When Will The U.S. Open Cup Be Taken Seriously?

TUSATSI_7914304_167117624_lowresonight is the U.S. Open Cup, the American equivalent to England’s F.A. Cup, Italy’s Coppa Nazionale, and Spain’s Copa Del Rey. The game is between a team in the thick of an MLS Cup Playoff push, Sporting Kansas City, and a team on the outside looking in, the Philadelphia Union.  If Sporting Kansas City wins this year, it will be their third trophy in four years (U.S Open Cup Champs 2012, and MLS Cup Champs 2013).  If Philadelphia wins tonight, it will be the club’s first piece of hardware in its 6 year history.

This is the 102nd edition of the oldest soccer tournament in the country, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and Univision.  Sporting KC expects a respectable 800 fans to trek to Philadelphia for the game on a Wednesday.  On the flip side, Philadelphia is trying to make up for last year’s loss in the final at the same venue, PPL Park.  The game is a tale of two teams in very different positions, with SKC not only in the playoff hunt, but also at the back end of a very successful rebirth that transformed the once lowly Kansas City Wizards, playing in cavernous Arrowhead Stadium to the very popular Sporting team that plays in the more intimate, often sold-out Sporting Park.  In Philadelphia, while PPL Park has a beautiful view of the Delaware River,  and a passionate fanbase in the Sons of Ben, the team has historically spent very little on star power, leading to a disconnect with fans, but making their second straight U.S. Open Cup Final appearance an impressive feat.

My question is why is this game in the middle of the work week? It’s like American soccer is trying to belittle its own major events.  The Super Bowl is on Sunday for a reason. Everyone is home whether they’re 5, 25, or 75 years old, male or female.  By holding this event at 7 pm in the middle of the week, up against network premieres of many primetime programs, it’s like the U.S. Soccer Federation is asking prospective viewers not to watch.  This mentality needs to change soon, or the U.S. Open Cup will just serve as another example while Premier League soccer gets better ratings in America than American soccer.






The Rise of Los Angeles FC

bowl(FORMATTED)At the end of the 2014 Major League Soccer season, the flickering flame of CD Chivas USA was extinguished.  The sister club of Mexican giants CD Chivas Guadalajara, and the clear second team in Los Angeles to the Galaxy was a failed experiment that was finally coming to an end.  In its first two seasons of operation, Chivas managed to draw a respectably high crowd of 20,000 fans that came to see a respectable team.  However, in its penultimate season of operation, Chivas only managed a dismal average attendance of 8,000 fans per game.

What went so horribly wrong for Chivas USA? The combination of the Vergara family buying out the franchise in 2012 and major staff shakeups are possible conclusions.  On top of that, a talented team would have difficulty in the shadows of MLS juggernaut LA Galaxy that over the years have boasted Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard, and David Beckham even without sharing the same stadium.  But none of that matters now.  In the wake of Chivas USA’s death, MLS has created a new franchise to spark a renaissance of Los Angeles soccer.  And it’s official, the club now has a name: LAFC.  I can already see the jokes that one could conjure from this moniker (i.e. FC Laughs) but the initial buzz around the team has been promising.

The club doesn’t officially begin play until 2017, but a few key pillars to their success have already been created.  For starters, the club already has a planned downtown stadium proposal (with released renderings) that could create a geographical divide in the city with Galaxy fans.  In addition, the team has made no secret of its goal to target millennials, as soccer is finding its fanbase in America.  According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, millennials are 16% more interested in soccer than any other U.S. demographic.  The team has also already reached out to former supporters groups of Chivas USA, and rumors are already swirling about Cristiano Ronaldo transferring to the team in its inaugural season.

The Los Angeles market already has two baseball teams, two basketball teams, two hockey teams, one soccer team, and will possibly see one or two football teams relocate to the area in the near future.  Even so, this is likely the last expansion sports franchise that the city will see for a very long time, an advantage for MLS considering the potential buzz around the first season that one can see now with NYCFC or Orlando City.  All things considered, LAFC is off to a great start.