Sometimes it is just great to be a fan of soccer in America, and last night was certainly one of those nights. For all of the scheduling problems, controversy over purchasing home matches, the largely reserve-laded MLS teams, etc., the U.S. Open Cup is thrilling. Who doesn’t love an upset, and last night there were plenty of them. Of the 14 MLS teams that played last night, half of them were knocked off by lower-division opponents. Two MLS teams lost to lower-division sides that had yet to win a league match, and the Chicago Fire lost to a PDL side. Woah. How much fun would it have been to be at that match?
Every year the U.S. Open Cup continues to grow. Last night the spectacle of the L.A. Galaxy drew almost 8,000 fans out to WakeMed Park to see the Carolina Railhawks beat the defending MLS champs. A record crowd for a non-final turned out to watch Real Salt Lake come out uninspired and lose to a very organized Minnesota Stars team. Not only were the wins by lower-division sides fun to watch last night (okay, sorry to some MLS teams, including my own, who are out of the tournament, but you have to admit upsets are fun sometimes.), but next week guarantees to be equally as fun. At least two lower-division teams will make it to the quarterfinals and one of those teams will either be the Michigan Bucks of the PDL or the winless Dayton Dutch Lions.
Aside from our love affair with upsets and cinderella teams, this year’s Open Cup has really shown how far soccer has come in terms of quality in this country. To be sure, the games last night are not going to go down in the annals of history as some of the best games ever played, but the quality was certainly higher than in years past. This speaks to the improvement of an American playing pool. Many of the lower-division teams last night were chocked full of former MLS players. The San Antonio Scorpions for example have Ryan Cochrane, Pablo Campos, and Kevin Harmse on their roster. These players are still good enough to be contributors for MLS teams, but can make more money being a star in the lower-divisions.
Stories from players like these, as well as the improved level of play and facilities, should be a magnet for television. Fox Soccer would do well to step up and purchase the rights to this tournament. Working together with U.S. Soccer, they could make it into one of the showpieces of the summer and would fill a hole in Fox Soccer’s summer lineup. Television may still be a ways off for the tournament, but at least it is tangibly close now.
However, for all the silver lining of cinderella’s and upsets, last night should be a warning to MLS teams that maybe the way they are handling their reserve players is not the best for their development. The return of the reserve league has been a fantastic thing for the league and for its younger players, but often times those games aren’t given the weight that they deserve. Some teams treat the matches as more of a training opportunity than an opportunity to see how younger player perform under pressure. After last night’s debacle, maybe more MLS teams will realize that sending players on loan to lower-division sides may be their best option.
Still, that should not detract from how great last night was for soccer in this country. Anytime you have competitive matches, it is a great thing. Here’s hoping the tournament just continues to get better and better.
The Liverpool 2013/14 soccer jersey is available for pre-order. The Reds are eager to compete for silver next season.
One of the top soccer cleats for control the Nike CTR360 will not let you down on the field in tight spaces.
The push for more color on their cleats, adidas has added the infrared colorway to the adiZero f50 Line.
The Juventus jersey for the 2013/14 was released earlier this week. Be the first to wear the colors of the Old Lady.
adidas has added some color to the Predator line with this new colorway. Released on May 17. Be the first to own a pair.
Bayern Munich are kings of Germany and hope to be crowned kings of Europe at Wembley later this month!
The adidas Nitrocharge is the most talked about new cleat in years. It was released on May 15 and will take your pitch by storm.
The new PUMA evoSPEED 1.2 FG. A great new soccer cleat with classic look and first time for PUMA to be on the cleat.
Ajax has released their away soccer jersey for the 2013/14 season. Get in the Gear.
Chelsea won the Europa League on Wednesday. The Blues defeated Benfica 2-1 on injury time goal from Ivanovic.