Open Cup Changes Have Been Fantastic, But More Needed

When US Soccer made these wonderful changes to the structure of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, most of us who follow the tournament were thinking, “Thank goodness,” to a new respect of this domestic cup competition. Surely it was a positive step when they eliminated most of the qualifying rounds for MLS & the PDL.

What we didn’t expect was the large amount of upsets, where amateur sides and low-level professional teams overtook 8 out of the 16 MLS teams, which advanced a number of underdog sides to Round Four Proper. Cal FC and the Michigan Bucks gave us some great runs, starting from Round One till their demise.

US Soccer got this right during the past off-season. Many have complained (including me) when it came to the last several editions of a cheap version of the US Open Cup. The previous construction allowed six MLS sides to go in automatically by qualifying for the previous season’s MLS Cup Playoffs, while the rest had to qualify for two spots early in the year. This year, all MLS teams entered in Round Three Proper, and that led to 8 out of 16 teams being defeated by lower division sides.

All of these upsets finally got word out to the house of football. FIFA wrote an article on the US Open Cup, and I have assisted on the coverage from the Guardian back in England. When you improve the structure of the tournament, you finally get the recognition from within as well as worldwide.

But while all these things are going in a positive way, there are some things that need to change to enhance the positives for the tournament. Next season will be the 100th edition of this tournament, which is the second oldest cup competition in the world. These changes can be done either quickly or a year by year basis.

First of all, the scheduling of the tournament needs to be spread out a lot more. Having Rounds One thru Four on consecutive Tuesdays is not giving enough breathing room for the teams who enter at Round One. At the same time it can make it difficult for those who want to follow their side on the road and make travel plans. I don’t foresee US Soccer making these matches on a Saturday, but some separation would alleviate some of the problems.

The most obvious problem is television coverage. Fox Soccer Channel announced that they would not televise the championship final. Yes they showed the match as the Seattle Sounders hosted Cal FC, but if it weren’t for Eric Wynalda working for the channel, they likely would have avoided that match as well.

If this is going to change, it will take a real dedication from ESPN, Fox Soccer, or NBC Sports Network to be willing to broadcast some of these compelling matches. NBCSN has not included USOC matches in their initial contract with MLS, but we can hope that they will change their minds after witnessing this season’s edition.

I understand it’s all about money and ratings, but if you really want to grow the game on television in this country, then respect must be given to the US Open Cup – a competition that began in 1914. Fox Soccer shows FA Cup matches, helping to promote English teams, and it’s time that American broadcasters promoted the domestic tournament.

Many times I have visited TheCup.Us, a site dedicated to this tournament. There you can interact with many in each and every round in the chat room. The passion and energy for this tournament is evident when you discuss the results as they happen – especially when participants can listen to or watch on a video stream. The experience is priceless.

From Spalding Official Soccer Football Soccer Guide, thanks to Philly Soccer Page

As I was watching the video stream of the Quarterfinal match with Sporting Kansas City hosting the Dayton Dutch Lions, they showed some pictures that I never would have thought even existed. They displayed early shots of the famed Bethlehem Steel Company’s soccer club in a parade with many local people watching a float with the old Thomas R. Dewar trophy in the middle. Another is shown at left, with a banner congratulating one of the five championships that the side won in front of that famous grandstand with thousands of people cheering for their side.

If those people gave a damn about this competition then, why can’t we give a damn about it now? This kind of nostalgia reinforces how much hoisting the Cup really means. As I said the first positive steps have been made, now it’s time to continue those positives in future editions. 

11 thoughts on “Open Cup Changes Have Been Fantastic, But More Needed”

  1. I fully support The Open Cup. IMO i think its the only genuine
    authentic soccer competition in the US. its certaintly the only one
    with history and i certaintly hope it can pick up as a actual
    recognized competition. who knows? in a couple years we might be
    even sick of hear “open cup” this and open cup that on ESPN and
    NBC. hahaha, i kid i would never get sick of it.

  2. Well you hit the nail on the head. US Soccer can’t wait for a TV
    network that doesn’t give a rip about US Soccer to broadcast its
    games. FOX soccer is a travesty, and people dread when games are
    televised there. Their decision to not broadcast the final isn’t a
    shock…. it is expected. Hopefully the Sounders make the finals
    again and then realizing they will get a few viewers, a real
    station picks up the game…………..Go Se4ttle.

