Despite LAFC beating the Portland Timbers 3-2 on Wednesday, its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup status remains in doubt because of a dispute over the eligibility of midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye.
The draw for the semifinals of the competition has been delayed while U.S. Soccer considers an official protest from the Timbers on the grounds that LAFC fielded too many international players.
The tournament rules state a professional team “may have no more than 5 foreign players listed,” similar to Major League Soccer’s rules requiring a team may have a maximum of eight international players on its roster. However, while MLS, which contains Canadian teams, has been clear that Canadian players count as domestic, their status in the U.S. Open Cup is less certain. LAFC fielded five players who are listed as MLS internationals — Laurent Ciman, Adama Diomande, Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Marco Urena — alongside the Canadian Kaye. Dejan Jakovic, also of Canada, played in the game but holds a U.S. Green Card.
LAFC vice president of communications Seth Burton said U.S. Soccer had listed Kaye as a domestic player beforehand and the roster selection for the game would have been different if they had reason to believe otherwise.
Team sheets produced by U.S. Soccer support this, listing Kaye as domestic and the other five foreign players as international.
The U.S. Open Cup handbook suggests that Kaye fits the definition of a foreign player, which is defined as, “those players who are not protected individuals as defined in 8 U.S.C. § 1324b.” The law cited refers only to American legal status, with no exception for Canadians. The handbook also stats that, “If any team plays an ineligible player in an Open Cup match, that team is subject to fines or other penalties, including game forfeiture, as determined by the Adjudication and Discipline Panel,” but Burton said, given the prior labeling of Kaye as domestic, the chances of a penalty as serious as forfeiture appear slim.
The time frame for U.S. Soccer’s decision is unknown, but Burton suggested the team expects a decision Friday or Saturday. In a statement on the delayed draw, U.S. Soccer said, “The U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel will review the matter as soon as possible. The timing for the Draw will be determined in the near future.”