After the 2020 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 edition of the United States’ soccer championship may be following the same path.
On Monday, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced that the 2021 tournament, which was already reduced from 100 entries to 24, was going to be cut to 16 by canceling the First Round.
United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) president John Motta confirmed to TheCup.us that a meeting between USASA leadership on March 29 produced a unanimous vote to recommend to the USSF that the 2021 US Open Cup should be canceled. Motta expressed this recommendation on behalf of the USASA in a letter to the federation (SEE: letter at bottom of page).
According to Motta, who has been the USASA president since 2014, the federation’s COVID protocols call for the following:
* Teams that would required to travel by air in the tournament would not be allowed to fly via a commercial airline. The team would have to charter a plane, and possibly two, depending on the size of the travel roster and coaching staff.
* Teams would be limited to one player or coach per hotel room.
* Teams would have to submit to three COVID-19 tests. One taken 48 hours before the game, another the day before the game and a third the day of the game.
With those requirements in place, this would potentially put the tournament out of reach for many amateur teams, and possibly some of the lower division professional teams. However, it is unclear if the USSF plans to cover any of these additional costs. When asked, the USSF declined to comment or confirm the details of the COVID-19 protocols.
“The US Open Cup is a great opportunity for amateur clubs to compete against professional clubs, which is at the very core of the US Open Cup,” said Motta. “The tournament is going to cost the federation a lot of money, and to not involve amateur teams, would be a disservice to our teams and the fans. We should just focus on bringing the US Open Cup back stronger than ever in 2022.”
A person familiar with the discussions within the Open Cup committee told TheCup.us that the “costs and requirements to make all entities comfortable will be outside of most teams’ budgets.”
However, while it’s unclear if the federation will be providing financial assistance, the representatives from the lower division professional teams from the USL Championship, USL League One, and the National Independent Soccer Association appear to be on board and ready to go for this abbreviated US Open Cup.
Three of the four of the USL Championship clubs that will take part (El Paso Locomotive FC, Louisville City FC, Phoenix Rising FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies) have said they are not concerned about the additional costs. Greenville Triumph (USL League One) and Detroit City FC (NISA) have both told TheCup.us that they are confident that they can handle whatever protocols are put in place.
It is worth noting that while the USASA doesn’t represent all of the amateur teams that take part in the US Open Cup, but they are, by far, the largest organization.
While, it will be a different challenge for amateur teams, for the lower division pros, it appears, the value of a US Open Cup match against a MLS team (all Round of 16 matches will be MLS vs. lower division teams), is more valuable to them than any potential travel and COVID-19 protocol costs.