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MLS-owned Teams Banned from U.S. Open Cup: A Win for USL, a Loss for Orlando City B

MLS-owned teams will not be allowed in U.S. Open Cup competition starting in 2016, meaning OCB is already banned. What does this move mean for the USL and Orlando's newest entry in the league?

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For Orlando City B, their dreams of U.S. Open Cup glory have ended before they really had a chance to begin, as MLS-owned teams in USL will be not be allowed to compete in North American soccer's largest competition.

From the 2015 policy amendments on the U.S. Soccer website:

"Any Outdoor Professional League Team that is majority owned by a higher-level Outdoor Professional League Team shall be ineligible to participate in the Open Cup. The Open Cup Committee shall review and determine team eligibility annually pursuant to this provision and report its decisions to the National Board of Directors."

The partnership between MLS and the USL has been evolving for months now, with a handful of MLS teams electing to scrap their affiliations with independent USL teams and simply operate their own clubs.

Orlando City chose this route midway through its inaugural MLS season, breaking off a partnership with Louisville City and starting Orlando City B, which will kick off its first USL season next year. Due to the new rule change, OCB will be banned from the U.S. Open Cup, along with...

This seems like a good move from USL's point of view, which not only protects the sovereignty of its independent clubs, but also prevents the kind of farcical Orlando City vs. Orlando City B match-ups that would completely undermine the U.S. Open Cup.

A mixture of independent teams and affiliated clubs always seemed like a problematic league structure. This move indicates that U.S. Soccer is (at least somewhat) aware of the potential issues that could arise from this arrangement.

For a historical comparison, minor league baseball went through a similar turning point in the 1970s, as both affiliated and independent teams played against each other in leagues across the country. There's an awesome Netflix documentary, The Battered Bastards of Baseball, about the last independent team in minor league baseball and the conflicts that were created by the decision to phase out independent teams. You'll notice a lot of similarities to USL's current situation.

So, as a move to stabilize the league, this appears to be a solid decision. But for OCB, it's kind of a buzz kill.

It's obvious this club was always meant to be a long-term asset for the Lions, but the U.S. Open Cup ban kind of cheapens the idea that Orlando is now home to "three professional soccer clubs." OCB is a reserve team, plain and simple. And that's not a great precedent to set before fans have even seen the team kick a soccer ball.

It remains to be seen how competitive the club will be next season, and performing well in USL competition would probably be enough to make most fans forget about the U.S. Open Cup ban. But, while you probably weren't expecting a club called Orlando City B to form much of a unique identity in the USL, this news makes that even less likely.