  3. I agree with your points that the US Open Cup needs more spacing
    between rounds and the need for more/better coverage, beginning
    with the Final and working our way backwards. One comment I have on
    the spacing between rounds is that it also allows teams to better
    prepare to each other and possibly see a more exciting game. As for
    the coverage on the US Open Cup, I was very impressed with the
    media coverage that games have been receiving this year, but
    disappointed with Fox Soccer’s stance on not airing the Final.
    Hopefully, USSF or whoever owns the rights is able to include at
    least the USOC Final as part of the TV package rights that are sold
    to tv networks (i.e. Fox Soccer, ESPN, NBC). Another problem that
    was brought up by a few coaches is the traveling. Although efforts
    have been made to reduce costs by regionalizing the competition,
    there were still some instances this year in the 3rd round where
    teams gained a substantially unfair advantage the lack of travel.
    For example, LA had to travel across country to play their USOC
    game, whereas Chivas USA played against a team just 2 hours away
    from them. Sure it’s LA and all that, but the point is that I
    understand that even regionalizing the tournament is not going to
    be perfect but why does a team from the west coast have to travel
    to the east coast, when instead they could traveled less to say the
    mid-west? It just seems too unfair. Lastly, one way of improving
    this tournament, for me, is to automatically have lower division
    teams host games that involve MLS teams. I think this will help
    spread the excitement of soccer and the brand of MLS to these
    smaller markets that we, MLS cities, get to experience. Whether the
    fans of these smaller markets are rooting for or against the MLS
    team, the fact that they are actually getting excited about soccer
    is a positive for soccer in the US in general.

    1. “Lastly, one way of improving this tournament, for me, is to
      automatically have lower division teams host games that involve MLS
      teams. I think this will help spread the excitement of soccer and
      the brand of MLS to these smaller markets that we, MLS cities, get
      to experience.” This has been my stance all along. It seems like
      the wisest thing to from a marketing standpoint, as well as a
      growth standpoint. How many MLS fans really care about the Des
      Moines Menace or Kitsap Pumas coming to play their squad? Flip it
      the other way with Des Moines and Kitsap hosting and it is a MUCH
      bigger deal. And that is without considering the greater travel
      budget of MLS sides…

  4. The biggest dilemma for the USOC (aside from Sunil Gulati and the
    rest of USSoccer HQ not giving a rat’s ass about it until their not
    giving a rat’s ass about it is called out) is scheduling. MLS only
    makes certain weeks available without US clubs playing a midweek
    league match. Tuesdays seem to be the favored day of the week, when
    Wednesdays might offer a chance for top players to recover more
    from the previous weekend’s matches (and MLS doesn’t forgo Sunday
    matches in deference to a USOC window). THEN there’s the issue of
    matchups, which as has been said may be even more unfair than any
    “buying” of home pitch. DC shouldn’t have a bus ride while Seattle
    and LA are forced to fly across the country (which is more
    incentive to try and “buy” the match, making fans unhappy). When
    close-by matchups can’t be made for West Coast teams, DC should be
    the club going to, say, Florida, Columbus to Maryland and Dallas to
    Atlanta so that a West Coast club can fly a few less miles to
    Dayton or San Antonio. Just drawing ALL of the matchups would be
    more fair than the current “regional” system.

  5. “What we didn’t expect was the large amount of upsets that ravaged
    some of the lower levels of the professional level and half of MLS
    advancing to Round Four Proper. Cal FC and the Michigan Bucks gave
    us some great runs, starting from Round One till their end.” The
    second paragraph is so badly written I can’t even tell what’s it’s

  6. It seems as though Fox Soccer is more committed to the English game
    than anything else. Its really sad that they have the world cup
    rights. Aside from ESPN coverage being great they at leats focused
    on the American game.

  7. I blame WWII and the Cold War on the US’s declining interest in
    soccer and other sports played by other nations. We used to play
    baseball, rugby, and soccer. Baseball hasn’t changed much in its
    long history rugby was forced to evolve into American football by
    the government and universities that played rugby. As American
    football and basketball popularity rose soccer declined. It seemed
    like if it wasn’t American we didn’t want anything to do with it.

    1. Same here Michael H. Bring back the Dewar Trophy, or create a
      second version of it. I don’t mind the current trophy, but if they
      made a new Dewar, I would turn it into a half Dewar, half Stanley
      Cup. Keep certain parts of the Dewar cup, but make certain changes.
      I would replace the little footballer at the top to a metal stud.
      You know you can remove that top part and poor champagine into the
      bowl that’s inside of it. To keep the top part still, make two US
      Open Cup shields and raise it off the sides and then a metal slit
      to keep it on when it’s being raised. The wooden base, keep those
      plaques from small to large till the third one, then a big wide
      circular base and put a metal sheet around it to engrave the
      winners and those years they won. That would be awesome. A true
      tribute to both Thomas R. Dewar & Lamar Hunt.

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