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Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup: A Response

MLS Announcement


First and foremost, Cleveland SC is a club that is inspired to earn an invite to such a prolific tournament every year. U.S. Open Cup provides players, coaches, and fans hope of bigger dreams coming to fruition. I write this as a club owner that enjoys being on the sidelines, rooting for the clubs players and staff to be rewarded for their tireless work in being the best they can be on and off the pitch.


Since the MLS announced a decision to no longer participate in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, there has been plenty of discussion amongst soccer communities nationwide.


People want to know why such a decision would be made as the integrity of not just The U.S. Open Cup is jeopardized, but the U.S. landscape of the sport as a whole is jeopardized by such a decision. The 110 year history of the national tournament assists in proclaiming just who the U.S. Soccer Champion is every year. So fans wonder what that means for clubs across America that MLS doesn’t want in.


MLS


MLS is in a position as long serving partners of U.S. Soccer to have input on their teams involvement as the top revenue grossing league entity included in the invitational tournament. They have the most resources, the best culmination of talented rosters, and   arguably the most to lose when participating in the tournament.


U. S. Soccer


As much as people want to argue about the pyramid, promotion/relegation advantages, and how this is managed my the national entity, U. S. Soccer provides a very real opportunity for the best of the best to compete by providing the unique experience that is the Open Cup. As Americans we always carry confidence that we can do things better than anyone else. U. S. Soccer appeals to that notion through the organization of resources to allow representatives all throughout the national landscape to fight for the one true champion of our great land.


Where is the disconnect?


There continues to be a growing question as to what professional and semi-professional  league provides the best avenue for players, fans, and growth of the sport. The excitement of a Lamar Hunt U. S. Open Cup is that every year there is a true “David vs. Goliath” match up and many times the outcome is that of David earning the spoils. The more the underdog continues to prove value to the sport, the tighter the gap between an amateur club and top tier professionals becomes.


What’s Next?


MLS NXT seems to be the answer to the equation that MLS is touting. The MLS entities would rather show case their up and coming talent than risk injury or embarrassment to their professionally paid players. What many soccer fans know and the casual fan does not know is these are rosters showcasing mid to late aged teenagers, deserving of recognition in their own right, as the substitute.


The other professional and amateur adult leagues will ultimately have a better shot at taking the U. S. title without the pinnacle MLS entities involved, but the opportunity to grow the sport on the same pitch has now been squandered.


As someone who sat on the sideline, just one goal away from matching the Richmond Kickers in the 2023 Open Cup mere months ago, Cleveland SC would have had the chance to visit D.C United. This would have had me on the same pitch competing against someone I idolized in the sport growing up as an Everton supporter. We didn’t quite make it there but it’s a dream I will always hold near and dear as well as give me fuel to get back to that point. I didn’t think it would be my clubs only chance at that glory at the time and is disturbing others won’t be afforded the same opportunity in the future.


The Bright Side


What’s the best way to get everyone on the same page? Have a common enemy. MLS may now be a common enemy to all of those other clubs in the U.S. Coincidentally, it may just provide the fuel needed for there to be real action taken with strategy formed  regarding promoting clubs up a pyramid.


Cleveland SC will always support the initiatives and values that U.S. Soccer holds dear. They work hard to include clubs like ours that deserve the spotlight. Maybe the MLS will do the same one day but we no longer have common goals.


Samuel T. Seibert

President

Cleveland SC

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