US Open Cup Guide
Soccer may be the world’s game but it has not always been America’s. These days millions of fans around the world tune in to watch MLS games but there was a time when the sport gained very little television time at all – and when there wasn’t even a recognized national league.
During that time of change, there was still one constant in the US soccer world. The US Open Cup – or the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup to give it its full title – is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the country. This year’s edition has now reached its final with Orlando a good US Open cup bet. Sacramento Republic may have something to say about that, however.
Read on to find out about this national soccer institution.
History of the Cup
The tournament dates back to the 1913/14 season, when the USFA (United States Football Association), newly sanctioned by FIFA, wanted to establish a national cup competition. Initially called the National Challenge Cup, the first edition was won by the Brooklyn Field Club who defeated Brooklyn Celtic in front of 10,000 fans packed into the Coates Field in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Throughout the 20th century, US soccer was fought over by rival factions wanting to gain superiority and control over the sport. This meant, at times, that some of the best teams in the country could not compete. But generally, it was clubs and teams from the northeast of the US that ended up winning the trophy.
There have been an incredible number of clubs that have won the US Open Cup. The most successful teams in the competition’s history are Bethlehem Steel and Maccabee Los Angeles, who both lifted the trophy on five occasions.
After WW2 the inner city areas of New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia were the real centers of US Open Cup dominance. It wasn’t until 1976 that a team from outside those regions won, when SFAC was victorious.
Major League Soccer kicked off in 1996 and the teams from the country’s top tier of soccer have dominated the US Open Cup ever since. Only the Rochester Rhinos have broken that run with a surprise championship victory in 1999.
Even with MLS teams doing so well, there have been several different champions since 1996. Only the Seattle Sounders have managed to win back-to-back competitions, winning the US Open Cup in 2009, 2010 and 2011. That first triumph was the very first year the Sounders competed in MLS as an expansion team.
Sporting Kansas City has recently enjoyed the competition, winning in 2012, 2015 and 2017. There is now an added incentive to winning the trophy as the champions automatically qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.
This Year’s US Open Cup
The 2022 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup kicked off on March 22, with 32 teams, including amateur champions playing in the first round. By the time all the MLS teams had entered the competition, there had been 103 different sides challenging for the famous trophy.
Although MLS teams are the favorites to go through to the latter stages, there have been some upsets like any other national soccer cup competition from around the world. The round of 16 still had two second tier USLC teams competing, as well as third tier USL1 side Union Omaha. Union Omaha actually made it through to the quarterfinals but was severely beaten by Sporting Kansas City.
But Sacramento Republic of the USLC has beaten San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City of the MLS to make it to this year’s final. It will now face Orlando City in Orlando, Florida on September 7 for the chance to become US Open Cup champions. Either team will win its first ever championship.