US Open Cup Thoughts

US Open Cup Thoughts

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On July 10, 2009
  • 12 Comments
  • 2009 US Open Cup, Geoff Reid

Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan each week. Today he talks about the US Open Cup and how important it should be. Feel free to leave Geoff your comments below.

Growing up the other side of the pond, the FA Cup was a way of life where at some point we all could have taken part in the tournament at some stage. I had mates who competed in the very early parts at the local level. But more then anything else, every kid playing the game dreamed about playing in the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium and walking up those steps to lift the famous trophy. In the last few years some will argue that the old competition has lost some of itís romance with the bigger Premiership clubs not taking it seriously like they used to. Of course the Champions League and UEFA Cup (now Europa League) where clubs take part means more games plus international friendlies more then ever before, all of this still doesnít disguise the fact that my old local side Chard Town could have the chance to play the billionaires from Manchester City. You canít write scripts for this sort of thing, itís what makes the tournament so fascinating.

Back over this side of the water, our version is the US Open Cup and this is a topic that has been bugging me for a while. This seasonís tournament has both shown us the very best it can offer and the very worst at the same time.

If we start with the best, my local side the Ocean City Barons of the Northeast Division in the USL Player Development League went on a magical run to the last 16 where they eventually fell to DC United after previously beating Real Maryland amongst other clubs in higher divisions. Then another club not too far from myself, the Harrisburg City Islanders of USL-2 going as far as the quarter finals before, once again, DC United finishing off their fairy tale story. They knocked out the New England Revolution in the previous round.

All the way across the other side of the country, we got a preview of what MLS in 2011 will look like when the Portland Timbers hosted the Seattle Sounders. It might not have been the most attractive football played, but the atmosphere from what I could gather watching was electric. Everything from the sight of Timber Jim with his chainsaw taking down the Seattle Space Needle in the fantastic simulation at PGE Park was amazing. Not only was it a real cup atmosphere, but a derby in that sense and what is possibly the most intense rivalry in North American football (I know folks will argue Chivas USA vs LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes vs the Galaxy, RSL vs Colorado Rapids and DC United vs Chicago Fire) and you can add the Vancouver Whitecaps into Drew Careyís ďtriangle of death.Ē

The problems with all these stories? No publicity, not even from US Soccer.

You can understand why MLS wouldnít go out of their way to promote these matches and these teams because itís got nothing to do with them. However, US Soccer has no excuses. These are the story lines the tournament should be promoted around. Ocean City was the last PDL team in this seasons tournament, and it got good local press with coverage being excellent. Having worked in the PDL before for a club that took the tournament very seriously, I know what it means to players on those teams to go head to head against the so-called elite. Then thereís the talk of MLS teams not taking it seriously enough and you canít really argue that fact when so many teams got knocked out at the same time when putting out second string sides and underestimating the opponent. You would think that the incentive is there with the winner getting the chance to compete in the CCL the following season.

We all know that these cup competitions in other nations are no big deal to clubs and itís usually a good chance for clubs to field reserves, certainly thatís how the Copa Italia and Copa Del Rey are viewed in Italy and Spain respectively. Now the FA Cup is in trouble possibly going down this path. The one argument that can be said in defense of MLS compared to Europe is that MLS has only been around for 14 years and you simply canít complete with all the history, tradition and culture of over 100 years. In regards to the Open Cup, this is not a problem, because the Open Cup has been around since 1914. This tournament has history, tradition and culture to a lot of small, amateur clubs. All this tournament deserves is respect and itís not getting any from the top brass at US Soccer. Thatís all I ask. Why have MLS clubs play these games at smaller venues? Why not have the final on a neutral venue each season in as close proximity to the clubs involved as possible? The tournament deserves better.

  • Peter C

    Well said, Geoff.

  • Peter C

    Well said, Geoff.

  • DClee

    Great article! I was a season ticket holder for 4 years prior to working for D.C. United and really never knew about the open cup or its story due to lack of promotion. Now I see what a really cool tournament this is since I work for a team and realize the history and tradition of this great Cup. I wish somehow it could get more promotion and attention along with the CCL that you could lump into this same catagory. The attendance at the cup and CCL games is sad when you consider what types of opportunities they provides fans teams. If you win US Open cup you get an automatic bid to CCL(like you said) and if you win CCL you get the opportunity to play teams like Man U, Barcelona in a meaningful competition!<br />
    <br />
    And you can't really blame MLS teams for playing reserves because of how tough and long their season already is. Last year DCU played in CCL, US Open cup, Superliga and MLS. there was a stretch of 6-8 weeks during the summer where there was a game every 3 days and MLS teams are simply not deep enough for this amount of competition. I am excited for this season tournaments though since DCU has a deep and talented roster! It would be amazing if one day this tournament and the CCL got the respect from the public it deserves.

