May Madness. MLS Massacre. Whatever you want to call Tuesday night's US Open Cup action, one thing soccer fans in this country can agree on is that the evening sure was entertaining, perhaps just as entertaining as was this past Survival Sunday. Throughout Tuesday evening, excited fans posting on social networking websites such as Twitter clamored for TV coverage of the tournament. Surely, such individuals suggested, FOX Soccer, NBC Sports or ESPN wouldn't have to spend too much money on TV rights for the US Open Cup.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, guys.
Tuesday evening was a historic and magical night, so much so that even I, a critic of the competition, couldn't look away from the action for even a second. Fans have every right to be excited heading into the next round of the tournament. We all must be careful, however, to not pretend that one night meant more to casual sports fans or US Soccer than it actually did.
The US Open Cup is a flawed tournament in many ways, some of which I discussed in the previously linked piece. As Soccer Newsday contributor Abram Chamberlain (a must-follow for all New England Revolution & US Soccer supporters) pointed out late Tuesday night, the US Open Cup should first look to acquire tournament sponsorship. The Football League Cup (Carling) and FA Cup (Budweiser) are just two examples. Advertisers bring money, which leads to better overall coverage of US Open Cup games.
Better technology is a must, because several of Tuesday's games would not have been able to air on public access television let alone FOX Soccer or NBC Sports. Non-MLS teams playing in smaller venues simply don't have the cameras/audio technology to broadcast such games, and, as nice an idea as it may be, MLS teams aren't footing the bill to broadcast away Open Cup games. Proof of this is the fact that, unlike Seattle Sounders, teams such as New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire aren't looking to buy home games. It's not because such MLS front offices believe in the "purity of the competition." It's because those franchises would have taken significant losses had they elected to buy even a single US Open Cup match.
That brings me to my final point, one that is going to be a downer for many diehard fans. My Twitter timeline was filled with US Open Cup chatter throughout Tuesday night. That's because I'm a soccer geek, and thus I follow many like-minded soccer geeks. The truth is that the majority of sports fans in the United States don't know about the Open Cup. Several casual RBNY fans I know weren't even aware New York were playing on Tuesday evening. US Soccer, MLS and the league's teams must first improve when it comes to promoting the tournament as something that cannot be missed before we even think about airing these games on TV.
There's also one question that must be asked: How much of a real demand is there for US Open Cup games to air on national or even local TV? I watched several different games via streams that were posted on the MLSSoccer.com website. While I don't have all of the official numbers for the amount of people who watched Open Cup games online on Tuesday evening, I do know that two of the streams I watched never reached 1,000 total viewers. Another hovered around the 400 mark throughout the second half of the match.
I believe there will come a time when early round US Open Cup games will air on American television. I don't think, however, that we're at that point just yet. American soccer fans are always looking for that one special moment that will make the sport the next "big thing" in this country. I hate to be a killjoy, but Tuesday night wasn't that moment. Instead of focusing on the significance of the third round of the 2012 US Open Cup, I suggest that we all just sit back, relax and appreciate Tuesday for what it was;
one incredible night.
- Sports & Recreation