Frank Giase makes two points in comparing the US Open Cup to its imitator in England, the FA Cup. One is unfair:
Actually, MLS probably dreads and fears that the day will come when some of its more embarrassing Cupsets are shown to a wider audience than hardcore Amerisnobs like us. But you can stop certain MLS fans dead in their tracks with simple magic words like "Seattle Sounders Select" or "FC Roma." Giase points out the Rhinos of 1999, but every team in the league except one has some embarrassingly hilarious Open Cup pratfall in the closet somewhere, ranging from 1996 to last year. 2008 will be no different, it's just a matter of who it will be.
This is the fair point:
I'm not certain whether throwing money at the problem will make the Open Cup more popular among casual soccer fans, let alone other sports fans. I just have a little trouble thinking of another way. It's a treat for fans, a hassle for the clubs and players, and every year I'm thankful that MLS teams are still willing to contribute to the romance of the thing. Especially since NASL teams were too scared to enter. Like Toronto FC these days. (What's the matter, Tories? Chicken? Buck buck BACAW!)*
But - well, here's how the prestige of the domestic titles stands as of 2008. Houston won MLS Cup for the second year in a row, and everything is hunky-dory. Forwards? Who needs 'em? DC United won the Supporters Shield for the second year in a row - and they backed up the truck in the offseason. The Open Cup? Well, we'll have to see about Steve Nicol, but, um, the last two coaches to win the Open Cup were fired during the next season.** The one before that? Fired the season after.
There's no guarantee that simply increasing the size of the pot would increase fan interest. But something must be done to increase fan interest at some point, otherwise we'll see MLS turn to international friendlies and fake regional "championships," while the second oldest continuously-run national soccer tournament in the world is handed back to amateur clubs.***
Speaking of which, the Open Cup spot for the amateurs is being contested as we speak.
*Yes, I know why Toronto doesn't enter - USSF xenophobia. Maybe if someone besides that RACIST Sunil Gulati were in charge, we'd let Canadian teams enter. (Actually, looking up, way way back in the past, Canadian teams did enter the Open Cup, which pretty much KILLS this joke, but the Canadian federation is too STUCK UP these days - who do they think they are, the New York effin' Cosmos?) (There are people who don't believe in God as fervently as I believe in the "Canadians don't enter the Open Cup because of RACISM" joke)
**Steve Sampson was also fired during the season after winning MLS Cup, but this is an exception that proves a rule - if winning both trophies the previous November didn't save him, then merely winning the Open Cup never would have.
***Looked it up on www.rsssf.com ages ago. No prizes for guessing which the oldest one is.****