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Major League Soccer pulls cowardly move and won’t send first teams to compete in U.S. Open Cup

Major League Soccer will send teams from the MLS Next Pro development league to the 2024 U.S. Open Cup instead of the clubs' traditional first teams.

It will mark the first time in the history of MLS that its franchises do not send their top players to the annual domestic knockout tournament. The Athletic reported that the league will "reassess its first teams' involvement" after 2024 to decide whether to continue sending Next Pro teams to participate.

The 2023 edition featured 99 teams, including all 29 MLS clubs. The Houston Dynamo defeated Lionel Messi's Inter Miami in the final on Sept. 27.

"This decision will provide emerging professional players with additional opportunities for meaningful competition," the league said in a press release Friday. "The move also benefits the MLS regular season by reducing congestion, freeing up to six midweek match dates."

MLS commissioner Don Garber had harsh criticism of the tournament back in May, saying the quality of the soccer on display was "a very poor reflection on what it is that we're trying to do with soccer at the highest level."

Some clubs played more than 50 matches in 2023 due to the combination of the regular season, the U.S. Open Cup, the newly designed Leagues Cup with Liga MX and the expanded postseason that featured best-of-three series in the first round for the first time.

"Major League Soccer notified U.S. Soccer today of their Board of Governors vote regarding the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup," the U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement. "Our staff is currently reviewing.

"U.S. Soccer and our Members remain committed to the success of the historic U.S. Open Cup and look forward to engaging with all our stakeholders on the future of the tournament."

--Field Level Media

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