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Here are our "solutions" to the current U.S. Open Cup regionalization problem

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The U.S. Open Cup is the oldest soccer competition in the United States and one of the oldest in the world. That doesn't mean it's perfect, however. Every year or two, there's a new wrinkle introduced to try and satisfy those who are unsatistifed.

Still, there are still a lot of problems. Among other things, in recent days Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid was not afraid to bite the hand that's helped him enjoy a strong run with his current side by advocating for an open and blind draw for the Open Cup, which is currently structured along regional lines in the early rounds for the sake of convenience and saving money.

And on Tuesday, Jon Marthaler of the StarTribune.com advocated moving away from "repeats," where teams like Minnesota United FC have to play the same teams in the Open Cup over and over again.

In that spirit, here are some "solutions" we came up with to facilitate the vision shared above:

  • Make the United States smaller: Why does U.S. Soccer resist following the FA Cup in England and do a random draw? Because the United States is so big, and the cost of traveling, where teams must fly a fair amount of the time, and in some cases, have to take multiple flights to get to a destination, is very different from the bus travel in England. How can we fix this? Make the U.S. (officially 3,794,100 square miles) a more reasonable distance, like that of England (50,346 square miles).
  • Create a travel fund for teams: Ok, it does not seem feasible to lop off most of the United States' size for the sake of a soccer competition. Why don't we create a big travel fund for teams? The amateur teams could get the biggest cut, and on up the pyramid, MLS sides, who have the most experience (and theoretically, actual money) with travel would get the smallest proportion. Of course, U.S. Soccer does provide some travel funds for teams, but in order to allow, say Chula Vista FC (who crowdsourced funding to make the trip from their home base south of San Diego to Sacramento for Wednesday's game against Sac Republic) be able to make the trip to play the Harrisburg City Islanders one day, they're going to need a bigger cut. Just make a slush fund in the millons of dollars for each year's tournament and problem solved!
  • Create more teams: It seems unlikely a travel fund could be made large enough to accommodate unfettered travel, especially for teams lower on the U.S. soccer pyramid, so unless we want to see a slew of forfeits, maybe that's not the solution. But if teams are mad about having to play the same teams each year? Easy solution: make more teams. If Washington and Oregon had more teams not owned by the same clubs, for example, we wouldn't have to see Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders 2 vs. Portland Timbers 2 in Wednesday's action. If there were more independent teams kicking around, the MLS teams in particular wouldn't have to worry about facing off against each other until later in the tournament.
Obviously, these are facetious "solutions," but on a serious level, regionalization is the right policy for the U.S. Open Cup. So what if a team has to play the same teams each year? If the same teams always win, then they deserve to play the bigger teams in the area. I understand in some areas of the country there's a possibility to expand the regions a bit more to accommodate variety, but given the enormous size of our country, the huge costs associated with traveling, and the desire to see the Open Cup be as strong of a competition as possible, the regional route is the right one.

And for those who dismiss the real factor of travel costs, it's pretty onerous, even for one trip. MLS went to an unbalanced league schedule in part to cut down on travel expenses, especially for teams on the coasts, and USL and NASL teams struggle to cover travel costs at times. Remember when the San Antonio Scorpions traded for a player, Walter Restrepo, in exchange for all transportation and lodging expenses to San Antonio that season for Restrepo's team, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers? That trade took place in Jan. 2014, not some long-distant moment.

Furthermore, those who are new to following the USL of late have noticed the crunched road trips many teams make, where they end up playing two games in three or four days. They don't do that just to break some kind of record for how many games they can cram in at once -- they do it to cut down on travel costs while maximizing a swing to an area of the country where there are multiple teams in close proximity (most notably the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, and Oklahoma).

Unlike England, teams can't simply pile into a bus and make it to their opponent's stadium inside of four hours. If the choice is between having the "annoyance" of seeing the same teams in the Open Cup due to the regionalization of the tournament or facilitating the doom of many teams because of travel costs spiraling out of control and eventually sinking them altogether, it seems to me the first option is very much preferred. The organization of the tournament may not be perfect, but it's pretty good right now, and may be the best option under the circumstances. Embrace the local aspect of the national tournament, and build rivalries with teams in different divisions. After all, we're talking about the United States' oldest soccer competition, not any other country's traditions.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!