This coming Wednesday, June 1st, we’ll reach the third round of the 104th Lamar Hunt US Open Cup – the round where we see the first interleague clashes of the upper professional divisions of US Soccer. While slowly growing in awareness and importance, the tournament still lags far behind England’s FA Cup and other domestic cup competetions. In the ever-shifting soccer landscape in the United States where the top three divisions (MLS, NASL, USL) are jostling for fans, markets, sponsors, and attention, the Open Cup gives us the one chance to pit those clubs and leagues up against each other for bragging rights in real competition.
On its own, US Open Cup is not the best judge of league quality. Much like the March Madness as a barometer to compare basketball conference supremacy, no single-elimination tournament can be a test of quality. Our domestic leagues change each season, particularly in the lower divisions, so that even comparing them against themselves year-over-year is a sometimes difficult task. Each individual club takes this tournament with varying degrees of seriousness – some trotting out “B” squads until later rounds while others circle the dates on the calendar as their top club priority.
But with that said, interleague rivalry, giant killing and cross town non-league derbies are part of what makes US Open Cup so much fun. We love to trash talk about it, we root for the minnows and we want to see how we stack up against everyone else. So, here’s something to add to the conversation.
For those of us who follow the Open Cup closely, we love it because of all the romance, history and unpredictability that comes with it. Drink it in, because the action restarts this Wednesday.