Stop me if you’ve heard this before: US Soccer is confusing and expensive. Minneapolis City SC, a local
twitter account non-profit, member supported, minor league soccer club, hopes to continue their run towards local qualification in the US Open Cup Local Qualifying rounds, but faces a steep price tag to do so. Having finished 3rd this season in the NPSL North division, City did not automatically qualify for the 2018 US Open Cup and thus had to enter into the “local” qualifiers. After advancing past the first round on forfeit and a second round win in Aurora, Illinois, City has only one step remaining to get into the “real” tournament. That step is an away trip to Rochester... New York.
For those keeping track at home, that’s two away trips in a “local” qualifying tournament of over 1,000 miles roundtrip each. In fact, the club also drew an away match in the first round that would have resulted in a trip to Kansas City (another 800 mile roundtrip) had their opponent not withdrew beforehand. It is hard to consider these to be “local” qualifiers when the club was placed in the Northeast Region, where 26 of the 32 teams reside in NY, PA, NJ or MD (you know, like actually in the northeast part of the country). With only 6 teams from the midwest (WI, IL, MI, KS and MN), the placement in the Northeast Region seems to be USSF’s best shot at finding a fit. Minneapolis City was the only midwestern team with an away game to travel instead of forfeiting.
3000 miles worth of trips for a club with a roster and staff made entirely of volunteers is darn near impossible. But City, and their supporters and internet friends, are working to do just that. The club has set up a Gofundme, that in its first day raised over $4,500 of their $15,000 target. (Editor’s note: before publishing, we have already changed this from $3,500 to $4,000 to $4,500) City is (and always has been) very transparent with their budget. According to the Gofundme, their needs for this trip breakdown as follows:
Travel - $10,000 (20 flights @ $350 plus additional ground transportation)
Hotel - $3,000 (assuming 2 nights)
Meals - $2000 (assuming a 3 day trip)
After each of their two seasons in existence, Minneapolis City has opened up their books to the public (2016, 2017), showing what goes into building your own soccer club. In 2017, the club spent $3,214 on their US Open Cup run and their totals for this tournament already smash that (and $15,000 is 1/3rd of their entire 2017 season expenses).
The club can (and will) receive some support from the US Soccer Federation to make the trip out to New York, but as you can see by the Gofundme, it is not enough. This year, the USSF announced that they would offer “travel subsidies” for teams in the US Open Qualifying rounds that have to drive over 6 hours to get to a match. City was one of 3 clubs to qualify for the subsidy in the 2nd round, and definitely qualifies for round 3 with a 16 hour trip to Rochester. The subsidy (according to thecup.us) is determined on a case-by-case basis, and appears to be available for coverage of only a part of the cost of each player’s plane ticket, but provide nothing for meals or hotels (kind of an important part of an away game weekend).
For those that have followed Minneapolis City, being at odds with the US Open Cup is right on brand. Last year, the club was disqualified from the tournament after winning a berth, after moving from the Premier League of America to the National Premier Soccer League. Despite the club’s protest (moving to the NPSL allowed the club to minimize, of all things, travel costs and other positive measures of the club) and being in good standing with both leagues, the disqualification was withheld. City responded by announcing that they were “Undefeated” in the US Open Cup, including releasing merch and announcing that they would challenge the eventual winner of the Cup to determine who the “real” champion is (Sporting Kansas City has not yet accepted the challenge, after their 2-1 win in the final over New York Red Bulls). *puts on tinfoil hat* Perhaps drawing multiple away matches hundreds of miles away is some sort of punishment from the US Soccer brass? Or, maybe the USSF doesn’t even know City is participating in disguise, as they registered under their parent club, Stegman’s (whose Stegman’s 1977 team qualified by finishing first in MASL Division 1 and has players crossover with City). Nevertheless, the club refuses to give up on another undefeated US Open Cup run.