US Open Cup: 3 Ways to Make the Tournament More Relevant
The US Open Cup is the domestic cup tournament in the United States, a single-game knockout competition only followed by hardcore soccer supporters in America. I love Cup competition and think there's an inherent excitement in them, so, to get others on board, here are three things that can be done to increase viewership.
Increase the Prize Money
One of the major draws of the tournament is that winning it guarantees entry to the CONCACAF Champions League. The prize money, however, is only $250,000. Compared to the much larger payout of the MLS Cup, it's not much.
Because of that, coaches don't always use their first teams in this tournament. Viewership is also less, because who wants to watch an LA Galaxy reserve side play the Ocean City Nor'easters? Sorry Ocean City supporters. Not many people care.
What's a way to make people take a competition more seriously? Increase the payout.
Play the Fixtures on the Weekend
Almost all of the U.S. Open Cup matches and all of the earlier rounds are played midweek. This is in order to accommodate an already packed MLS schedule which fills up practically every weekend. This means that oftentimes teams will have three games in 7-9 days.
You can't have a starting XI play 270 minutes in a week, so many reserve players start in the Open Cup match. Since MLS is considered the most important competition, coaches demote the Open Cup and use that as the chance to rest their top quality players. The FA Cup, one of the world's most storied competitions, has its fixtures on the weekends, and that would do wonders for the U.S. tournament.
Broadcast More Games on TV
If the games aren't on TV, not many people will watch them. Being the nerd that I am, I'm willing to watch live streams of the games on my computer. But for the casual fan who doesn't follow the competition closely, they'll have no idea the game is taking place.
That is, unless it's on TV. Why doesn't NBC Sports, which is making a big investment in American soccer, air one match from each round? They don't have to send Kyle Martino to WakeMed Soccer Park, but just put the local announcers on TV.
The final is always aired (last year by GOL TV, previously by Fox Soccer), but none of the other games are. It must be ridiculously cheap to air these early-round matches, and trust me, if it's on TV, people will watch it.