The 2019 USL League Two champion Flint City Bucks followed the team it beat in the final, Reading United, in pulling out of the 2020 U.S. Open Cup because they won't be able to use college players for
the first three rounds, which will be held in March and April before the NCAA allows players to play outside ball.
The Bucks were the first amateur club to ever defeat an MLS team and the
only amateur club in history to defeat two MLS teams. Their Open Cup record against pro teams stands at 10-10-1, including a record of 2-4-1 against MLS clubs.
The Bucks' 1-0 victory over
Reading United AC in overtime before 7,198 fans was their fourth USL title in 24 years after championships in 2006, 2014 and 2016. The Bucks (formerly the Mid-Michigan Bucks and Michigan Bucks of the
PDL) are also the three-time defending USASA Hank Steinbrecher Cup champions.
Their move to pull out of the 2020 Open Cup follows scheduling changes by U.S. Soccer.
a travesty and a complete disaster for U.S. Soccer and the credibility of the U.S. Open Cup," Bucks long-time owner and CEO Dan Duggan
. "This tournament is 107 years old and has only gained
steam and excitement over the past 25 years with the launch of MLS in 1996. We defeated the New England Revolution in 2000 with a roster made up of NCAA players that most of the MLS coaches have never
heard of. We defeated the Chicago Fire in 2012 with a roster of players that mostly went on to become pros, many in MLS. We don't win either of those games or even get to host those kinds of matches
without NCAA players.
"Not only are the teams punished, but the experience for the young college-age player to be able to take on pro teams and audition in front of pro coaches is gone.
This incentive was one of the most important parts of the tournament and the reason you saw so many motivated young college players want to participate in this great event. Now all that history and
motivation is gone by the short sightedness of a few people making decisions without fully understanding the repercussions."
In Duggan's communication with U.S. Soccer, he included a
breakdown of the roster from the team that beat the Fire in 2012. The Bucks had 25 eligible players for that game: 23 were college players and 20 of those 25 went on to play pro soccer,
"If we had to play that game in April back in 2012," he said, "we would have only had seven eligible players and only four in the state of Michigan in the month of March. This ruling would have
depleted our roster and you would have never heard about this great upset. More importantly, these 25 players would not have had the experience of a lifetime that night -- the very essence of what the
U.S. Open Cup is supposed to be all about. This could have easily been avoided if U.S. Soccer really cared about the NCAA players and understood their impact on the history of what made this event as
popular as it is today."
U.S. Soccer's explanation on the scheduling move has been that the extra time between rounds allows host teams to better promote the matches and visiting teams
to have more time to arrange travel.
Duggan's suggestion is that time could still be made between rounds if the tournament schedule was extended from May to November (when
college-dominated teams like the Bucks would likely have to forfeit if they were still alive). One change in 2020 that impacts MLS teams is the expansion of the new Nations League involving eight
teams from MLS and eight from Liga MX.