RSL played in the 3rd round of the Open Cup last night against the Wilmington Hammerheads and got a comfortable 2-0 victory to advance to the last 8 in the tournament. This could be the best chance that RSL has to make it back into the Champions League next season, as a team's depth is often tested, and RSL has often showed they are very deep and talented throughout the squad.
While the Open Cup is the longest standing tournament in the United States, I feel there are a few flaws with it's format.
1) All Professional teams should automatically qualify for the tournament. I feel like this is somewhat the equivalent to England's FA Cup, in which any team can qualify, even from the amateur club level. And in this case, 8 teams do qualify from that level. But if they can qualify, why can not every team ahead of them, automatically be in it? I understand that there would be a few more rounds that would need to be added, but if they start it in March or April, they would have plenty of time to include all professional teams (MLS, USL, PDL, NPSL) and add a few amateur teams as well. RSL is fortunate enough to qualify based on the previous year's results, but if I was a player on Chivas, or even Toronto, I'd feel ripped off that these lower division teams qualify but we have no chance to do so because we had a bad season, in MLS.
2) There should be an open draw after each round. The first round should start with all the non-MLS teams and then the 3rd or 4th round start including all MLS teams. While this is somewhat the case, in that MLS teams join in the 3rd round of the tournament, an open draw, like the FA Cup, should occur after each round that doesn't necessarily give the "higher ranked" teams automatic home field advantage. Last night there were 8 games, all of which gave the MLS team the home field advantage. In 7 of the 8 matches, the MLS team won, and the one exception was Columbus, who played down a man for the last 25 minutes of their matchup against Richmond. I feel like the home field advantage was a key factor in those matchups. Also, in the current format, all MLS teams are separated until at least the quarterfinals. An open draw could plot two MLS teams against each other earlier in the tournament, forcing managers to decide whether they play their starters, or they give them rest and gamble with a weakened side in the tournament. This would also create some early excitement in the tournament, whereas right now, it was almost a sure thing that all MLS sides would advance. This would play into some smaller team's favor and you could see a PDL team go to the semifinals or even win the whole thing, but instead they have to get through 4 MLS teams to do so.
3) Lastly, the Final should be played at a neutral site, or at least a predetermined site. Whether it is a scheduled rotation, or the same field every year, I think it is unfair to determine who hosts the tournament based on a "ranking system". Play the game at the Home Depot Center, Red Bull Arena, Pizza Hut Park, or even Rio Tinto Stadium. As long as it is mentioned before, I feel like it is much more fair. Last year, the Sounders defended their title against the Crew, AT HOME. Of course, if you have 35,000 fans screaming for you, it is going to be tough. At least at a neutral ground, both teams have an equal right to buy tickets, and support their team in the Final.
Here's to hoping RSL can put together 3 more strong performances and get 3 more victories on their way to win their first Open Cup.