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May 24, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Sigi Schmid on all things Open Cup: buying hosting rights, travel issues and more

schmid mug.jpgIf you’re a follower of the blog, you know there have been several posts recently regarding the U.S. Open Cup and Sounders FC’s pursuit of a fourth-straight title. Reporters talked to coach Sigi Schmid about a few Open Cup-related issues after training Thursday:

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(Clearly buying hosting rights for next week’s Open Cup game is good for the Sounders, but is it good for the tournament?) “Yeah, I think it is. Obviously Real Salt Lake did the same thing. Portland was prepared to do the same thing, as well. When you do something like that, it’s obviously to the benefit of both teams. It’s to our benefit because of just the amount of miles that we travel. We travel so many more miles and play so many more games than other teams do in our league. It’s obviously to their benefit as well because they got something out of the deal in terms of cash or something that’s greater than they thought they would do if they hosted the game. That’s sort of a win-win situation — it benefits us, it benefits them. Obviously there are teams that are going to opt not to do that. I’ve heard L.A. was trying to do the same thing with Carolina, but Carolina is standing firm and saying, ‘Hey, we sold out the place and we’re going to play.’ So it really comes down to an individual team decision. If the decision is good for the team… Arsene Wenger used to say no decisions are tough if you make the decisions that are right for the team.”

(Did you always know purchasing those hosting rights would be possible? It seemed like it took some people by surprise before Portland made its announcement.) “It gets done in American football all the time. You look at college football and it gets done all the time. Why does Michigan play all their preseason games at home? Why does Ohio State play all their preseason game at home? Clemson in soccer, they used to play 17 home games and five were on the road; the only road games they played were the ACC and South Carolina (games). It’s not new. It’s not something that’s different. Basketball teams do it, as well, where the big powers end up playing all the other games (at home): ‘You want to play us? You’re coming to our place to play?’ So it happens all the time and it was a concept where we weren’t the only ones to look at it. We were maybe second or third in line. I think Portland was the one who sort of announced it early and had looked at it already ahead of us.”

(Was travel the main motivation? Might you have pursued it the same if the game were in eastern Washington?) “Travel was definitely a big issue because, for us, one of the big issues was we couldn’t get the whole team out on a flight on Monday. Either out of Seattle or out of L.A., we couldn’t get the whole team onto a flight. Then it meant we’d have to all fly out on Sunday, and so now you’re spending Sunday night, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you’re spending four nights in Atlanta and the guys are away from home in a week. Plus, you’ve got some guys that are going to come from (Seattle) and some guys are coming from (L.A.), so the travel costs for us were pretty significant. Obviously due to the lateness of the announcement and finding out who you’re going to play a week before, and then trying to book the travel, it’s not a cheap ticket. When you take that all into account, you’re going to have to spend that money anyway, because the reimbursement from U.S. Soccer for your travel is something like $7,500 or $8,000. So obviously you can figure that out. That would cover about six guys’ flights. (laughs) Then you’re really looking at, ‘OK, what are we going to do?’ It’s going to cost us ‘X’ to travel. It’s going to cost us ‘X’ to play at home.”

(On the draw… [Ed note: Answer interjected into the question]) “At some point they sent out a bracket, but that bracket I guess just got torn up and thrown in the trash can because the bracket changed completely. I don’t know if it will change the next time around, too.”

(If there is going to be a bracket or draw that’s really honored, does U.S. Soccer have to do more when it comes to funding, logistics and so forth?) “It’s their tournament. They can take the tournament as far as they want to. They’ve experimented with different things over the years. It’s just a matter of what they do. For me, for myself, I think bracketing the tournament right at the beginning right at the beginning would be good. I know there’s a regionalization that they use, but that to me means that every time in the Open Cup you’re going to have the same people knocking each other off to get to the final, so that makes it difficult. We win and Portland wins, (that would) mean three out of four years we’d go to Portland. So people say we’re buying the Cup, we’re always going to Portland to play. I think bracketing could help, again. Open the process up. Have a coin flip like they do in England, where maybe there are no options once you’re drawn as the home team — unless your field is inadequate, you’re going to get the home game. So they can do things like that. That makes it a little more transparent, but also would help. In my mind, I think it would help the prestige of the tournament because, like I’ve said, people would go to the website to look at the brackets. People would go to the website to look at the coin flip. I thought that was always the point of a website: To drive people to it.”


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