Just when you think the Soccer Warz couldn’t get any deeper, MLS goes and upsets the majority of US-based soccer fans. On Friday, MLS announced that it was going to withdraw its first teams from the longest-running national soccer tournament in the country, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Needless to say, that did not go over well.
The 2024 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is set to be the 109th running of the tournament. The qualifiers are already well underway and New Mexico United is waiting to find out who they’ll play when they eventually enter the tournament. Everything seemed fine, until Friday.
In their announcement, MLS proceeded to tell everyone that they would be withdrawing the first teams from the tournament and would be replacing them with the MLS Next Pro clubs. Citing scheduling as part of their reasoning, the decision was swiftly met with derision from the fan base and pundits alike. The problem with MLS’s reasoning is that the schedule congestion is of their own making.
In 2023 MLS announced the inaugural Leagues Cup, an in-season tournament with Liga MX. They also announced an expanded playoff format, introducing best-of-three series for each round.
MLS’s decision also goes against the criteria for holding division one status within USSF. Part of the criteria is that “US-based teams must participate in all representative U.S. Soccer and CONCACAF competitions for which they are eligible.”
What that means, is that if MLS goes through with withdrawing from the Open Cup, the league could potentially lose their division one sanctioning. That would open up a world of confusion going forward and potentially leave the door wide open for the USL to have an easier path to division one. While nothing is set in stone yet, US Soccer and MLS will have to figure this problem out. If US Soccer blinks, the soccer landscape in the US will be changed as we know it. If MLS blinks, we may never see a club outside of that league win the Open Cup again.
Either way, MLS has shown that it has little regard for the growth of soccer in the US outside of its own brand and is willing to hurt the others inside of the pyramid.