On Nov. 19, in the Open Division Qualifying tournament for the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, an unfortunate situation brought the abrupt end to the Third Round game between D’Feeters Kicks SC and D10 Lions FC.
With D’Feeters up 2-0 in the 74th minute, the referee was forced to abandon the match after several D10 players confronted him after issuing a red card to Lions player Ran Vahnono. According to the referee report, the match was ended after Vahnono spat in the direction of the referee after getting sent off for shoving an opponent trying to set up for a free kick. After the match was abandoned, a player kicked the referee and made contact with his heel. In the end, 10 yellow cards and four red cards were officially issued to the Lions prior to the situation becoming untenable for the officials.
Unfortunately, in the long history of the US Open Cup, this was not the first time that there have been more then a few incidents where games were halted due to referee abuse.
Here are a few of the more prominent examples over the years.
1930 National Challenge Cup (Detroit, MI)
On Nov. 16, 1930 in the Second Round of Michigan qualifying at Packard Park in Detroit, Albion and Swedish American FC were replaying their 3-3 draw from the week before. Albion scored in the 60th minute to go up 2-0, and some of the crowd who felt offside should have been called spilled onto the field to go after referee H. Pithie. Pithie called the game off and fled to the dressing room with a police escort. The game was later awarded to Albion.
1948 National Challenge Cup (Rochester, NY)
The opening round of Northwest New York qualifying kicked off at a snowy Old University Field in Rochester on Jan. 4, 1948. Rochester Thistles scored in the 65th minute to go ahead of Beck’s German American SC of Buffalo, 3-2. Just after the goal, Several Beck’s players assaulted referee Ralph Griffith, kicking him in the head and back before being rescued by Thistles players and escorted to the dressing room. Beck’s were later disqualified.
1956 National Challenge Cup (Milwaukee, WI)
In the Wisconsin state final on Dec. 4, 1955 at Old Heidelberg Park in Milwaukee, Milwaukee Sport Club were leading Serbian SC 2-0 late in the game. In the 88th minute, Serbian forward George Rasic began arguing with referee Len Colbert, after which Rasic struck Colbert, causing Colbert to halt the game. Rasic was suspended for one year.
1963 National Challenge Cup (Philadelphia, PA)
Perhaps the most high-profile incident of referee abuse in an Open Cup game came in the 1963 Final between Philadelphia’s Ukrainian Nationals and Armenian SC of Los Angeles. After 90 minutes of scoreless play, Mike Noha put the Nationals ahead 1-0 in the 115th minute. Just after the goal, an unidentified Armenian player struck referee Ray Kraft, who immediately stopped the game, giving the Nationals their third Open Cup championship in four years.
1965 National Challenge Cup (Philadelphia, PA)
On April 4, 1965 the Ukrainian Nationals were involved in another match that was ended abruptly due to referee abuse. With the Ukrainians locked in a 1-1 tie in extra time with Paterson Roma (NJ) at Philly’s Cambria Stadium, the Ukrainians’ Carl Yakavino scored to put his team ahead, 2-1. An unidentified Roma player then struck referee Ray Kraft in the face, bringing an immediate end to the contest and advancing the Ukrainians to the Eastern Semifinals.
This marked the second time in three years that Kraft was attacked by a player in a tournament game. Kraft would finish his career as a very well-regarded official. He was a 1984 inductee into the National Soccer Hall of Fame and even managed Baltimore’s Pompei SC, a club that reached the US Open Cup Final in 1958. During that run, Pompei won the longest, and arguably the greatest tournament game in history in the Quarterfinals.
1966 National Challenge Cup (New York, NY)
One of the more unusual incidents took place on Mar. 20, 1966 in the National Quarterfinals between New York Ukrainian and New York Greek American SC. With the Ukrainians ahead 2-1 deep in extra time, the Greek Americans became enraged when referee McLean did not award them a penalty kick on when they felt was a foul inside the penalty area. Greek American players and spectators went after McLean and the game was abandoned. Instead of a forfeit or replay, it was decided the two teams would play the final five minutes on April 10. The Ukrainians held on for the win but would fall to the Ukrainian Nationals in the Semifinals.
2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup (Tukwila, WA)
The only significant incident of referee abuse from the Modern Era (1995-present) came in the 2015 US Open Cup. Clint Dempsey of the Seattle Sounders, who produced numerous memorable moments in MLS, the English Premier League and the US Men’s National Team during his career, produced a memorable moment for all the wrong reasons.
In the 114th minute of a hotly-contested Fourth Round game between the Sounders and their archrivals, the Portland Timbers, Dempsey became the third Sounders players to receive a red card in the game. Before leaving the field, Dempsey grabbed notebook of referee Daniel Radford and ripped it up.
While the game continued, Seattle would end up losing 3-1 and Dempsey would receive a ban from Open Cup play for two years or six matches, whichever was greater.