After an interrupted run of 106 years, the U.S. Open Cup tournament is now on the verge of being canceled for the second season in a row, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Friday.
Originally scheduled for May and June as an abbreviated 24-team competition due to logistical and financial concerns related to the pandemic, this year’s Open Cup was then cut to just 16 participants at the end of March. Eight berths were reserved for MLS teams, with the remaining eight scattered among American soccer’s lower divisions.
But complications persisted, and U.S. Soccer didn’t feel it could guarantee the safe completion of the 16-team event this spring. So the plug was pulled on Friday. The federation won’t completely rule out playing some version of the Open Cup later this year, but it’s seems unlikely considering the busy league schedules faced by qualifiers.
"The logistical and financial burdens to have the tournament take place this spring in the current environment are substantial," Open Cup commissioner Paul Marstaller said in a written statement. “Even though all of U.S. Soccer’s member professional teams will be playing in their respective league competitions this year, the [Open Cup] committee did not feel it wise to have clubs divert important resources during the next two months for Open Cup play.
“Instead, we will look further into the future to see what possibilities might exist for 2021. After that, a full-scale 2022 Open Cup is less than a year away.”
The MLS season kicks off on Friday night. Each team will play the full 34-game regular slate. Five clubs are currently involved in the Concacaf Champions League and an additional four will contest the Leagues Cup against Liga MX opposition in August and September. USL Championship and League One teams are starting their seasons on staggered dates in April and May, while NISA has launched its spring campaign with a tournament in Chattanooga. U.S. Soccer typically conducts amateur qualifying (for clubs outside USL League Two and the NPSL) in the fall preceding the following year’s Open Cup tournament.
Leaving the 2021 event on administrative life support means U.S. Soccer won’t have to decide right away on what to do with the CCL invitation normally extended to the winner. Its solution following the cancellation of the 2020 Open Cup was to send 2019 winner Atlanta United, which served the purpose of ensuring, at least symbolically, that one CCL berth was reserved for the Open Cup champion and available to teams outside MLS. It’s unclear how the federation might accomplish something similar this time around.
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