Take one look at the pairings from the last two nights in the 2013 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. One thing you’ll notice right away was the four MLS sides from the Western Conference who had to travel to the east coast for their third round matches.
All four of them were defeated.
LA, Seattle, Colorado and San Jose had to travel over 1,500 miles from one coast to the other in the middle of the week for a US Open Cup third round match against a lower division side.
But at some point you have to wonder, is it really good for the US Open Cup, the country’s oldest soccer tournament to have some of its top clubs from MLS out so early due in part to the large travel involved?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the little guys getting to host a big brother from MLS. It helps grow the game at a smaller level.
Removing the bidding process is was something everyone wanted to see but it possibly created a bigger issue for some MLS clubs. It is possible that we may not see a run like Seattle has these last four years, where they reached the finals of this tournament each year.
From the looks of things, with the new coin flip determination of hosts, games and what not in this tournament, teams like Seattle from the West stand a tougher chance at going deep in this tournament. They can no longer bid for the hosting of a game like before which could mean that for the next few years at least, the US Open Cup trophy could stay with a team like Sporting KC, Chicago or someone else entirely.
It seems each year we find something new to complain about with this tournament but regional issues are now certainly one of them due to the fact that there are so few clubs in the USL-Pro and NASL west of Texas. Heck just in the west coast alone. A new club will be added next year in Sacramento which only really helps LA or San Jose in the long run for this competition. We’re still looking at possibly three clubs that will still need to travel to the east for early round matches in this tournament.
Things could get better in the fourth round with two lower division teams from the east having to travel westward to face a MLS squad. I suppose justice will be slightly served then? I dunno. Part of me thinks more can be done to help create a balance for both coasts but until there are more teams in the western part of the country, we may not see a true balance in this tournament for teams from all sides of the country.
Then again, maybe this sort of issue will make some MLS clubs take this competition just a little more serious next time around too. Always two sides to an issue.