Tonight 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.