Remember the US Soccer National Amateur Championship? It is a four-team tournament that takes four national amateur soccer champion teams and crowns one of them best of the best. Well, that's the principle.
Last year, you may remember, the tournament was contested by Maryland Bays (the reigning USASA Open Cup champs at the time), NY Greek Americans (USASA Amateur Cup champs), Michigan Bucks (PDL's 2014 champs), and Chattanooga FC.
And you may recall Chattanooga FC didn't win anything to get into the tournament; rather, the team lost the 2014 NPSL championship game to New York Red Bulls U-23s.
So the 2015 US Soccer National Amateur Championship was a bit of a sham: it was only three-quarters full of champions.
Why didn't RBNY get its place in the tournament? Because the Red Bulls U-23s had switched leagues, from NPSL to PDL. So the unfortunate RBNY youngsters never got to go to the tournament they had qualified for because they were no longer in NPSL (so they couldn't represent NPSL as its champ) and PDL already had a champion (Michigan Bucks).
Fine. Maybe next time.
In 2015, the RBNY U-23s qualified for a next time, using the same route Chattanooga FC had taken to the 2015 National Amateur Championship: they lost a championship game. The 2015 PDL final was contested by RBNY U-23s and K-W United FC. The latter won the title, but K-W United is a Canadian team.
Can't have a Canadian team in an American competition - so RBNY U-23s were the obvious choice to represent PDL in the 2016 National Amateur Championship, as the best-performing US-based team in the league.
So when this year's Championship was announced, we looked forward to hearing the lineup: USASA Open Cup champ, West Chester United; USASA Amateur Cup champ, Quinto Elemento; NPSL 2015 runner-up, Chattanooga FC (again? What is up with you guys?); PDL 2015...wait...it says Chicago Fire will be representing PDL.
Huh? Chicago Fire's U-23 squad finished third in the Heartland Division of the 2015 PDL. They didn't make the playoffs. What are they doing in this "Championship"?
More importantly, what happened to the New York Red Bulls U-23s? Why is USASA so determined to snub RBNY? How many ways must the Red Bulls qualify for this tournament before they are actually allowed to compete in it?
A spokesperson for USASA explained why the RBNY U-23s are not in this year's National Amateur Championship:
The New York Red Bulls U-23 team coach declined to participate because he didn't think he could have a complete roster in time.
Oh. The New York Red Bulls U-23s aren't in the US Soccer National Amateur Championship because they don't want to be.
RBNY declined the invitation to comment on this matter.
One might note that the RBNY U23 team did just field a complete roster for a US Open Cup match, and is expected to be fielding a full roster for its opening PDL game on May 21 against Jersey Express. And the team has scheduled games for May 25 and May 28, which we assume it is planning to play.
Perhaps RBNY meant it couldn't field TWO full U-23 rosters: one for the National Amateur Championship from May 29 to 30, and one for that PDL game on May 28. Maybe that's it.
All we can say is what we have been told by USASA: RBNY isn't in the 2016 US Soccer National Amateur Championship because it doesn't want to be in it.
And if you pause to consider that the reason they weren't in it last year was because they chose to switch to a different league and invalidate their own qualification path, one might conclude the RBNY U-23s aren't interested in the US Soccer National Amateur Championship at all.