Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lower-division teams relish chance to host U.S. Open Cup matches

U.S. Soccer Communications

The 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup begins May 15, and with the 99th edition comes a multitude of changes. For lower-division teams, the most significant is the random selection process for determining home teams from the first round through the quarterfinals.

In previous years, all teams pursued this opportunity through a bidding process.

“In the last three to five years, MLS teams have actively been bidding on games,” said Andrew Bell, president of the USL PRO’s Charleston Battery. “Usually we were successful drawing to host games, but there had been a power shift with MLS teams. Looking from the outside, they’re taking the Open Cup a bit more seriously, at which point I think it became increasingly difficult to get a game against an MLS team.”

Now with a random selection process in place, the likelihood of a Division III team such as the USL PRO’s Richmond Kickers to host an MLS team should improve significantly.

“The opportunity for lower-division teams to host a game is a crucial component, especially from a brand exposure standpoint,” Kickers head coach Leigh Cowlishaw said. “We’ve had some successes on the road, but in the past we’ve also hosted the likes of D.C. United with [former D.C. forward] Freddy Adu and the LA Galaxy with Landon Donovan. Those memorable games leave a lasting impression not only for the players and coaches, but the fan base.”


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