FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 10: Matt Reis #1 of the New England Revolution makes a final save of the game for a 2-0 win against the FC Dallas at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
What should be most important to the New England Revolution this season? Could the Revs sneak into the fifth playoff spot in the East? Well, I suppose that could be one goal; however, they could instead choose to focus on winning their first real trophy since 2008’s Super Liga. Perhaps going all in for U.S. Open Cup (USOC) could be considered a positive sign for this franchise, even if they don't win it.
The USOC, the oldest soccer competition in America, has not been a huge priority for MLS teams - save for the Seattle Sounders. Yet, with the USOC’s winner currently earning a spot in CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) this is changing.
This year, all 16 American-based MLS teams automatically qualify for the tournament. But, even now, not every team will be sending their first-team rosters to compete, instead choosing to focus on other competitions. Last year, New York Red Bulls notoriously sent a primarily reserve squad, without head coach Hans Backe, to Chicago for USOC play.
On the other hand, teams like Real Salt Lake, the Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire, and D.C. United (the latter three have long-standing, successful history in this competition), tend to send much stronger squads to compete. And now that MLS is playing an unbalanced, regionally-based schedule, more teams may choose to take USOC seriously.
So could New England actually compete? The fact is even bottom dwelling MLS teams are still better than many mid-tiered USL Pro and NASL squads, and, based on history, with a few MLS squads sending B or C-squads to compete, especially in the earlier rounds, MLS teams that use more first-team players tend to do better - even if they are not the top squads in the league. This means, particularly early on, New England could compete.
But at what cost? Jay Heaps would probably need to rest some players for MLS play, thereby possibly giving up a playoff berth. After all, facing a USL Pro, NASL squad, or MLS reserve teams in a major competition with Benny Feilhaber, Shalrie Joseph, A.J. Soares, and other starters is different than facing them without.
Furthermore, despite teams claiming they want to compete in USOC, some will push it to the back burner. If teams are pushing for Supporters' Shield or playoff berths when USOC is getting closer to its final, the MLS teams may send reserves so that the first-team can focus on those other goals instead of the Cup. This is why we have seen struggling squads like Chicago and D.C. make the last two USOC finals.
In addition to USOC being a winnable competition for the Revs, the team could use a smaller competition like this to gain exposure in the Boston area (if they were willing to spend the money). Imagine if the team were to play some USOC matches in smaller Boston-based stadiums (i.e. Harvard Stadium or Nickerson Field). This could be a progressive step in further testing the market place. Moreover, if the Revs were to win USOC, it grows the brand by qualifying them for the CCL.
So, should New England put their full weight behind USOC, since they could win a trophy, or should they focus on earning a playoff berth in the East? Hypothetically which would be more important to you as a supporter? Would you be okay with going all in for USOC even if the team ended up losing it and not making the playoffs? Comment Below