Some blame the media. Others blame US Soccer, or MLS coaches who don’t prioritize the tournament.
Whatever the cause, the fact remains that the US Open Cup still has a perception problem, despite being the oldest continuously awarded national championship in the country.
As part of that, recognition of what the Seattle Sounders could achieve by attempting to become the first team in the 99-year history of the tournament to win four straight titles also seems to be lacking.
“It’s a little more difficult than people can imagine,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said during a Tuesday teleconference with media. “It’s a straight knockout competition, so there are a lot of things that can go wrong. You can get some bad bounces, bad calls, you can run into a hot goalkeeper or have a bad day at the office and you’re out.”
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes, who will be trying to end the Sounders’ run of three straight titles when his team hosts Seattle in the Open Cup final at Livestrong Sporting Park on Wednesday night (9 pm ET, GolTV, Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com), actually agrees with his adversary on this point.
"I don't think they've gotten the attention that they should in the incredible feat of participating in four Open Cup finals in a row,” Vermes said. “As a coach, as a group of players and as an organization, it's incredible. Congratulations to them.”
There are any number of reasons why the Sounders may not quite be getting their due. The biggest is probably that the Open Cup is still seen as one of the lesser trophies for which MLS teams compete.
Changing that perception is not something that can be easily fixed, but that doesn’t make it impossible.
“I think it rests on everybody’s shoulders,” Schmid said. “I think drawing upon the history of the event, drawing upon the uniqueness of the event and that this is something where all levels of the sport can compete against each other for one trophy, which is unique in sports to the U.S. in comparison to the other major sports.”
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Schmid, who has previously voiced skepticism over how this year’s draw was conducted, didn’t stop there.
“Transparency is important, getting the word out there,” he added, “having the teams that participate and host games doing a stronger job in terms of putting it into the appropriate venue, the appropriate-sized venue, the appropriate attention to it so they create an atmosphere and create an event around the game.
“It rests on the shoulders of US Soccer, but it also rests on the shoulders of the teams that are participating. It rests on the shoulders of the media to make people aware of the uniqueness of this tournament this year.”
There may be no better advertisement for the tournament than a great game, though. With a packed crowd expected at LSP to watch two of the top teams in the league play for one of the country’s oldest championships in any sport, the breakthrough could well come this year.
“There’s no doubt in my mind the spectacle tomorrow night will be tremendous as well,” Vermes said, “and it will continue to raise the level of this competition in this part of the country.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.