How I Would Fix the U.S. Open Cup in Soccer

How to Fix the U.S. Open Cup in Soccer

I don’t like the U.S. Open Cup during the MLS season. There, I said it. I’ve been a league fan since 2022, so I’m relatively new. However, while I understand that the U.S. Open Cup began during the 1913-1914 season and has lots of history, it must either change or be removed completely. During the 2023 season, MLS teams did not try the competition for various reasons, which lowered the quality of these matches.


Here are my thoughts on why I don’t like it and what I would do to fix this tournament if it must stay during the season.


My Thoughts on How I Would Fix the U.S. Open Cup in Soccer


Lack of Promotion and Relegation

Lack of Promotion and Relegation

When it comes to soccer (football), you hear the same arguments from people who don’t like MLS, and that is that there is no promotion and relegation in the league. For anyone who does not know what that means, promotion and relegation take a few teams from one league and move them up to the next league while demoting a few teams who did not play well. The concept removes teams from tanking during the season because going down from one league to the next is no guarantee that you will be up at the top league next season; you lose advertising revenue and much more.


There is no promotion with MLS, which I’m okay with as a league fan. However, the USL (United Soccer League) is a league that is below MLS with talent, stadiums, T.V. exposure, money, and much more. Therefore, watching these teams play against each other shows who is better. It’s similar to when the MLS All-Stars played Arsenal in the MLS All-Star Game in 2023. It becomes obvious who is and who is not better.


When the U.S. Open Cup occurs during the season as a tournament, I can’t get behind it because it doesn’t matter to me. It’s like watching a college team play the varsity or J.V. team in high school for a game. Sure, there can be upsets, but the college team isn’t prioritizing these games like the high school team. As I watched games this season, I could tell which teams were sitting their starters during this tournament because it does not matter who wins.


Without promotion and relegation, it gets hard for me to care about a team in the USL playing an MLS team. I only have an Apple TV MLS Season Pass, so I can only watch MLS games.


The Prize is Lacking Compared to the Leagues Cup

The Prize is Lacking Compared to the Leagues Cup

According to Essentially Sports, the prize money in 2023 for the U.S. Open Cup winner was $300k, which is nothing. There are financial pools for the teams below that, but the overall winnings are insufficient for teams to invest, especially for MLS teams worth almost 1 billion in valuation.


Meanwhile, the Leagues Cup, which began in 2023 between all MLS and Liga MX teams, had a pool price of $2 million for the winner. You can read more about that breakdown on Hudson River Blue.


Therefore, you have two tournaments going on during the season. One feels like a college team vs a high school team worth $300k. Then you have a second tournament between two leagues on the same talent level worth $2 million. Add the fact that Leagues Cup games are on Apple T.V., which leads to a bigger audience pool to watch, and you can see why one tournament is way more important than the other. When this happens, the U.S. Open Cup loses its importance, and therefore, the quality of the game suffers.


My Recommendation on How to Fix the U.S. Open Cup

My Recommendation on How to Fix the U.S. Open Cup

  • Increase the money payout. $300k for a winner must be bigger for MLS teams to care about. Yes, $300k for a USL team is a lot, but as a prize, MLS now has the Leagues Cup + MLS Cup Finals to worry about. Getting the payout to at least $1m would drastically change the importance of this match.


  • Put these games and matches on Apple T.V. As an Apple T.V. subscriber for the MLS season, I couldn’t even watch these games on the platform. It was very difficult to watch the games that took place in this tournament. If possible, Apple T.V. should promote the USL teams a bit before the match like they do on Seasons pass. It would be nice to know a little bit about a USL team before the match. Otherwise, it feels so random when the game starts.


  • Allow more teams to participate. For example, open up the conference to teams in Canada and Mexico.


  • Introduce new rules. For example, eliminate any extra time that may occur for a game that does not have a winner. Instead, go straight into penalty kicks to get a winner quicker.


  • Host the final at a neutral venue. Currently, the U.S. Open Cup Final takes place at one of the homes of the two remaining teams. Instead, choose a location every year ahead of time to make this type of game interesting. For example, if they said that BMO Stadium (LAFC) will automatically host the U.S. Open Cup, then you can market that game to that audience who are fans of LAFC (or Angel City F.C.) throughout the year to get local buzz around this game.


Closing Thoughts

Those are just my thoughts about the U.S. Open Cup. With the Leagues Cup during the season, the U.S. Open Cup needs to change or be removed during the season. The quality of the product could have been better, and it was challenging to watch the games because they were not on Apple.


Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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