The US Open Cup holds the distinction of being the oldest soccer competition in the world. Founded in 1913, it predates other prestigious tournaments such as the FA Cup in England and the Copa del Rey in Spain, making it a historic and cherished event within the American soccer landscape.
One of the unique aspects of the U.S. Open Cup is its inclusivity, providing lower-division and amateur teams the opportunity to compete against top-flight teams. This open format can often lead to "Cinderella stories" where underdog teams upset higher-ranked opponents.
US Open Cup
The U.S. Open Cup, officially known as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, is a knockout tournament, meaning that teams play each other in one-off matches, with the winner advancing to the next round and the loser being eliminated from the tournament. The competition includes teams from all levels of the American soccer pyramid, from amateur clubs to Major League Soccer (MLS) teams.
The tournament was named after Lamar Hunt in 1999 to honor his contributions to the development of soccer in the United States. Hunt was one of the founding fathers of the MLS and a significant advocate for soccer in the U.S.
The winner of the U.S. Open Cup is awarded a cash prize and earns a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, which pits the top teams from North and Central America, and the Caribbean against each other.
The US Open Cup has had its share of thrilling underdog stories or "Cinderella" runs, which we will highlight five of them here:
Rochester Rhinos (1999)
The Rochester Rhinos of the A-League (the second division of American soccer at the time) became the only non-MLS team to win the Cup in the MLS era when they triumphed in 1999. The Rhinos beat four MLS teams on their way to the title, including a victory over the Colorado Rapids in the final.
Cal FC (2012)
Coached by former US international Eric Wynalda, the amateur team from Thousand Oaks, California, beat the Portland Timbers, an MLS side, in the third round of the 2012 Cup. This marked the first time an amateur team had beaten an MLS team in regulation time (i.e., without needing extra time or penalties).
FC Cincinnati (2017)
Although now an MLS team, FC Cincinnati was part of the United Soccer League (second division) during their 2017 Cup run. They made it to the semi-finals, beating two MLS teams (Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire) on the way before falling to New York Red Bulls.
Charleston Battery (2008)
The Battery, a team from the USL First Division (second tier), made it all the way to the final in 2008. They beat MLS teams Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas on their way to the final, where they lost to D.C. United.
Richmond Kickers (2011)
The Richmond Kickers, playing in the third-tier USL Pro division, made it to the semi-finals of the 2011 tournament. Along the way, they knocked out two MLS teams: Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City.
These stories highlight the unique charm of the US Open Cup - any team, regardless of its status or division, has a shot at glory. This dynamic contributes to the tournament's unpredictability and excitement, underlining the magic of cup football.