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I've always taken the US Open Cup seriously. In addition to the inherent excitement of single-game knockout tournaments, the winner receives $250,000 and a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League.
All this for winning only five games, with possibly three of them being against lower-level opposition. It seems like a no-brainer teams should field strong lineups for this tournament.
It's obvious why the lower-level clubs take the Cup seriously. It's their only chance to prove themselves against the best sides in North America. However, they often end up playing reserve squads.
Due to the importance of MLS play, many MLS managers save their regulars for MLS play and give players who don't get many minutes time.
Dominic Kinnear is a prime example of this. The Houston Dynamo played their Cup match against FC Dallas in between back-to-back bye weeks, but his starting XI still consisted of mostly reserve players.
The Dynamo got thumped 3-0 by their Texas rivals. Dom has never taken the tournament seriously, and that's the only real criticism I have of him as a coach.
Columbus and Philadelphia also used a lot of second team players in their respective fixtures, and both lost; however, they were against MLS teams. The Portland Timbers also used a reserve squad, but were facing off against NASL opposition.
New York and New England were both mostly reserve sides when they faced off against each other, and the Revs didn't pay for that decision as they prevailed 4-2.
Fans don't take the tournament too seriously in general. The Portland Timbers nearly set an all-time low for attendance after just over 5,000 witnessed a mostly reserve side defeat the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0.
Although it was $15 to see a reserve side beat a lower-league side, if Portland wants to be considered Soccer City, USA as many supporters claim it is, they'll need to do better than that. Looking around the league, many stadiums had more than half of the stadium totally unoccupied.
Credit goes out to Real Salt Lake, however, as they were able to get over 13,000 for an encounter against the lower-league Charleston Battery, in what turned out to be the goalfest of the day, a 5-2 extra time win for RSL.
Overall, the US Open Cup is still totally unknown to non-soccer fans, and only really big fans care to follow it. The more casual ones probably think one competition is enough to keep up with.