Following the example of Major League Soccer (MLS), United Soccer League (USL), National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), the CONCACAF Champions League, and pretty much every major and minor sporting league in the region, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced today they would be temporarily suspending the 2020 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first round was scheduled to kick off on March 24, with the second round following two weeks later. Per the statement from USSF, there remains optimism that the tournament will be held in 2020, continuing the Open Cup’s run as the second-longest-running uninterrupted competition in the world (The Irish Cup was launched in 1881 and has never missed a year). The US Open Cup has carried on through multiple world wars, soccer wars, but it’s unclear if it will survive the coronavirus.
“Given the unique nature of the competition,” said the US Open Cup commissioner Paul Marstaller in USSF’s statement, “which encompasses clubs from multiple leagues that have suspended their seasons, we are taking this action and will look to determine future dates to allow the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to be played.”
What remains to be seen, however, is if this year’s Open Cup will still include MLS and USL sides. The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter reported yesterday that USL has already informed US Soccer that they intend to pull out.
The question remains, if the reporting is true that the USL may want to sit out the 2020 tournament, could Major League Soccer be far behind? The top two leagues make up nearly half of the entries in the 107th edition of the Open Cup. The USL Championship has 25 (US-based) teams in this year’s competition, while MLS has 23 (US-based) teams.
There’s no word on whether this suspension will impact those decisions. Both leagues would prefer to play a full schedule in front of fans, as much of their revenue derives from matchday income. Working with what is likely to be a highly-condensed schedule, the leagues are likely hoping to use what would have been the Open Cup dates for rescheduled matches.
As a tournament that’s been around for more than a century, the US Open Cup is no stranger to pandemics, but clearly this novel coronavirus is easily the most disruptive. 100 years ago, during the 1918/1919 edition of the tournament — then known as the National Challenge Cup — the Spanish Flu caused the postponement of a number of opening round games. There were also media reports of a few key players missing games due to the Hong Kong Flu in the late 1960s.
– Ian Foster