Major League Soccer is still negotiating with U.S. Soccer on how exactly their clubs will participate in the 2024 U.S. Open Cup. The North American league previously declared back in December that their teams would not participate in the knockout competition. Instead, the top flight clubs would send their MLS Next PRO reserve teams to the tournament.

“This decision will provide emerging professional players with additional opportunities for meaningful competition,” the league wrote in a statement on the ordeal. “The move also benefits the MLS regular season by reducing schedule congestion, freeing up to six-midweek match dates.”

Nevertheless, the governing body essentially denied this proposal just a few days later. “Major League Soccer has requested to allow MLS Next PRO teams to represent MLS in the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. After thoughtful consideration, we have informed MLS that the U.S. Soccer staff recommendation, which was adopted by the Pro League Taskforce, is that the request be denied,” stated the federation.

Multiple scenarios currently on the table during negotiations

While it has been seven weeks since MLS made their initial proposal on skipping the U.S. Open Cup, there is still not yet a resolution to the problem. However, according to a report by The Athletic, the two sides have essentially been in constant contact since January 1st. As a result in the delay, the U.S. Open Cup Committee has also joined the talks.

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Sources providing information on the situation to the news outlet claim that there are three scenarios currently on the table. One would allow the nine American clubs set to participate in the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup to skip the U.S. Open Cup. These teams, however, could also be given the choice of playing in the tournament or not.

Another possibility, presented by the MLS, would be to give all of their clubs the option to field either their first team or Next PRO squad for the competition. It seems unlikely that U.S. Soccer would agree to these terms.

Finally, MLS clubs could have permission to expand their rosters just for U.S. Open Cup games. Tournament organizers do not have U.S. Open Cup-specific roster restrictions at the moment. MLS currently limits their teams to 30 designated players, but the proposal could see the clubs essentially double their squads for tournament games.

MLS’ teams will currently enter Open Cup at the third round

One aspect of the negotiations that MLS and U.S. Soccer reportedly agree on deals with the actual draw of the competition. Both sides supposedly want to make it so the top flight teams are not drawn against each other until the later stages of the tournament.

Matchups involving smaller clubs and the big boys are more intriguing to all relevant parties.

The source claims that there is no current deadline in the discussions. Nevertheless, the competition’s first round is set to kickoff on March 19th. A draw for the first round of the tournament has not yet been revealed. MLS teams historically do not enter the U.S. Open Cup until the third round. This round of the upcoming competition is scheduled to start in mid-April.

Photo credit: IMAGO / SOPA Images

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