Somewhat lost in all the hoopla surrounding the Seattle Sounders' third-straight U.S. Open Cup is the reality that they've been able to achieve this feat while rarely having to go on the road. In three years, they've played outside of their own stadium just three times -- twice against the then-second division Portland Timbers and for the 2009 final against DC United -- which has surely contributed to their 13-0-1 all-time record in qualifying and the tournament proper. Now, the Sporting News is reporting that U.S. Soccer, which runs the tournament, is ready to change up the 98-year-old tournament's format to somewhat level the playing field.
At the core of the complaints is the blind bidding process by which home teams are determined. Prior to each round, the prospective hosts are selected based on a bid form they submit to U.S. Soccer, part of which includes an actual cash payment. These bids are never revealed, which has caused quite a bit of consternation.
According the story, MLS and U.S. Soccer are considering the possibility of making the bid system more open or possibly even forcing teams to guarantee an attendance figure. While this change would not necessarily keep teams from being able to host the vast majority of the games, it would at least allow teams to know what they are up against.
The other big change would allow all 16 U.S.-based MLS teams direct entry into the main tournament. Currently, the top six teams in the previous season's regular standings are given spots in the Round of 16. Two more MLS teams earn entry through a single elimination play-in tournament, which often features largely reserve sides playing in near empty stadiums. Those 16 MLS teams would likely enter the tournament in the Round of 32, but it is unclear if they would play only lower division teams or if they would potentially play games against one another.