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June 3, 2012 at 2:29 PM

Sigi Schmid: “Being very frank, I think U.S. Soccer is trying to make it difficult for us to win an Open Cup.”

schmid mug.jpgSounders FC coach Sigi Schmid spoke for about five minutes on U.S. Soccer and the U.S. Open Cup, particularly that the federation is wants to see a team other than Seattle win the tournament.

This comes of the heels of the news that the Sounders were drawn to go on the road if they advance to the quarterfinals, regardless of the fourth-round winner between San Jose (MLS) and Minnesota (NASL). Here is the transcript of Schmid comments Sunday:

* * *

(What did you make of the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal draw, particularly seeing more scenarios where you’d have to play on the road?) “Obviously the coin is not favorable to us. It seems to land on the right side for K.C. and for D.C. United, whose president of one club and coach of the other (club) have been on the executive committee of U.S. Soccer — surprisingly. Being very frank, I think U.S. Soccer is trying to make it difficult for us to win an Open Cup. It’s almost like sometimes I get the feeling like they’d rather not see us win it again, for whatever reasons. Maybe they think it dilutes the value of the Cup or they’re getting pressure from others that think Seattle can only win it because they’re playing at home.

“All that I know is you compare us and D.C., I mean D.C. has played one away game since 2007. We’ve played a lot more away games with the second-division Sounders and first division. I know we were in Portland twice, just to think of that one. So it’s just something that’s there. I think they’re making it difficult for us, but it’s like, ‘OK, they can throw obstacles in the way. We’re going to try to jump over each of those hurdles,’ and I think we can. And maybe it gives us an ‘us against the world’ mentality a little bit, because I really think that they would prefer for somebody else to win it.”

(You’re saying not just rooting against you, but working against you?) “I wouldn’t say working against us, but a two-headed coin usually comes up heads. I don’t know. (laughs) I’m not saying they’re using a two-headed coin, but I mean nobody sees the coin flip. Nobody is there. At the end of the day, it’s just a sense that you have. It’s nothing that I can say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Dan Flynn is a good friend of mine; he’s the (secretary general) of U.S. Soccer. So I could call Dan and say, ‘What’s going on?’ but that’s not the thing. I just get a sense that, ‘Hey, it’d be nice if Seattle got upset somewhere.’ ”

(Sounds pretty clearly like you’d prefer more transparency in the draw…) “When I first came into MLS it was the same thing. There was not enough transparency. I think as the years have gone by, there’s a lot more transparency in the league, and it’s something that we as coaches always said: ‘There’s got to be more transparency. You’ve got to let us see.’ And when you don’t have anything to hide, you can have transparency. It’s there for everybody to see. So it’s that coin flip, or whatever the case may be, or the draws.

“I could tell you stories. I won’t get into them, but there are stories where I’ve been involved in international soccer and it’s basically the seedings or the pairings or the games turned out exactly the way you wanted them to turn out. I don’t know how that happened, but it was supposedly random. So when you do the FIFA draw, is one ball hot and one ball cold? Everybody’s speculating on all that over all the years. The point is the more transparency you have, the better it is for everybody.

“Again, I think it would be great for the tournament, and this is all we’ve tried to do the whole way all along. I think we’ve tried to boost the Open Cup. I think when you look at the attendance figures we’ve had at the finals and so forth, I think the Open Cup now is something that as a soccer nation people are much more aware of. And they’re much more aware of the fact maybe because we’ve won three in a row and people now are rooting against us, just like people root against the Yankees when they were on their streaks, or the Celtics. (Maybe) that’s what’s boosting it. Or maybe it’s because of the amount of our fans that have come out and supported the game, and all of the sudden you get the big attendance numbers and the game has a good feel for it instead of an MLS Cup.

“I mean we played an Open Cup final with the Galaxy at Fullerton in front of 4,000 fans against New England back in 2001. That didn’t create an event. So we’ve been able to create an event and I think that’s boosted it. I think having a draw, having a coin flip and putting that on the website, I think that just further raises the stature of the sport. It’s a great story what Cal FC has done, what some of the other upsets have been, that’s what the Open Cup is all about. Everybody can have their opportunity and their day and all of that is going to boost recognition. You get a chance to go into Champions League and that’s guaranteed now, so all of that is going to boost it, and that’s just another thing that I think would boost the awareness and the recognition of the Open Cup, which I think is good for soccer. If what I’m saying appears negative, I’m not trying to be negative toward U.S. Soccer. What I’m trying to do is raise the awareness of the competition.”


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