stage. The teams will be divided into eight groups with each team playing the other two teams in their group, home and away. The winner of each group will advance to the quarterfinal round. The drawing to determine each group will take place in May, with the first set of matches to begin late July.

The Dynamo have competed in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup twice (2007 and 2008) and the CONCACAF Champions League twice (2008-09 and 2009-10). Houston fell in the semifinals in 2007 to Mexican club Pachuca and in 2008 to Costa Rican club Saprissa.