Sacramento Republic has filed a complaint with the U.S. Soccer Federation, alleging that an Orlando City SC staffer was spying on its training session ahead of Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup final, multiple sources told ESPN.
ESPN television analyst Taylor Twellman was the first to report the news of the staffer's presence at Sacramento's practice, and that the U.S. Soccer Federation, which runs the tournament, is aware of the situation.
A spokesperson for the USSF added that the Federation is "looking into it," and confirmed that a USSF film crew has footage of the incident.
Orlando said in a statement that "the Club has been made aware of the matter regarding Sacramento's training session and is cooperating with U.S. Soccer."
The Orlando staffer, who sources told ESPN was recognized by a Republic equipment manager as having a connection to Orlando manager Oscar Pareja, was asked multiple times to leave over the course of a 30-45 minute period. The staffer insisted he was there to meet a friend who was coaching on a nearby field. Republic staff even went so far as to park two vans in front of the individual to obscure his view of training, only to have him move to another location before finally departing.
An Orlando club source confirmed the presence of the staffer but said that there was "no coordinated effort" to have the individual observe training and that the staffer didn't report back with any information.
The incident took place Monday at Central Winds Park, a public park in suburban Winter Springs, Fla. In a bid to achieve some privacy, the Republic had chosen not to practice at Orlando's training facility, but then had difficulty securing another place to train, and was thus forced to train at the park.
Even if the Orlando staffer's presence and his motivation for attending Sacramento's training session is confirmed, it's unclear what sanctions the USSF can mete out. The USSF's Open Cup Open Division Handbook doesn't strictly prohibit what transpired Monday, but there is an Adjudication and Discipline Panel that handles protests and general discipline.
Section 306 of the handbook states: "Anyone may file a complaint with the Panel about an action or inaction of an Open Cup team, individual, or group or organization participating in the Open Cup competition. The Panel shall determine if the conduct complained of is or would be contrary to the good of the game. The Panel shall take action it considers appropriate in regard to anyone involved in the complaint as provided by subsection (c) of this section."
The handbook adds: "Except for overturning match results or mandating a replay of a match, the Panel may take any action it considers appropriate, including suspension or fine, or both, for any matter considered by it under this policy. The Panel may only consider mandating a replay of a game or advancing a team that lost if a protest has been filed. The Panel may exercise discretion in cases where a team submits a protest to the Commissioner after the deadline has expired in the event that circumstances regarding the availability of information after the deadline warrant this discretion."
The two teams are each aiming for their first USOC crown, with Sacramento, which plays in the second-tier USL Championship, aiming to become the first non-MLS team to win the trophy since 1999, when the Rochester Rhinos, then of the A-league, claimed the title over the Colorado Rapids.