I don’t think it’s any secret that I have my issues with Major League Soccer. It’s a cheap league run by cheap owners, its overhypes everything it does, it doesn’t pay much of the talent it has nearly enough, its playoff system devalues the regular season, and it uses this single-entity system where players sign with the league rather than the club, which results in these arcane and pointless rules that give Toronto FC the playing rights to Brian McBride, who last played in MLS about two years before Toronto FC was even a concept in anyone’s brain.
My biggest pet peeve with MLS, though, is the fact that it does everything in their power to bury the U.S. Open Cup and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s the longest running knockout competition in America, it’s filled with exciting matches, and MLS treats it like a total nuisance. D.C. United and the Chicago Fire played on Tuesday night. If that were a regular season match, it probably would have been on ESPN2 or Fox Soccer Channel. Instead, it was up to Section 8, the Fire’s supporters group, to try and put on its own web video stream of the game so fans could watch — and the Fire practically blocked them from doing so.
In fact, MLS is still attempting to block footage of this game from being shown — and it might be doing so illegally.
Earlier today, The Offside put up this post, which included a YouTube video of a local TV news match recap. The video shoed Cuauhtemoc Blanco, the Fire’s designated player, punching D.C. United player Clyde Simms in the stomach during extra time. Blanco was sent off for that punch, and Marc Burch of D.C. was sent off for retaliating against Blanco, who reportedly headbutted a D.C. official on the sidelines right after he left the pitch.
This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Major League Soccer, LLC.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. This is a quote from Greg Lalas’ article:
The U.S. Open Cup is administered by US Soccer. A spokesman from MLS tells Goal.com it has no jurisdiction over Open Cup matches, so there is little chance that Blanco will face any disciplinary action from the league.
So if MLS has no jurisdiction over the match, how can they claim copyright over video footage of the match? Was the footage shot by a D.C. United employee and given to the TV station, or did the station shoot the footage itself? If it’s the latter, then MLS can’t claim to own the footage, and it sent YouTube a blatantly illegal DMCA takedown notice today.
We knew MLS would go to great lengths to hide the Open Cup from soccer fans, but honestly, this takes the cake. Not only will Blanco not be disciplined by MLS for this punch, but MLS might just be breaking laws to prevent American soccer fans from even seeing it. I know they want the Open Cup to disappear, but this is just beyond the pale.
U.S. Soccer’s inability to promote the Open Cup should be considered a lost opportunity for American soccer. This sport got a huge boost in visibility and popularity from ESPN’s coverage of EURO 2008 in June. U.S. Soccer should have turned around and said, “Hey, we have this awesome little knockout tournament filled with champions and underdogs, and the winner gets a bid to the new CONCACAF Champions League. You’ve seen how exciting knockout rounds can be. Come see ours.” But no, U.S. Soccer and MLS keep on hiding this little gem from all of us.
I’m no Charleston Battery fan, but right now, I’m really hoping they win this thing. After this week’s silliness, MLS deserves a good karmic pimpslap.