Thursday, July 31, 2008
Cuauhtémoc Blanco, a Chicago Fire standout who was named MVP of last week's MLS All-Star Game, will not be allowed to play in the U.S. Open Cup for at least two years because of his actions during a match against D.C. United this month, the U.S. Soccer Federation ruled yesterday.
Blanco allegedly head-butted a United operations official after being ejected from an Open Cup quarterfinal at Maryland SoccerPlex on July 8. The USSF, the sport's governing body, declined to comment on the ruling by the organization's five-member adjudication and discipline panel.
Blanco, 35, is banned from competing in the Open Cup, a 94-year-old tournament involving teams from all levels of American soccer, in 2009 and 2010. The suspension would be extended if the Fire plays fewer than six Open Cup games during that period.
The USSF's ruling does not affect Blanco's status in MLS games. However, the league might consider additional sanctions. Although the incident took place outside of MLS's normal jurisdiction -- the USSF runs the Open Cup -- the Mexican midfielder-forward is an employee of the league and could be disciplined for his behavior while representing the club.
Blanco and United's Marc Burch received red cards for a scuffle during overtime of United's 2-1 victory. Later, after not leaving the field in a timely matter, a D.C. official was attempting to escort Blanco from the bench area when Blanco allegedly tried to head-butt him. The game was not televised, but video of the incident taken by a United film crew was presented to the USSF panel. Neither the USSF nor United have made the tape public. Burch received no additional punishment.
"We're satisfied the hearing panel did their job and that the punishment is consistent with past, similar incidents," United President Kevin Payne said. The Fire did not immediately comment.
-- Steven Goff