I had the opportunity to participate in the US Soccer Voices survey about the US Open Cup.
Here’s a thought the survey format did not allow me to convey…
In a country with an open soccer pyramid, a competition like the US Open Cup serves as a bureaucracy/bias-buster and a way for reserve players to get play time against top players, to test their mettle.
Bias-busting: A division 1 team should beat a division 3 team by a few goals. If the division 3 team hangs in there, there might be something to be learned. Maybe the division 3 team has a few players that have unfairly been written off by division 1 team managers (biases), and they deserve a second look, or the division 3 team is employing different tactics that deserve some attention, either in copying or maybe it makes the coach worth looking at.
Does this mean this will happen in every single game between a D1 and D3 team? Nope. Most of these game should confirm what we would all expect, the D1 team will win comfortably. But, it’s the 1-in-50 or games where all the soccer community might learn something valuable.
Play time for reserves. Another purpose is to give reserve players more chances to play. In a game that only allows 3 subs per game, it’s tough for reserve players to get play time, so these types of competitions allow for that. That may also impact the conclusions that can be drawn from the first purpose (bias busting), but folks can generally adjust for that (“D3 was within a goal of D1, but D1 only had 2 of their starters).
In the US, the second purpose (play time for reserve players) is meant to be solved by having the reserve players play on the D1 team’s ‘minor league’ squad. But, that doesn’t give that player exposure to D1 players to see how they stack up.
Like most things, US Soccer seems to only see the superficial idea of what the US Open Cup is — a popular event that they can make money on.
They miss out on what it really is: It’s a way for a soccer federation to advance the sport through competition, rather than saddle it with bureaucracy.
The survey seemed focus on determining whether the ‘minor league’ teams of D1 teams be included in the competition.
Using the above rationale, they should. In competition, the more teams the better. I don’t think they should be allowed to bring down starters from their D1 teams, just so their minor league team can win some hardware. But, all teams should be able to participate in that each one can add a bit of knowledge to the pot of discovering top players, effective tactics and top coaches.
I think it’s useful to consider that US Soccer should see itself more of an organizer of a ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition than as the overlords of soccer (which I believe is how they view their role now).
In a battle of the bands, the idea is to encourage as many bands in the competition as possible and let them battle it out.