by Anthony J. Merced
MLS has been notified by US Soccer that their attempts to replace first teams with MLS Next Pro clubs in the US Open Cup for the 2024 season has been denied. The plan would see reserve teams take the place of MLS first teams, allowing for less fixture congestion throughout the season according to the league. However, that appears to not be the case as the league and federation are continuing negotiations.
"MLS is committed to finding a viable solution for the 2024 tournament and is working to find a pathway that addresses its goals and concerns," said a statement from the league issued on Wednesday. "Moving forward MLS will remain focused on increasing opportunities for up-and-coming players, a key component of the league's player development strategy that ultimately benefits the US national team program."
MLS has masked their decision to pull back from the tournament as a way of benefiting MLS Next Pro reserve clubs, giving them more opportunities against various opponents. This comes after the league pulled all reserve clubs from the USL over the past few years to kickoff their own third division. MLS Commissioner Don Garber also made statements against the Open Cup and US Soccer in the past, voicing the frustration of some owners with the competition.
The United Soccer League also issued a press release on Wednesday, in full support of the US Open Cup and solidifying their participation in the competition next season.
"We believe that the US Open Cup is a historic and integral part of America's soccer culture," said the USL statement. "We stand with fans across the country who want to see it remain and authentic and inclusive competition."
Where this leaves MLS at the moment is unclear. The league certainly doesn't wish their club first teams to participate in 2024. However, it is appearing more than likely that they will have to do so barring an further discussion.