The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) held its annual general meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. last week. During the National Council Meeting on Feb. 16, there was a significant 15 seconds that should excite fans of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the United States’ national championship, that will kick off its 106th competition in May.
During his remarks, US Soccer CEO Dan Flynn gave a broad view of what’s to come in the near future with the federation. During his speech, what may have caught the ear of fans of the second-oldest continually-operating cup competition in the world was when he talked about the USSF’s plans to revamp its digital offerings to fans.
Flynn mentioned plans for a new website and a new mobile app, but then said this:
“This year we will expand our Open Cup broadcast coverage and will be soon announcing a deal with one of our partners that will provide an unprecedented level of access for fans during the entire competition.”
No details were provided.
In the US Open Cup’s Modern Era (1995-present), the tournament has had very limited television exposure. There have only been 41 US Open Cup broadcasts (the vast majority of which were aired live), on a national or regional cable network. Of those 41 broadcasts, 23 of them were the championship game and 11 were Semifinal matches. In fact, between 2004 and 2018, there have only been four non-championship matches shown prior to the Final. Last year, the only match that was broadcast live on national television was the 2018 US Open Cup Final between the Houston Dynamo and the Philadelphia Union which was shown live on ESPN2 and the Univision Deportes Network.
In the tournament’s Modern Era, fans interested in watching the tournament have had only two choices: watch the games in person, or watch online. Local fans could watch the games in person, which is not always easy for the average fan because Open Cup matches are almost always played midweek, which further discouraged travelling fans. Sometimes there might be an online stream of the match available. While efforts have been made to get more games streaming online, the quality of those online streams have been inconsistent, especially in the early rounds.
This appears to be changing in 2019, with the federation set to announce a deal with one of their broadcast partners. Those in attendance at the federation’s US Open Cup meeting have told TheCup.us that the goal is to make every game of the tournament available, which would require a significant financial investment in the competition.
More hints that changes could be on the horizon for the tournament were dropped at the US Open Cup Committee Meeting at the AGM which featured a new format. The meeting consisted of what has been described by a few who attended as a “brainstorming session” where there was an open discussion about some of the suggestions that fans and media members had submitted via social media on how to improve the Open Cup.
In fact, TheCup.us, which is working on a “how to improve the US Open Cup” feature, got into the act as well.
I know a lot of you have plenty of ideas of how to improve the Lamar Hunt US @OpenCup … and with the #USOC2019 just around the corner, I’ve got a feature story in the works and want to hear YOUR suggestions. Share this and reply to this tweet to share your suggestions pic.twitter.com/ynCuOfQsWU
— TheCup.us (@usopencup) February 11, 2019
Fans have complained for years about the lack of US Open Cup games on television and other media outlets, but it appears that Soccer United Marketing, the rights holder for all the tournament’s broadcasting and marketing rights, has a plan to make more games available. As for the fan-submitted suggestions, it is too soon to know how many of these suggestions will be implemented, but it is clear that the federation is listening.