As the sport of soccer grows in the United States, the domestic league and national team continue to make strides. But sadly the US Open Cup, which was showing signs of improvement and greater respect from the US soccer institutions, just went backwards two steps back. Namely, why on earth did MLS and US Soccer decide to play the fourth round of the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup during the World Cup when MLS teams enter the tournament?
On Saturday, June 14 there were four World Cup games played throughout the day from Noon to 11pm ET. On that same day, three games of the US Open Cup were scheduled with Atlanta Silverbacks hosting Real Salt Lake, Carolina Railhawks hosting Chivas-USA, and the biggest match of the round between the New York Cosmos and New York Red Bulls.
Watching Japan playing the Ivory Coast (from 9-11pm ET) while these three US Open Cup games were being played at the same time was a travesty to the World Cup and the US Open Cup itself. It’s not about Japan or the Ivory Coast not being big national teams. It’s about giving respect to the World Cup.
Just after Sporting Kansas City won the 2013 MLS Cup Championship, the league posted their 2014 regular season schedule. One of the things I like to do is to create a mock calendar for all the dates that are available for other club competitions and international calendar dates. After seeing the MLS regular season schedule, I wondered when (at the time Third Round) MLS teams were going to play the US Open Cup games.
MLS scheduled two league games on Wednesday, June 11. That date would have been the perfect time to have all or most US Open Cup matches played — before the World Cup kicked off. Instead, the US Open Cup games are all spread out, and scheduled to be played at night during the group stage of the World Cup.
I’m very disappointed that Major League Soccer forced the US Open Cup Committee to create this week of matches during the World Cup. Even though they didn’t schedule any games during the USA-Ghana match on Monday, that’s not the point.
The point is that MLS gave their clubs two weeks off during the group stage of the World Cup, with league play scheduled to resume at the end of June with the Fifth Round US Open Cup games being played then — as there would be no interference from group games after 6PM EDT. If the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup had been played on June 11, we wouldn’t have this problem.
Sadly, MLS forced US Soccer to schedule these games at the wrong time. After so many positive steps have been made in recent times regarding the US Open Cup, the latest developments are a disappointment especially since most soccer fans are focusing on the World Cup and don’t have time for the US Open Cup.
The US Open Cup deserves the respect of the soccer institutions in the United States as well as the fans and media. Having the games played during the World Cup doesn’t help anyone. Let’s hope in the future that MLS learns its lessons and tries to be smarter about scheduling dates without any interference from tournaments such as the Gold Cup, Copa America (in 2016) and FIFA World Cup 2018.