Making Over the US Open Cup

Making Over the US Open Cup

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On October 5, 2010
  • 1 Comments
  • 2010 US Open Cup

Columbus travels to Seattle for the USOC Final tonight. (Getty Images)

Just go ahead and add this to the dozen or so other posts out there today about the US Open Cup. I’ll spare you the preview between the Seattle Sounders FC and the Columbus Crew. Honestly I see Seattle repeating here tonight since the game is on their home turf. But that is beside the point for this post.

I’ve had this post in my back pocket for weeks, maybe even months now. A while back I had a long discussions with a few of the media folks here in Dallas about the Open Cup and what it means. Basically most of them said it means very little and its mostly due to how the USSF handles it.

There are lots of things that could be done to make the oldest soccer trophy here in America mean something. Change of format, change of schedule, sponsors, you name it a lot could be done to improve it in a big way.

Format

I think the biggest for me is the format itself. I absolutely hate how its done. First of all you have half of the MLS teams now playing each other in a mini-tournament to get into the main bracket. It basically sets up the MLS clubs to always win as they get byes into the third round of the competitions each year.

I’d love nothing more than to see the Open Cup get reformatted in a system similar to the FA Cup in England. I think you can give MLS clubs a round or two bye still but allow more amateur or PDL teams to come in to the mix if you need to make up ground somewhere. Have a draw where teams are podded based on region to keep costs down if you must and expand the bracket to get all MLS clubs involved. I know MLS teams probably find this competition to be a hassle more than anything but it will raise awareness in that regard and possible allow chances for more upsets from the lower teams.

Sponsors

Another thing mentioned that day a while back was the lack of a big sponsor for the tournament. I know some folks hate a sponsored competition but believe me the USSF would be wise to get a big named sponsor (hell or even a medium-named one) to help with the marketing of the tournament.

A sponsor brings in money, possibly more people and raises awareness in different ways the USSF and the teams playing in the tournament simply cannot.

Prize Money

Let’s just say it already, most MLS teams really could care less anymore about this tournament because there’s little to actually play for. Right now the winning team gets $100,000 with the runner up banking in $50,000. For the little guys that’s a big deal but for MLS clubs you can’t say they’re lining up to get those USOC games as wins anymore.

Sure they added the CONCACAF Champions League bid a year ago to the winner but really that’s not enough. With a big sponsor for the tournament the prize money should go up a hare.

Venues

The whole bid process has bugged me for this tournament. I know its probably a necessary thing to do for scheduling but to the fans its hard to get behind a tournament that doesn’t give the little guys a better chance at hosting games. I don’t know of a way off the top of my head but I’m sure someone more creative out there could come up with a way to allow a better process of picking venues for this tournament.

I think the same can be said about the final venue of the tournament. I know the country is large and having fans travel coast-to-coast isn’t easy. Believe me I get it but I think its time to settle in on a final venue for the tournament. Steve Davis threw up some suggestions earlier today and said St. Louis (with the right stadium of course) would be a perfect fit. Honestly I couldn’t agree more with that.

Timing of the Tournament

This suggestion may be the toughest to do for the USSF. I know it isn’t easy to schedule this thing around the MLS teams but I do think its time to move this tournament up the calendar yet again. I know in the previous couple of years they’ve made an effort to get the bulk of the tournament done in a reasonable amount of time but its still a bit too long. Going from April until October just doesn’t cut it for me.

If possible starting the tournament in early April and finishing up in September, say by Labor Day would be great. I think it would be nice if each year the final game was on Labor Day weekend, something that could also help market the tournament a bit better as you’d know when the final would also be.

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I’m sure there are plenty more suggestions out there to market and make this tournament better. You’d almost have to think there would be at this point but for now the tournament is what it is. Honestly that’s a shame that this is the best we can do with this tournament too. For something that is 97-years old we can certainly find ways to make it at least a bit more relevant to the casual soccer fan.

  • Giggsy

    i think that all of the early round games of the tournament should be played at the home of the lower team (excluding amateur teams with no home grounds). this will mostly mean MLS teams playing away at D2/D3 teams in whichever round they first enter the competition. now MLS teams might not like this from a player luxury stand point but it helps in many ways. A. they are the teams most capable of bearing the travel costs. B. it helps grow the game in smaller, non MLS cities. a non event of Rochester facing RBNY in RBA becomes a big deal when the “mighty” RBNY comes to play in Rochester. C. it helps the smaller teams that are at a significant disadvantage competitively (theoretically) from a spending/player stand point a modest advantage that might help them upset a bigger team. and a tournament like the USOC will be partly built on the charm and mystique of the “upset”.

    i am also for a reformatting of the tournament that sees all of the US based MLS teams play. until a 20th team it works out perfectly with 16 US teams being the perfect number to face of against 16 D2/D3/PDL/amateur teams in a random draw (so every match up isn’t an MLS team vs a minnow).