Lanford Beard
February 16, 2012 AT 05:10 PM EST

Fox announced today that auditions for season 2 of The X Factor will begin online March 1, with open-call auditions kicking off in Kansas City on March 14. The network also established a looser set of rules for the show’s sophomore edition, which will once again feature contestants competing for a $5 million recording contract. While the no-upper-age-limit policy stands, the bottom end of the age limit has been lowered to 12 years old after the success of big-voiced season 1 fan favorite Rachel Crow, 13. Also, artists with pre-existing management contracts (which is not to say a recording deal) are now eligible to compete.

“We wanted to change a few things this year, so starting with the auditions, we’ve torn up the rulebook again,” said X Factor creator and mentor Simon Cowell. “You can enter as many times as you want and come to any of the cities, too. We’re here to discover stars from all music styles including groups. I really believe a group can win this show!” Last season, Paula Abdul (who was recently dismissed as a judge) mentored the groups, only to see all her competitors gone by week 5.

After the Kansas City tryouts, Cowell and his X Factor crew will invade Austin (March 22), San Francisco (April 20), Greensboro, N.C. (May 1), and additional cities that will be announced later. The show will also set up MyStudio HD audition booths in New Jersey, Phoenix, Nashville, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New England’s Foxwoods Resort Casino, and Las Vegas between March 1 and 14.

Cowell and L.A. Reid will return as judge/mentors for season 2. Seats formerly occupied by Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger still have to be filled, and ex-host Steve Jones’ replacement remains undetermined.

Read more:

Simon Cowell: I considered Whitney Houston for ‘The X Factor’

Simon Cowell on ‘Factor’ judges rumors: Beyonce, Mariah, Madonna?

Fox explains ‘X Factor’ shake-up, defends ‘Idol’ ratings — EXCLUSIVE

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