By Jeff Kassouf
Some of the greatest stories in sports are the David vs. Goliath dogfights, and the opportunity for such an event to occur is no greater than in single elimination tournaments. In soccer, the FA Cup is known to be a prime example of this situation, with lower division sides winning or at least causing a replay and a big pay-day.
While the prestige of the US Open Cup is nowhere near that of the FA Cup, it presents similar situations for upsets. With qualifiers from Major League Soccer, all three levels of the United Soccer Leagues and from the United States Adult Soccer Association (amateur), the competition truly is what it claims to be – open.
Last year, two of the four semifinalists were from the USL First Division, and this year, the same is true. The Seattle Sounders and the Charleston Battery will face off in the semifinals for a chance to play either DC United or the New England Revolution in the final in August. This means there is a fifty percent chance of a team not from Major League Soccer winning the championship, something that has not happened since Rochester did it in 1999.
Unfortunately, this incredibly enticing tournament is very hard to follow. There is no cable television coverage of the event until the championship, which does not do justice to the drama of the knock-out competition. This is where the excitement is. These are the type of stories that will draw in casual soccer fans and sports fan who simply love to route for the underdog.
Two of the four quarterfinal games went to penalty kicks this year, with Seattle defeating the Kansas City Wizards and the USL-2 Cinderella story Crystal Palace Baltimore falling to New England. However, the only game available for viewing was the Kansas City vs. Seattle match-up on USL Live online streaming. In a very smart decision, the US Open Cup games involving USL teams were streamed for free, giving everyone the opportunity to watch these games.
This is not good enough though. The Open Cup is everything that soccer in the United States needs, with grassroots level, hometown teams getting the chance to take on some of the big names of the country. And clearly, they are very capable of doing so. Then, the question arises as to why these games are not on television, or at least why more of them are not online.
The United Soccer Leagues are doing the right thing by airing these games, as they not only provide great entertainment, but they showcase the capabilities of some USL teams who may be looked down upon. If Major League Soccer and the US Soccer Federation are smart, they will help televise more of these games and promote this great event.
There are money issues at the base of things, including lower division facilities not conducive to running a television production. To deal with this, the expansion of coverage can be in slow steps. Instead of just televising the championship match, Fox Soccer Channel should, with the assistance of US Soccer and Major League Soccer, gradually expand coverage to the semifinals and the quarterfinals to allow for the drama to be witnessed by more people.
Currently, the only way to see these games is by being at the stadium, unless they are some of the select USL games streaming online. This is a significant problem for soccer in the United States, and needs to be fixed. The drama of the underdog upsets in this competition would not only help draw in some new fans, but allow current US Soccer enthusiasts to get a glimpse of what they have been missing. Whether it is US Soccer, MLS, or some other organization, they need to step up to ensure that this problem gets solved.
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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