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Randomize U.S. Open Cup draw and 'dare to make it meaningful', Sigi Schmid urges

Sounders head coach is not a fan of tournament's regionalization.

Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography

There is no shortage of ideas on how to "fix" the U.S. Open Cup, and around this time every year Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid shares his. It's genius in its simplicity: Stop regionalizing it and institute a blind draw, effectively mimicking the far more popular FA Cup.

Even if Schmid weren't the tournament's most successful coach -- he has won it five times and coached seven finalists -- his thinking is worth hearing out (full text here): "The only thing that's sad for me is one of the great things about the FA Cup and some of the cups even in other countries is you can end up with a derby as the final game. You can have a Manchester City play Manchester United as a final game, you can have an Arsenal play against Tottenham as a final game. Because of the regionalization of the draw in U.S. Soccer, you will never have a Portland-Seattle final. You will never have a New York City-Red Bull final. You will never have a Dallas-Houston final. And I think that's a little sad. It's disappointing. I think it takes away from the tournament. I think it takes away from the quality of the tournament.

"Just imagine if you had a Seattle-Portland final in front of 60,000. Or just imagine if you had a Dallas-Houston final or you had New York City-Red Bull final. I think that would really draw a lot of attention to the competition. Hopefully at some point they can get away from the regionalization so that can happen."

Schmid is well aware that this would come with its own challenges and meet a fair amount of resistance. Dropping the regionalization would dramatically increase travel costs, for one, and make scheduling games even more difficult than it already is. But he believes the payoff would be worthwhile.

"I'd like to see us take the event to another level and have a draw after each round," he said. "Right now, OK it's going to be regional, so you sort of have an idea who you're going to play, and I think it limits the potential opportunity. I used to have an assistant coach, he used to say, ‘You've got to dare to be brilliant. You can't do something brilliant unless you dare to be brilliant.'

"Well you're not going to have a U.S. Open Cup that's really meaningful unless you dare to make it meaningful. Right now, by keeping on a regional basis, yeah, it satisfies some people who don't want to travel a lot, we don't have to spend a lot of money because they don't give a lot of money for travel; it's an additional cost. I know clubs don't want to do that. So there's a lot of reasons for CEOs who are going to say to me, ‘Hey that's stupid Sigi,' and for coaches to say, ‘That's stupid, Sigi.' At the end of the day, I think over a four-five year period of doing that, I think the Cup will become more meaningful, will become a higher level of competition, you'll get more people out to watch it, and you'll have more interest. But you've got to take that chance. I might be wrong. It might not work. But it ain't working the way it's going now. And it doesn't draw enough interest the way it's going now, so certainly changing it wouldn't make it any worse. Maybe I'm wrong. I could be wrong. I've been wrong before."

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