From Steven Goff of the Washington Post I just learned that once again eight of the fourteen sides in Major League Soccer will have to qualify for two spots to join Chicago, Chivas-USA, Columbus, Houston, Kansas City & New England in the 3rd round of the 2009 US Open Cup.
Two rounds of qualifying for MLS sides in the end of April & a possible date in May that has yet to be determined. Here is the order of how the clubs finished in the 2008 MLS season from seventh to last on the table.
7. Real Salt Lake
8. Red Bull NY
9. Colorado Rapids
10. DC United
11. FC Dallas
12. Los Angeles Galaxy
13. San Jose Earthquakes
14. Seattle Sounders F.C. (2009 expansion side goes to qualifying)
On Wednesday, April 29th the first round qualifying matches will begin for the US Open Cup as RSL face the Sounders, RBNY travel to San Jose, Colorado faces LA & DC United hosts FC Dallas. The winners advancing to the second round of qualifying have already been matched up.
MLS Qualifying SecondRound
RSL/SEA Winner Vs COL/LA Winner
DC/DAL Winner Vs NY/SJ Winner
And what is my opinion of these qualifying matches for US Soccer’s top club tournament since 1914. Once again the American version of the FA Cup has become a farce. I just can’t understand why MLS & US Soccer won’t allow all fourteen American sides to participate in the US Open Cup.
I have enjoyed the steady progression of this tournament once MLS decided to participate when the former NASL never did. Sure there was qualifying rounds back in the earlier years, but that was never questioned since the sport was trying to get popular. Some regular season matches doubled as US Open Cup Qualifiers from 1997 till 2002. But when the 2003 season came, all MLS sides qualified as the eight playoff sides entered the fourth round while the non playoff sides entered the third round with the top four finishers of USL-1st Division joined them.
When the 2007 MLS Season began there was a turn for the worst. MLS, US Soccer or the Open Cup Committee decided to cut short the number of clubs from MLS and reduced two rounds. The Qualifying round before the first round which I didn’t mind, but the fourth round was also axed. All USL clubs pro & semi along with the US Adult Soccer Association started in the 1st round and those winners faced each other in the second, meeting only eight MLS sides in the third round. The original reason for this reduction was that US Soccer was involved with two tournaments that year. The 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup & the 2007 Copa America. It was just an excuse to reduce the number of MLS sides to enter and they have stuck by these qualifiers ever since.
Now in the USL Pro leagues there are eight clubs a side & no qualifying thru the beginning of the season for USL-2nd Division. PDL & USASA sides are still qualifying for their respective spots, but it’s a shame that MLS is still qualifying for two spots involving eight clubs.
The main problem of course is that there is no sponsor for this famed cup tournament here in the states & sometimes I think not a lot of people care about the cup. Even though CONCACAF has said that the US Open Cup Champion does enter the Qualifying Round for the new Champions League, it still feels like some clubs don’t care.
But I care and many other people care as well. It’s not just a cup for the USL sides both pro & part time, but there have been so many good stories written about this tournament I don’t understand why so many people are embarrassed about it. If Cardiff City & Portsmouth were such interesting stories to reach the FA Cup final as well as Barnsley who took out both Liverpool & Chelsea to get close to the final in England, then so should the Dallas Roma FC from Region III of the USASA as well as this past final when the Charleston Battery of USL-1st Division last year were a goal short of forcing extra time against DC United. Or the only time the US Open Cup Final was on ESPN in Columbus Crew Stadium as the Rochester Rhinos defeated the Colorado Rapids two nil as the U.S. Second Division side won the Thomas R. Dewar Cup.
Yes it hurt me to see RBNY lose to 3rd Division Crystal Palace Baltimore last year, but at the same time I was proud to know why they created this tournament. With Philadelphia entering MLS next season and waiting to see if FC Barcelona-Miami will join in, it’s only right that US Soccer, MLS, USL & USASA sit together along with the Open Cup Committee and hammer out a better idea to make this cup tournament as beautiful and challenging as possible along with a title sponsor.