In a conference call to discuss the US Soccer Federation’s provisional sanctioning of the North American Soccer League (NASL), US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said the eight-team league will not be taking part in the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Five of the eight teams in the NASL — Carolina RailHawks, FC Tampa Bay Rowdies, Atlanta Silverbacks, NSC Minnesota Stars and Miami FC — will not participate due to the fact that a change to the Open Cup format at this stage of planning would be difficult.
Gulati said during the conference call, “It’s simply too late to incorporate them into the process in the various phases of the tournament. The timing does not work for the five U.S.-based teams to participate in this annual event.” He added, “It’s impossible to put them into [the US Open Cup]. They’re not going to play this year.”
This marks the first time in the Professional Era (1995-present) that a pro league will not be taking part in the tournament. The last time a professional league was not represented in the Open Cup was when the previous North American Soccer League(1968-1984) refused to enter throughout the league’s 17-year existence. In 1996, the USISL Pro League did not enter a club into the Open Cup, but that was due to the qualification tournament created by the USISL, which merged all the leagues together into one competition. None of the USISL Pro teams survived the qualifying tournament.
The format for the 2011 US Open Cup has not been released, and it is unknown when it will be announced and how many teams will ultimately take part in the tournament. The last two years, the format was announced on May 5, 2010 and April 30, 2009.
The three remaining clubs, all of which are not eligible because they are not based in the United States, are still competing in their own cup competitions. The Canadian-based teams, FC Edmonton and the Montreal Impact will be taking part in the Canadian Nutrilite Championship and the Puerto Rico Islanders will also continue to participate in the Caribbean Football Union championships. Both tournaments lead to a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Currently there are a number of states who have either completed or are conducting their Open Cup qualifying tournament for the USASA. Check back with TheCup.us with a recap of all the state qualifying to this point.