On Wednesday, the North Carolina Fusion U-23s pulled off a dramatic extra time win, 3-1, over SC United Bantams at the SEFL Soccer Complex in Columbia, S.C.. For the fans in the stands and those watching the YouTube broadcast, they thought they were watching a First Round game in the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
As it turns out, it was just an exhibition game.
During pre-match roster checks, the South Carolina United FC 18-player roster was found to only have 10 players eligible to compete in the US Open Cup. The host club was presented with two options; play the match with the 10 eligible players or accept a forfeit and play a friendly against the Fusion.
With both teams already warmed up and a crowd assembled, the teams agreed to the latter option. The exhibition match was not under the authority of the US Open Cup. The original tournament contest was officially recorded as a forfeit and the Fusion were awarded a 1-0 win to advance to the Second Round.
Despite the cup match being called off and an exhibition game played in its place, the game was still streamed live on US Soccer’s YouTube channel. According to a team official for South Carolina United, the team was informed that the forfeit would be announced by the USSF. However, during the broadcast commentators made no mention of this being an exhibition match. On multiple occasions, it was noted that the winner of this game would move on to play the Charlotte Independence in the next round.
In accordance with the official US Open Cup handbook any team that forfeits a cup game is subject to fines determined by the Adjudication and Discipline Panel. Said team will also be assessed/forfeit the performance bond ($1000) that each team provides when registering.
According to the USSF, the commissioner will not recommend further disciplinary action as far as a team suspension or a match ban. South Carolina United FC competes in the USL League 2 and is managed by volunteer and part-time team officials. The complete Bantams roster was cleared to compete in the league, however, eight of the players remained ineligible for the cup which the team was alerted to just before the match was scheduled to begin.
A Bantams team official expressed good will towards the USSF and US Open Cup and pointed to a simple clerical error in not registering the full roster with the cup, emphasizing the team did not intentionally attempt to field ineligible players.
Match Broadcast, Still titled “2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup”