Want proper football but still need your playoff fix? This may be the solution for you.


Brackets: People like them. I get it. But U.S. Soccer fans already have one!

There’s a steady argument with the MLS parrots. It goes something like this…

The average U.S. sports fan expects playoffs to decide their champion. How can we expect them to adjust to a straight league table to decide a title, let alone promotion and relegation?

Couple easy points:

1) College football? Yeah, it’s getting a “playoff” of sorts now, its so-called “Plus One” game. It’s supposed to cure all the ills that the age-old bowl system brought us, as well as those of its somewhat inbred cousin, the BCS. Guess what? Even before this new playoff of sorts, people watched it. All the time. Lots of them.

2) Now, this idea might blow your mind. I’ll need a little space to lay it out. Get ready.

Imagine a tournament, open to all the senior teams in the country, and it’s a straight knockout competition. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more.

Imagine this tournament – let’s call it an “Open Cup” – has 100 years of history behind it, and is one of the oldest continually running such competitions in the world. Are you enticed yet? Have I sucked you in?

Now let’s just say – and this is all just crazy talk – that your favorite club had won this tournament four times, the most of any club in the modern era. You are absolutely fucking pumped, aren’t you?!?!

Well guess what!!! That tournament exists! It’s called the “U.S. Open Cup” (ōpən kəp) and it’s been here a hell of alot longer than MLS could ever imagine – certainly far too long for it and U.S. Soccer to pretend like it doesn’t exist.

So if Americans have this insatiable appetite for knockout tournaments no matter what the sport, why do they persist in ignoring it? Especially when the U.S. Open Cup Final was the best moment of the MLS season last year, even though they had fuck-all to do with it.

Conceptually, our well-entrenched domestic cup tournament seems like the ideal solution to the promotion/relegation “problem” because it gives the “traditional” ‘MURICAN sports fan what they supposedly crave most: playoff-style goodness. It’s a match made in football heaven!

Yet the same people who tell you “pro/rel” could never work are the ones doing everything possible to sweep this classic of the American sporting landscape into the corner, hoping you won’t notice it’s still there.

The solution to our ills as a footballing country are pretty easy to identify: 1) Spend money to develop the next generation of coaches by teaching them the world’s best practices and methods, and they will in turn produce the first generation of world-class USMNT talent capable of challenging for major international honors; 2) Throw some money at the officiating problem plaguing our “pyramid” at all levels and we’ll get better refs on the pitch from MLS on down to your Sunday league.

And 3) give American football supporters what they want: proper promotion and relegation across all levels of the senior game, with a champion decided by the league table (not some all-inclusive “MLS Cup Playoffs” that makes a mockery of the “regular season”), while still appeasing the playoff diehards with a storied and fantastic single-elimination knockout -style tournament played in cities across the country for six months out of the year – the 100-year-old U.S. Open Cup.

Simple enough, yeah? Great. Let’s go do it.

updown+ usopencup trophy = american-soccer-fan1

Contributing writer Shane Nicholson is the founder and Executive Editor of TheCoplandRoad.org – He drinks a lot, has a beard, and lives in Rockford. You can find him on Twitter at @ofvoid

6 thoughts on “Want proper football but still need your playoff fix? This may be the solution for you.

  1. Agreed. As long as the US Open Cup never gets the same false statements attached to that like the FA Cup has. Mainly, “The FA Cup is great because the Davids always beat the Goliaths and go on to win the cup and it’s magical and this is the best tournament in the world” and this sentence gets repeated over and over, like it was a statement from the gods, and people believe it’s true.

  2. For those not familiar with the cup tournament as a parallel competition to the league, it’s a bit confusing. Combined with its irregular schedule, this confusion results in the Open Cup having a bit of an identity crisis with fans.

  3. Another issue with the Open Cup is that the non-MLS teams lack a solid and large-ish supporter base that will drive media and public interest in the competition. If the USL Pro teams and fans demanded more coverage (by attending the Open Cup games and writing their media outlets) of the games, then momentum could be built. Add to this, the fact that certain MLS teams seem to take the competition seriously and you have potential for something good.

  4. I would say both of those come down to the very media currently ignoring this competition. If they write self-fellating headlines about the Cup then you’ll get that measure of coverage. And as for education on it (and really, it’s a knockout competition, it’s not that difficult to wrap one’s head around) it again comes down to the Wahl’s of the world who pretend it doesn’t exist actually giving it the column inches it deserves.

    In any case, as I’ve made the argument before, we don’t need to track down the 100 million sports fans in this country. We need to make headway into the groups who would rather watch a replay of a EPL game from six hours prior than the MLS Cup Final.

    • My experience is that the media will cover what people demand. If lots of people show up at specific events or write into editors to demand coverage of certain happenings, coverage will happen. Media needs eyeballs to sell to advertisers and interested people = dollars. There are some in the media that have agendas, but the large majority are just trying to be read. If fans press local media for coverage of the Open Cup, it’ll happen.

      I agree that it’s a the knockout competition is pretty simple to understand, but no other US league has a knockout running concurrently to the regular season. It’s literally a foreign concept.

      You’re completely correct that the support must come from current soccer fans. So tell all your friends to tell their friends to tell their friends to write to their local paper and TV station to demand coverage of Open Cup. Everyone in the media is scrapping for pageviews and eyeballs so they’re looking for any angle to get a few hundred more.

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