May 13th is going to be a strange day, it’ll be strange because for ninety minutes the world will revolve around three things: a cup, a city, and a deer.
Sure the lingering issues of the modern world will continue to linger long after the echos die down and two radically different clubs go their separate ways – but for ninety minutes there will be a microcosm in a little tin can in the northern suburbs of Detroit when le Rouge take on the Bucks in the first round of the Lamar Hunt United States Open Cup, the oldest national soccer competition in the United States and the third oldest in the world.
So let us begin our meandering tale there: what the fuck is the US Open Cup?
The fact that you don’t know what the oldest soccer competition in the United States is doesn’t surprise me in the least. Which is sad. The Open Cup is a knock-out tournament that involves all levels of soccer in the United States starting with semi-professional and adult leagues and working its way, slowly, to the MLS. At first it only involves the low-tier teams, fighting and weeding each other out. Each round another group of teams is added. First USL, then NASL, then finally the big guns walk in, the MLS teams join and then, almost inevitably, come to dominate the competition.
That’s okay, because it is a test. There are prizes for the teams that can stand the test, go the furthest in the face of million dollar players from England. Stand up and just maybe, earn a small piece of soccer history.
The US Open Cup is a special thing, though today it is dragged through the dirt and sand and treated like an unkempt dog. Left to wallow in a corner on the edge of the farmer’s property, eclipsed by his new pure-breed.
See, most other countries don’t have championships like us where half the teams “qualify” and go into a knock-out stage. They have “cups” and most countries have a handful. The season is just a season of normal games. When it ends whoever is on top wins. Cool, no problem – that rewards consistency rather than one lucky goal.
But we like luck, and we like those crazy moments when a rag-tag group of amateurs best a behemoth. That’s what cups are for. Off the top of my head in England the two main-ish trophies are the FA Trophy and the FA Cup. The FA Cup is like the Open Cup – it is for everyone. The FA Trophy, however, ignores the upper tiers in favor of putting the smaller teams against each other. (Thanks to FC Fargo Green Army on twitter for the correction.)
Everyone has a shot.
Yes, it is “unfair” to put a team like Detroit City potentially up against teams like the Seattle Sounders – but that’s the fun. It’s fun to get that chance. It’s fun to see how far your team can go. We’re not expecting Detroit City to win the Open Cup, we want to see how far we can go and what we can prove about soccer, fandom, and Detroit along the way.
That is the magic of the Open Cup – and the USSF squanders it in favor of the MLS Championship. Let’s not beat around the bush, these days it is pretty clear that the line between the USSF and the MLS is very, very blurry. The USSF is supposed to be a neutral party that governs soccer in the United States, including the MLS. But in recent months it seems more likely that the MLS is probably calling more than its fair share of shots – but this is a rant for another day.
The walk away should be that the Open Cup is a knock-out tournie with a ton of history and you should do everything in your power to catch as many games as you can. If you consider yourself a fan of a team or a fan of the sport in general – this is a serious part of our heritage and it deserves fucking better than announcements coming three hours late and from teams rather than the organization.
If I could I’d plea to the USSF to not continue to waste the Open Cup’s potential in favor of a single-league’s stupid knock-out championship. They are very different scenarios and both can co-exist.
Please, stop fucking up the Open Cup.
So that’s the cup. Who are the city and the deer?
Detroit City Football Club (pulling out full names here) and the Michigan Bucks are a strange pair. They’ve never played a game against each other and yet the air between them is already hot, filled with anger and hate – and yes a little jealousy from a certain Dan Duggan.
The Bucks are Dan Duggan’s baby – a PDL side with a long history of crowning achievements brought low by their crushing insignificance. In 2000 the Bucks became the first PDL side to defeat an MLS side – beating the New England Revolution. A feat that they repeated by defeating the Chicago Fire in 2012 only to fall to the Dayton Dutch Lions the next round. How, if that is the case, has no one heard of the Bucks before?
Well, that goes into the gaping maw that divides Detroit City from its older cousin.
The Bucks are an “old-fashioned” team based in nearly ancient 90s mentalities of Disney’d logos and “family friendly” soccer experiences. A stifled, oppressive, and timid atmosphere is all you get in the Buck’s indoor tin can of a field. Fans queue in the tens to buy nachos and sit quietly with their families to watch talented players attempt to impress scouts and then move on, leaving little to no mark on the club or its history.
They are, in short, a prestigious toy for its owner – Dan Duggan, brother to Detroit mayor Mike Duggan. Like a 60-something fawning over a model railway set in the basement, Duggan fawns over his little team and his “control” of the soccering experience in Detroit, something he monopolized from 1995 to 2012, when Detroit City and the Northern Guard finally pushed his team completely out of the minds of Detroiters.
Detroit City came onto the scene like a brick through a window, quickly gathering the latent soccer fans across Southeast Michigan and beyond. We flocked to a team decked in the blood and treasure, enjoyed every sulfurous second of that season, with out banners in the wind and our souls riding high.
Then 2013 came around and we did it again – bigger and better.
Then 2014 came and we grew some more. We got loud, we got noticed. And Duggan’s Buck’s continued to play beautifully but unwatched.
Now comes 2015. Detroit City was a dark house contender for the Open Cup, only slipping in at the last second because another team turned down their spot. From the second it was announced one word fluttered on the lips of anxious Guardsmen everywhere: Bucks.
Fuck the Bucks.
Buck the Fucks.
A smoldering hate that goes from the fans right up to the front offices began to glow and smoke under the gentle blow of a cold spring wind.
Both sides wanted it.
And we got it.
On April 8th, after hours of quiet, the Bucks announced they’d be hosting Detroit City FC in the first round of the Lamar Hunt United States Open Cup.
So here it is.
The club Michigan forgot v The club Michigan can never forget
Old School v New School
No Focus v Culture Focus
Theory v Practice
The rich man’s toy v The working man’s club
Who will prevail?
(Photo – Dion De Gennaro)