  • Alex

    Some basic reforms would be helpful: <br />
    <br />
    1) Have every MLS team compete in the Cup and enter in the same round. This reduces MLS fixture congestion – no need for the series of needless play-in games for the lower half MLS teams. Also, it makes no sense to have MLS teams knocking each other out in order to &quot;qualify&quot; for the USOC, only to then play a PDL or USL-2 team in the first proper Cup round. <br />
    <br />
    2) Space the games out – no more back-to-back match weeks in the Cup. Too difficult for away fans to plan a trip to the match. Seattle-Portland only worked because the teams are so close and longtime rivals. <br />
    <br />
    3) If possible, US Soccer should try to leverage the TV rights to NT matches to get some ESPN2/ESPN Classic exposure for Cup games. <br />
    <br />
    4) Increase the pathetic prize money. Find a legitimate title sponsor: e.g. The Lamar Hunt USOC presented by ______

  • DClee

    Great article! I was a season ticket holder for 4 years prior to working for D.C. United and really never knew about the open cup or its story due to lack of promotion. Now I see what a really cool tournament this is since I work for a team and realize the history and tradition of this great Cup. I wish somehow it could get more promotion and attention along with the CCL that you could lump into this same catagory. The attendance at the cup and CCL games is sad when you consider what types of opportunities they provides fans teams. If you win US Open cup you get an automatic bid to CCL(like you said) and if you win CCL you get the opportunity to play teams like Man U, Barcelona in a meaningful competition!

    And you can’t really blame MLS teams for playing reserves because of how tough and long their season already is. Last year DCU played in CCL, US Open cup, Superliga and MLS. there was a stretch of 6-8 weeks during the summer where there was a game every 3 days and MLS teams are simply not deep enough for this amount of competition. I am excited for this season tournaments though since DCU has a deep and talented roster! It would be amazing if one day this tournament and the CCL got the respect from the public it deserves.

  • Alex

    Some basic reforms would be helpful:

    1) Have every MLS team compete in the Cup and enter in the same round. This reduces MLS fixture congestion – no need for the series of needless play-in games for the lower half MLS teams. Also, it makes no sense to have MLS teams knocking each other out in order to “qualify” for the USOC, only to then play a PDL or USL-2 team in the first proper Cup round.

    2) Space the games out – no more back-to-back match weeks in the Cup. Too difficult for away fans to plan a trip to the match. Seattle-Portland only worked because the teams are so close and longtime rivals.

    3) If possible, US Soccer should try to leverage the TV rights to NT matches to get some ESPN2/ESPN Classic exposure for Cup games.

    4) Increase the pathetic prize money. Find a legitimate title sponsor: e.g. The Lamar Hunt USOC presented by ______

  • Geoff

    Excellent points Alex, I had thought of a few like you suggested. <br />
    DClee, I most definitely envy you working for DC United. I'm trying to get a job in a MLS club front office at the moment. I actually applied to DC United a few months ago but they shot me down. Same with the Revolution. I've had a few interviews with the Red Bulls and for whatever reason, lacking experience probably, they didn't want me. I live about 15 minutes from the site of Chester Stadium where the Union will be playing next season, so I'm hoping I can at least interview with them.

  • Geoff

    Excellent points Alex, I had thought of a few like you suggested.
    DClee, I most definitely envy you working for DC United. I’m trying to get a job in a MLS club front office at the moment. I actually applied to DC United a few months ago but they shot me down. Same with the Revolution. I’ve had a few interviews with the Red Bulls and for whatever reason, lacking experience probably, they didn’t want me. I live about 15 minutes from the site of Chester Stadium where the Union will be playing next season, so I’m hoping I can at least interview with them.

  • DClee

    Great points alex and good luck to your search Geoff. Keep plugging away and you will eventually get there. It took me 11 years to get in the door.

  • DClee

    Great points alex and good luck to your search Geoff. Keep plugging away and you will eventually get there. It took me 11 years to get in the door.

  • Rex

    Good points, I like the structure now for the most part. I like when USL teams host the MLS teams in first round (actually 3rd round). It gives the MLS teams more exposure in additional markets and gives the USL team a very meaningful home match. The problem is that the Cup always comes at the worst time. There is just way too much going on for MLS. How about having the tournament in the winter? The MLS could use it as a warmup? Similar to Mexicos Interliga. Less teams would be trying to lose.<br />
    <br />
    There seems to be a pretty good amount of hype around this years semis though. The Houston Dynamo seem to be taking it serious for the first time and Seattle is as always.

  • Rex

    Good points, I like the structure now for the most part. I like when USL teams host the MLS teams in first round (actually 3rd round). It gives the MLS teams more exposure in additional markets and gives the USL team a very meaningful home match. The problem is that the Cup always comes at the worst time. There is just way too much going on for MLS. How about having the tournament in the winter? The MLS could use it as a warmup? Similar to Mexicos Interliga. Less teams would be trying to lose.

    There seems to be a pretty good amount of hype around this years semis though. The Houston Dynamo seem to be taking it serious for the first time and Seattle is as always.