That belief was based primarily upon the 2012 US Open Cup Handbook given to the clubs prior to the tournament, laying out the rules and procedures of the competition.
In the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup’s Competition Handbook under 2012 US Open Cup Competition Format, it states:
General Provision: Pairings will be arranged to prevent the possibility of a lower division team playing a parent club (e.g. Chicago Fire PDL [PDL] will not be pitted against the Chicago Fire [MLS], should both teams be in the competition in the same round) except for the Championship Game.
In the section listing the competition’s entrants – as were known at the time of publication (no USASA, USCS or NPSL clubs) – there were eight sets of affiliations listed with the accompanying note.
Note: Eight teams listed above have affiliations with another club in the competition. Clubs and their related affiliates are indicated with matching asterisks. See page detailing competition format to see how these affiliations will impact the tournament.
While the list did not include the Harrisburg City Islanders and the Philadelphia Union as affiliates, it did however contain the Union and Reading United AC. Both clubs are described as an “affiliate partner” in recent news releases earlier this spring concerning exhibition friendlies set to take place this summer with trips to Harrisburg June 12 and Reading June 9 during the club’s break for the FIFA international competition window. It is unknown at this time if the Harrisburg friendly will be canceled if the two advance to play one another.
|Photo: Derek Meluzio|
Upon obtaining the US Open Cup Handbook prior to the tournament, TheCup.us inquired with US Soccer as to why the Harrisburg-Philadelphia affiliation partnership was not listed thinking that it may have been an innocent oversight as it was a new section added to the handbook from the previous year. It would not have been the only error in the handbook, as it has been since discovered that four players were also erroneously listed in the suspension list that had already served their penalties, creating confusion over the eligibility of Rochester’s Danny Earls prior to the club’s first match.
Follow-up requests for information regarding the USSF’s stance on the affiliation between the clubs was met with indecision and a few weeks ago the federation said they were “reviewing the relationship between Harrisburg and the Philadelphia Union, but currently they are not in the same bracket” after stating that “a clear example of a relationship is a situation where an organization has control or ownership of two or more teams. Teams with player development arrangements are also considered to have a relationship in most cases.”
Clearly, with the two teams scheduled to meet in the next round if they both win, USSF believes that Harrisburg and Philadelphia do not have a close enough relationship to warrant avoiding them meeting until the Final.
According to Philadelphia’s March 1, 2010 news release [Union Partner with City Islanders: City Islanders to be Exclusive USL-2 Affiliate Club], the team was “further extending the Major League Soccer club’s player development model. The City Islanders will be Philadelphia Union’s Exclusive USL-2 Affiliate Club.”
It continued, saying: “The City Islanders will become a key part of Philadelphia’s player development strategy, as the club will have the option to loan players to Harrisburg for increased playing time. As partners, both clubs will also work to help identify City Islander players who have the potential to make the leap to MLS. The relationship continues the growth of Philadelphia Union’s player development strategy, building off of previously established relationships with PDL squad Reading United AC, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association (EPYSA), Delaware Youth Soccer Association (DYSA) and YSC Sports.”
Nick Sakiewicz, CEO & Operating Partner of Philadelphia Union, stated: “With the Harrisburg City Islanders and our previously announced relationship with Reading United AC, Philadelphia Union Team Manager Peter Nowak will instill ‘first team’ principles in training and playing attacking, attractive football throughout Pennsylvania that our supporters will truly enjoy."
City Islanders President Eric Pettis added: “We’re proud and excited to make this announcement today. Before they’ve even played a game, Philadelphia Union have proven themselves to be a truly first-class organization. Both clubs will see numerous benefits, on and off the field, as a result of this partnership. It’s a natural fit.”
The release also noted: “An annual friendly match in Harrisburg between the clubs (date to be announced) is another highlight of the partnership. Other components will include cross promotional opportunities, clinics and Philadelphia Union player appearances in Harrisburg during the summer and off-season.”
These factors and comments clearly show the two clubs as affiliates that would warrant separation in the tournament until the Final as per the handbook and response from USSF. Given the movement of numerous players over the years, the staffs of the City Islanders and Union clearly are in regular coordination with one another. And perhaps more importantly, the presence of annual scheduled exhibition matches present a significant financial incentive to the City Islanders that make them subservient to the Union and – without accusation that they actually would – place them in a position of wanting to please Philadelphia in a manner that could result in impropriety, which is the entire reason that the ‘affiliation rule’ exists.