NASL CEO Aaron Davidson has been almost singularly focused on one thing lately: Making sure his league got Division 2 sanctioning. So, maybe it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that he doesn't seem particularly worried that his league won't be allowed to play in the 2011 U.S. Open Cup.
"Frankly, from our perspective — I don't want this to come out the wrong way — but we need to focus on our league right now," Davidson told IndyWeek.com. "The U.S. Open Cup is a phenomenal tournament, it gives you a chance to play MLS teams in games that matter, and it gives you a chance if you win it all you get to go to the [CONCACAF] Champions League. But, at the end of the day, we all know we’d rather focus on this league this season.
"The U.S. Open Cup games still cost you money, it’s hard to draw serious gates there because you don't have a lot of lead time to promote them, they’re on weekdays, [and] they're usually Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Obviously, if you get to the later rounds there are chances at really top matches. But, we look forward to coming back to the U.S. Open Cup in 2012. Let’s focus on NASL this year."
Maybe this is just sour grapes from Davidson. Maybe this is Davidson taking a jab at the USSF, basically saying his league season is more important that the country's longest continuously national championship. But both of those motivations seem less than likely. After all, while this season may be cleared for take-off, if NASL has any longterm plans he still needs to stay in the good graces of the USSF.
More likely, it's an honest reaction. There's little doubt that USSF could have found a way to include the NASL in this year's tournament if it was deemed important. The announcement of the format could have been pushed back, as it has each of the past two years, or an alternate format could have been created just in case the league was sanctioned. It seems clear USSF made this a conscious choice, and it seems plausible that Davidson and his fellow owners never raised much of a stink. Neither of those things seem to be in the best interests of a tournament that gives U.S. soccer fans the rare opportunity to see teams from different divisions play one another in a competitive environment, but it doesn't seem impossible to believe that both parties were happy to move along.