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Make the US Open Cup more like March Madness???


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#1 BSLIanQuillen

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Posted 25 March 2021 - 01:40 PM

Over for my gig at Forbes.com, I wrote about four ideas to make the U.S. Open Cup more like March Madness in order to boost the tournament's profile.

https://www.forbes.c...hese-4-changes/

Locals will remember the U.S. Open Cup from a few years ago, when amateur side Christos FC went all the way to the fourth round to play (and briefly lead) D.C. United of the MLS.

What would you think of this setup? Curious to know ...


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#2 BSLSteveBirrer

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Posted 25 March 2021 - 02:40 PM

I see some issues on this approach.

 

1. What does MLS do during this march madness like tournament? If they shutdown then that just extends the MLS season longer into the fall when it already has to then compete against college and pro football.

2. This adds an extra game for MLS sides. When you couple in the season, Gold Cup, international friendlies, WC qualifiers at some point its too much in a short window. 

 

I like the concept of adding in MLS at 64 and not 32 since as you correctly point out much of the excitement is in the chances for the little guys to play against the big boys. But I would much prefer to keep the Cup at a longer schedule than a compressed March Madness like thing. And I don't think there would be much extra TV interest in the US Open no matter what format you use. The only fans watching the US Open Cup are very die hard soccer fans and fans of the two clubs playing a given match. There is just very little general interest in this tournament.



#3 BSLMikeRandall

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Posted 25 March 2021 - 02:57 PM

Like the idea of anything resembling March Madness. Selection show, at large bids, automatic bids, single elimination format. Giant pools of brackets that no one ever gets 100% right but we try anyway.

 

I think MLS could benefit from having the top 8 teams (give or take) enter the cup rather than all of them. Have to think the big European League benefit by having more games that matter not just because of relegation, but the opportunity to make the Champions League finishing top-5 in their respective league. It does sound pretty terrible that all the MLS teams get to join the tournament after essentially a 3 round bye. Yeah, as you said, make them all play round 1, have a single elimination bracket. Even if the best MLS team opens against an Amateur club, the "what if" still looms. Moreso in soccer which is so closely contested rather than basketball. 

 

I'd be curious if your schedule to wrap up the festivities works. If a team in the Semi-final plays Saturday also is a team in the Campeones Cup Sunday, I've never known a team to play on zero days rest. How seriously is the All-Star game taken? In every sport except baseball it's really not taken seriously at all, to the point where the competition is laughable. But being before the Finals, I would assume players in the finals would not compete the day before in an All-Star game, akin to players in the Super Bowl opting out of the Pro Bowl. Not a big deal if the All-Star game is just for kicks (yes, pun intended).


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#4 BSLIanQuillen

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Posted 25 March 2021 - 03:20 PM

A couple things here

1-The point is MLS would extend its summer break slightly, but what they give up in a break they'd get back in scheduling flexibility elsewhere in the calendar since they don't have to factor in Open Cup. Usually MLS breaks for more or less the group stage of Gold Cup/World Cup, etc, then resumes play in the knockout phase. This way you'd just play those USOC Rd 1-4 games during the Gold Cup/World Cup knockout phase instead. 

2-MLS doesn't really have too many games. It has poor scheduling/travel. When you look at the number of games an MLS team plays during a typical year, even against a team in say, the English second division, it's often slightly fewer. The issue is teams flying commercial across country, and also not springing for multi-stop West Coast trips and instead going back and forth over and over. The pod system cuts on this travel, and allows that travel to be more planned. It's the unplanned random USOC match in the middle of 3 league games that really wears on a club. Additionally, if a team thinks it's too many games for its starters, then fine. Rotate the squad. Most MLS teams don't have ENOUGH chances to get their second unit competitive action at MLS/USOC level.


 

I see some issues on this approach.

 

1. What does MLS do during this march madness like tournament? If they shutdown then that just extends the MLS season longer into the fall when it already has to then compete against college and pro football.

2. This adds an extra game for MLS sides. When you couple in the season, Gold Cup, international friendlies, WC qualifiers at some point its too much in a short window. 

 

I like the concept of adding in MLS at 64 and not 32 since as you correctly point out much of the excitement is in the chances for the little guys to play against the big boys. But I would much prefer to keep the Cup at a longer schedule than a compressed March Madness like thing. And I don't think there would be much extra TV interest in the US Open no matter what format you use. The only fans watching the US Open Cup are very die hard soccer fans and fans of the two clubs playing a given match. There is just very little general interest in this tournament.


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#5 BSLIanQuillen

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Posted 25 March 2021 - 03:25 PM

Like the idea of anything resembling March Madness. Selection show, at large bids, automatic bids, single elimination format. Giant pools of brackets that no one ever gets 100% right but we try anyway.

 

I think MLS could benefit from having the top 8 teams (give or take) enter the cup rather than all of them. Have to think the big European League benefit by having more games that matter not just because of relegation, but the opportunity to make the Champions League finishing top-5 in their respective league. It does sound pretty terrible that all the MLS teams get to join the tournament after essentially a 3 round bye. Yeah, as you said, make them all play round 1, have a single elimination bracket. Even if the best MLS team opens against an Amateur club, the "what if" still looms. Moreso in soccer which is so closely contested rather than basketball. 

 

I'd be curious if your schedule to wrap up the festivities works. If a team in the Semi-final plays Saturday also is a team in the Campeones Cup Sunday, I've never known a team to play on zero days rest. How seriously is the All-Star game taken? In every sport except baseball it's really not taken seriously at all, to the point where the competition is laughable. But being before the Finals, I would assume players in the finals would not compete the day before in an All-Star game, akin to players in the Super Bowl opting out of the Pro Bowl. Not a big deal if the All-Star game is just for kicks (yes, pun intended).


So like most other things, I envision a line of succession with Campeones Cup, since I don't think it's a terribly important event. If the MLS Cup winner plays in the USOC semis, take the Shield winner. If the Shield Winner is also there, take the other conference playoff champion. If that team is also there, take next-best team in the Shield and so forth. 

I'm not married to the idea of the Campeones Cup in that spot either. An alternative might be that Saturday is the USOC semifinals and Sunday is the Liga MX Campeon de Campeones and SuperCopa MX



#6 BSLIanQuillen

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Posted 25 March 2021 - 03:28 PM

Also worth noting that in 2021, it is likely MLS season with begin in the 3rd or 4th weekend in February. That was the plan this year in the CBA before covid. Warm-weather markets will make it easier to make a longer season (in terms of calendar) going forward, IMO.



#7 BSLSteveBirrer

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Posted 25 March 2021 - 04:58 PM

Ian, you make some good counter points. The travel issue is certainly a big deal for all sports in the US. No domestic league in Europe has near the travel distance issues that sports in the US face. Probably a way to make it better but travel is always going to be a much bigger issue in the States than Europe.

 

Just for some reference for anybody reading this:

 

Germany is about 400 miles across.

France is about 600 miles.

England is about 600 miles.

 

I was born in Montana which is further across than any of these three countries.  :eek:


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