How the U.S. Open Cup ‘5 Foreign Player’ Rule Impacts Orlando City

Orlando City enters the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tonight in Charleston, South Carolina. They are expected to feature a team with many players who are scarce on minutes so far this season. In making wholesale changes to the team Coach Adrian Heath is still expecting to be competitive, but it will definitely be a different team than Orlando City fans are used to seeing this season. Expect there to be as many as 7 changes to the Starting XI from Sunday night’s match against DC United.

Some of the changes that we might see, may be forced on the Lions in a way — because, what you may not know, is that the Open Cup has a rule in place that limits the number of ‘foreign players’ that may be included in a club’s 18-man roster.

The US Soccer Federation limits the number of foreign players a professional club may include in their 18-man roster to just 5. The player eligibility rules are as follows:

[caption id=”attachment_3161" align=”aligncenter” width=”751"]

U.S. Open Cup Player Eligibility Rules[/caption]

At first glance this may seem troubling for Orlando City — they are chock full of non-Americans (or more accurately ‘foreign’ players). Yet by looking at the rule and Orlando City’s roster closer, it’s not quite as big an issue for the Lions as it may seem.

Before moving on let’s clarify what ‘protected individuals’ are in regards to the Eligibility Rules. These players will not count as one of the club’s 5 ‘foreign players’. Protected individuals under the United States immigration-related employment statutes [8 U.S. Code § 1324b] are individuals that meet one of the following criteria.

(A) is a citizen or national of the United States, or
(B) is an alien who is lawfully admitted for permanent residence, is granted the status of an alien lawfully admitted for temporary residence under section 1160 (a) or 1255a (a)(1) of this title, is admitted as a refugee under section 1157 of this title, or is granted asylum under section 1158 of this title; but does not include
(i) an alien who fails to apply for naturalization within six months of the date the alien first becomes eligible (by virtue of period of lawful permanent residence) to apply for naturalization or, if later, within six months after November 6, 1986, and
(ii) an alien who has applied on a timely basis, but has not been naturalized as a citizen within 2 years after the date of the application, unless the alien can establish that the alien is actively pursuing naturalization, except that time consumed in the Service’s processing the application shall not be counted toward the 2-year period.

This is good news for Orlando City as several of their players qualify under section B as individuals who are lawfully admitted for permanent residence (i.e. have a green card).

There will still be some tough decisions to be made, especially if Orlando City advances into the later rounds, but let’s go ahead and break down the current roster.


Domestic Players

(These players do not count as a ‘foreign player’ under USSF rules)

1 Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (Jamaica) — GREEN CARD
2 Defender Tyler Turner (United States)
3 Defender Seb Hines (England) — DUAL CITIZENSHIP
5 Midfielder Amobi Okugo (United States)
6 Midfielder Tony Cascio (United States)
8 Midfielder Harrison Heath (England) — GREEN CARD
12 Midfielder Eric Avila (United States)
14 Defender Luke Boden (England) — GREEN CARD
15 Midfielder Pedro Ribeiro (Brazil)
17 Midfielder Darwin Cerén (El Salvador) — GREEN CARD
18 Midfielder Kevin Molino (Trinidad and Tobago) — GREEN CARD
19 Forward Danny Mwanga (Democratic Republic of the Congo) — DUAL CITIZENSHIP
20 Defender Brek Shea (United States)
22 Goalkeeper Tally Hall (United States)
23 Defender Conor Donovan (United States)
24 Midfielder Lewis Neal (England) — GREEN CARD
29 Defender Tommy Redding (United States)
36 Goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. (United States)
78 Defender Aurélien Collin (France) — GREEN CARD


Foreign Players

(These players count against the 5 ‘foreign player’ rule)

4 Defender Sean St Ledger (Ireland)
7 Midfielder Cristian Higuita (Colombia)
9 Forward Martin Paterson (Northern Ireland)
10 Midfielder Kaká (Brazil)
11 Forward Carlos Rivas (Colombia)
21 Forward Cyle Larin (Canada)
27 Defender Rafael Ramos (Portugal)
35 Forward Bryan Róchez (Honduras)
55 Midfielder Estrela (Portugal)


It’s easy to see above that the majority of Orlando City’s roster qualifies as non-foreign players, it will be fairly easy for Coach Heath to navigate the Open Cup with his selections. Yet there are 10 foreign players available and only 5 possible for selection each match. There will be some tough decisions moving forward, but if Orlando City advances to the later stages, selections of Kaká, Higuita, Ribeiro, Larin and Ramos seem likely. But Sean St. Ledger and Carlos Rivas would be bubble selections as well if one of those players were left off.

You can watch Orlando City’s first U.S. Open Cup match tonight and check out our match notes and LINEUP on the front page.