MLS Withdraws from 2024 US Open Cup: What are the Reasons?

In an unexpected move, Major League Soccer (MLS) has just announced that its first teams will not be participating in the 2024 edition of the US Open Cup. Instead, they will be replaced by MLS Next Pro affiliates. This decision has left many fans feeling disappointed, especially after the league’s recent announcement of relatively minor changes for the 2024 season. Fans were hoping for significant roster building changes, such as an additional Designated Player spot and a higher salary cap, to continue to see the growth of the league.

The decision was made during a recent Board of Governors meeting, where clubs voted to have MLS Next Pro teams represent the organization in the US Open Cup. MLS will work with U.S. Soccer to coordinate the participation of these teams in the tournament. MLS Next Pro is a developmental league that serves as a stepping stone for young players aspiring to join second and first teams. However, this decision raises the question of why MLS would turn its back on the oldest soccer competition in the United States. The answer appears to be a focus on financial considerations, as the US Open Cup does not bring in as much revenue as other competitions.

The US Open Cup was broadcast for free on YouTube during its early stages, with later stages airing on CBS Sports Network. In contrast, the Leagues Cup, which features teams from MLS and Liga MX, draws in more viewers and is also broadcast on Apple TV. Additionally, there are concerns about fixture congestion, as MLS teams are already expected to play 34 regular-season games, take part in Leagues Cup, and potentially compete in other tournaments such as the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The decision to refrain from participating in the US Open Cup for the 2024 season does not necessarily mean that MLS will not take part in future editions but suggests that there are obstacles to juggling multiple competitions at once.

While the decision may help prevent player injuries and contribute to the overall quality of play, fans are disappointed by the lack of significant changes to roster building guidelines and the withdrawal from the US Open Cup. With tournaments like Copa America and the 2026 World Cup on the horizon, fans had hoped to see the league take steps forward, particularly with the presence of global superstars such as Lionel Messi. However, the recent announcements have left many feeling uncertain about the future of MLS.

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