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MLS inviting more criticism over U.S. Open Cup treatment



If you enjoyed the nonsense of MLS trying to block their first teams from competing in the oldest soccer competition in the U.S. you’ll love the sequel of them still acting like a toddler not wanting to share on the playground.

There’s plenty of doomsday scenarios floating around about what could potentially happen but the bottom line is that MLS appears to have the power to basically do whatever they want and U.S. Soccer is too weak to force the status quo.

A compromise to all of the hand wringing could see a limited number of the U.S.-based MLS teams competing this year. The number 8 has been thrown around but under any scenario where Champions Cup teams are taken out of the competition, the Union will likely not be part of it.

One of the saddest aspects of that prospect is that Union head coach Jim Curtin is one of the biggest supporters of the competition having won it as a player. Middletown, Pa. native Ben Olsen and his Houston Dynamo team would also not be able to defend their title if Champions Cup teams are taken out of the field.

What it all seems to boil down to is MLS wanting only to participate in a competition they (and Apple) can control from a scheduling, revenue and marketing standpoint.

Clearly there is little concern on the part of the largest U.S. pro league for the history of the sport in the country, the fans who support it and the players and coaches who want to win trophies with real weight and significance attached. The backlash around a decision to field Next Pro teams only and U.S. Soccer saying they couldn’t seemingly did little to change their minds. MLS, after all, famously loves to dig in on bad ideas and swap one bad idea for another on a whim.

Perhaps the worst idea of all is central to the league’s desire to further isolate themselves from the sport: the Leagues Cup.

From the initial pre-2023 launch of the competition they no longer even acknowledge the Leagues Cup always seemed to be a cynical move to get U.S.-based Liga MX fans to buy tickets. Now that it requires a month-long pause on the regular season and it’s still not even played at all in Mexico it’s morphed into something even worse than first imagined.

Like their fights with USL, the drama around U.S. Open Cup ultimately isn’t really about the Leagues Cup though. It’s about control. MLS wants to control every level of soccer, from the youth, academy, adult amateur and lower division to the top flight. If they’re able to get away with trashing the U.S. Open Cup, it will only prove just how right the loudest critics of the league have been all along.

Matthew Ralph is the managing editor of Philadelphia Soccer Now / Brotherly Game. He's covered soccer at all levels for many years in the Philadelphia region and has also written for, NPSL, PrepSoccer and other publications. He lives with his wife and two young children in Broomall, Pa., but grew up in South Jersey and is originally from Kansas.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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