Last week MLS announced that it would not be sending its teams to compete in the U.S. Open Cup anymore, choosing instead to field reserve teams from the developmental MLS Next Pro league. On Wednesday, the federation responded by denying this proposition, stating MLS teams are required to play according to USSF standards.
MLS commissioner Don Garber has made his feelings about the knockout style tournament very clear in the past, and after last summers Leagues Cup proved to be such a success, fixture congestion is definitely an issue that may need addressing. If Garber feels he has to choose between the two competitions, you'd expect he's always going to prioritize the one he helped create and gave us moments like this.
So what happens next?
U.S. soccer clearly states " teams must participate in all representative U.S Soccer and Concacaf competitions for which they are eligible", so if the commissioner decides to respect the federation's policy then the result would be leaving its interpretation up to the individual MLS teams. Meaning teams might be told to field a squad as competitive (or non-competitive) as they want.
If Garber however, decides to keep fighting, it could get very messy. Disregarding USSF policy could not only lead to lawsuits but would also set a precedent for going against other pre-existing agreements. Issues like allowing players to leave for international duty, coaching education requirements, refereeing assignments and many other problems would arise should the relationship between these two institutions deteriorate any further.
Ultimately, MLS feels that because they don't own the U.S Open Cup and therefore do not profit from it, then it is not worth playing in. What is important to appreciate though is that having an open tournament like the FA Cup in England or the Copa Del Rey in Spain can provide so much more than just profit. The small clubs get their day in the sun against the big boys.
Fans of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds get to see their team play against (and defeat) the New England Revolution. A team based in a local liquor store can find itself up 1-0 against four-time MLS Cup champions DC United. Lets not forget that the oldest recognized soccer tournament in North America also provided some Messi magic of its own.