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Portland Timbers file official protest after U.S. Open Cup loss vs. LAFC

U.S. Soccer to investigate claim LAFC played too many foreign players.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup Final-New York Red Bulls at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Update: LAFC’s win is upheld, after U.S. Soccer determines a “good faith misunderstanding” took place and the Timbers withdrew their protest.

U.S. Soccer announced on Thursday morning they have postponed the draw for the semifinal round of the 2018 U.S. Open Cup, after the Portland Timbers filed an official protest against Los Angeles Football Club, who defeated them 3-2 on Wednesday.

The Timbers claim LAFC fielded six foreign players, breaking the tournament rule that only five players classified as foreign can play in an Open Cup game for one team.

The accusation stems from Stumptown Footy’s Zach Kay, who tweeted out the following after the Timbers’ loss:

The turning point in this seems to come down to two players: Dejan Jakovic and Mark-Anthony Kaye. Both players are Canadians, and given their time spent in the United States, their status is more murky than the rest of the international players listed.

Angels on Parade can confirm that per MLS regulations, both Kaye and Jakovic are registered as “domestic” players. Neither takes up an international spot, something an LAFC spokesperson confirmed to me on Wednesday night following Kay’s tweet.

It should be noted that this accusation does not impact LAFC’s two previous USOC games, as they did not play enough international players in those games to come close to a violation.

Ultimately, the investigation will come down to whether U.S. Soccer will also classify Kaye and Jakovic as domestic (and therefore not foreign) players for the Open Cup. Canadian players in MLS are not automatically given domestic status on American MLS rosters, with one exception, for “Canadian Generation adidas” players, in a program first announced by the league in 2017. Neither Jakovic or Kaye qualify under that program, so they obtained domestic status in another way.

The easiest explanation is that the players have green cards. However, neither player has publicly been announced to hold a green card, which is customary these days in MLS. That said, just because there hasn’t been an announcement does not mean they do not have green cards. Again, at this point, we do not know for certain.

It has to be a little concerning from an LAFC perspective that U.S. Soccer has gone to the step of postponing the draw to investigate the matter, implying that this cannot be resolved in 90 minutes. The draw, which is the cutoff point for any official protests, will be rescheduled at a later date after a decision has been made in the matter.

I cannot recall a time when the foreign player rule was used to file a protest in the U.S. Open Cup in recent memory, although there have been two cases in recent years of results being overturned for a related reason. Both LA Wolves FC, against Ventura County Fusion in 2016, and the Charleston Battery, against The Villages also in 2016, successfully argued that the teams who beat them fielded a player who had played a U.S. Open Cup qualifier for a different team in the same tournament, therefore rendering the player ineligible.

So we’ll see. Again, the fact that U.S. Soccer investigating this means Portland may ultimately have a case and LAFC could be kicked out of the tournament. At this point, we’ll have to see what happens, and if you’re like me, you’ll be on pins and needles waiting to find out.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!