I'm a sucker for Fantasy Games that have more of a luck than skill aspect. March Madness is one of my favorite times of year, even though I don't watch NCAA Men's BB until Championship week.
The US Open Cup bracket presents a perfect opportunity for a pick'em bracket where both soccer die-hards and casual fans could potentially be on equal footing picking winners for each match given previous history of low-level upsets and the winner not always being the best team in MLS at the time (sorry fellow Sounders fans, that's true for the past two years).
The picking itself does present a few challenges, however, namely the fact that locations for Round 2 and seeding for Round 3 and beyond are not determined at the release of the bracket, nor are dates of matches for Round 3 and beyond, however with the proper scoring or pick selection setup, I believe these challenges could be overcome.
Round 2 potential match-ups and dates are known as well (though dates could be subject to change - they have in the past if I recall correctly), but locations are not yet known. This could be overcome either by requiring picks be made after those details are solidified, or by requiring picks before Round 1 and giving additional points for a home versus away win.
Round 3 is when 8 MLS teams enter the bracket to meet the 8 lower-level teams that exited Round 2. Seeding is not yet known for this round and won't be until Round 2 is complete (to my knowledge). This would require another round of picking. Obviously, you wouldn't be able to pick the lower-level (USL Pro, PDL, USASA, NPSL) team to win Round 3 unless you had them exiting their Round 2 match-up.
I believe (though correct me if I'm wrong) that Round 4 (Quarterfinals, 8 teams) locations are set prior to Round 3 based on bidding, so it may be possible to pick Round 3 and Round 4 at the same time.
The successive rounds, (Semifinals and Finals) locations and dates are not set until preceeding rounds are complete if my recollection is correct, so re-picking may be required to be fair to all. This isn't like March Madness - these teams still have other matches - so knowing their matchups and travel schedules may prove to be the most fair.
The final question becomes scoring... you could go with a simple 1 point per matchup, but a more standard increasing point value per matchup seems more equitable. For instance, here are the number of matchups per round:
- Round 1 - 16
- Round 2 - 8
- Round 3 - 8
- Round 4 - 4
- Semis - 2
- Finals - 1
If one assigns a total of 160 points per round (ignoring the Round 2 pre-pick bonuses), the maximum possible would be 960 points.
I wish I had suggestions as to how to run such a bracket, to make it fair, to publish each others brackets, to show a leaderboard, etc, but I don't.... yet. Hoping that the readers can submit their thoughts on how to make this better, or if it's even feasible.
Thanks for reading.