UPDATE: Union spokes person tells PSP, “According to documents that we received from US Soccer this morning, the game against Ocean City is still going to be played at PPL Park on Tuesday night as planned.”
Shortly after the Ocean City Nor’easters produced a stunning 1–0 upset over USL PRO side Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the second round of the US Open Cup on Tuesday evening, they produced another stunner.
The PDL side filed an official protest with US Soccer over the site of the third round cup tie against Philadelphia Union. (Click here for a PDF version of the protest.)
When US Soccer released the third round draw on May 15, Ocean City was scheduled to play the Union at PPL Park if the amateur club was able to defeat Pittsburgh. According to Ocean City director of communications Steve Thurlby, “When the draw was made for the third round the Ocean City Nor’easters were drawn as the home team.”
Thurlby explained, “However, due to a clerical error three months ago, US Soccer believed that the dimensions of our field did not meet the requirements. Once we discovered this error we increased the size of our field to the US Open Cup standards. However, we hosted the first and second round games with US Soccer believing that our field was not meeting their requirements. We were told that they waived these rules in these first two rounds. They are telling us that we do not matter. MLS teams matter to them.”
The Nor’easters play at Carey Field, which they share with Ocean City High School’s football, soccer, and lacrosse teams and has a capacity of 3,500.
Ocean City’s protest was drafted by, Jim Sturman, a London-based barrister who owns a vacation home in Ocean City. Thurlby said of Thurman, “He is a remarkable man who has worked with some of the top clubs and players in European soccer as well as being directly involved with UEFA and FIFA.”
The protest says that the dimensions of Ocean City’s pitch is in fact compliant with the dimensions set forth in the US Open Cup handbook, “Even if the Committee were to have found that the dimensions were not in fact compliant, it has the authority, in it’s discretion – such discretion obviously to be exercised reasonably and in accordance with sporting principles of fairness and equity as well as ‘for the good of the game’ – to rule that the club’s ground is still appropriate to host the tie.”
The protest notes the “unfair disadvantage that a revocation of the right to host would have on Ocean City,” and adds, “To refuse Ocean City the right to play at home is wrong in principle and contrary to the good of the game.”
The protest concludes, “Obviously for the good of the game (and in accordance with FIFA’s Statutes and Regulations) we accept entirely that this dispute should be dealt with within the rules of Football, however we wish to strongly urge the Committee to bear in mind the interests of the people of Ocean City who will be given an enormous boost by having the fixture played just before the summer season gets underway after a terrible and devastating winter.”
Thurlby said, “The commissioner of US Soccer could have easily reversed this decision but they have bowed to the pressure of MLS and given in to BIG soccer. For soccer to grow and establish itself in American life there needs to be a strong amateur community. By allowing this game to go to Pennsylvania they are threatening the future of our club and setting a precedent that threatens the future of soccer in the country.”
We will have further developments as they become available.