24 April 2014

What would a fixed U.S. Open Cup bracket look like? Check it out

The 101st edition of the U.S. Open Cup -- a single-elimination tournament open to all soccer teams in the United States -- was announced on Thursday by U.S. Soccer.

The tournament will feature 80 teams, the most in recent history, and be played over eight rounds, with Major League Soccer teams competing in rounds 4-8.

The pairings, however, are only announced two rounds ahead of time, so there's none of the fun speculation and bracket madness we enjoy with other tournaments. Imagine if U.S. Soccer released a bracket in April with all 80 teams. Imagine the pick'ems, the office pools, the bracket challenges!

There are a lot of factors to deal with, most notably long travel for under-funded teams and avoiding head-to-head games between teams and affiliate clubs. I put together a sample bracket, keeping things as even as possible between the bracket and simulating as best as I could a model that prioritizes reasonable travel for MOST matchups.

Here's what I came up with, via two extremely ugly screen captures:

Let me know what you think in the comments below! Would you like to see U.S. Soccer try this model in the future?

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