Tuesday, October 1, 2013

History quietly made this year in U.S. football

Domestic tourney final hits the century mark tonight

                   (Sporting Kansas City won the 2012 US Open Cup)

It's a special moment in American football.

Tonight, Utah will celebrate a century of the oldest competition in this country with a cup final between Real Salt Lake and D.C. United.

The U.S. Open Cup has been in the back of football supporters' minds in this country for quite some time, moreso after the league launched a resurged domestic championship in 1996. Realizing the magnitude of this tradition and the increasing interest by fans, organizers expanded the tournament this year to a whopping 68 teams from all pyramids of the American football scene and increased compensation for the champions.

There's been high-profile upsets and memorable matches, which has led to some coverage, albeit online or by word of mouth through social media. But tonight's final will be shown live on GolTV (9pm ET).

For Salt Lake, it could come as some sort of consolation to them after hosting the CONCACAF Champions league final at home in 2011, only to lose and watch Mexico's Monterrey celebrate on their home pitch. Another chance to lift silverware at their stadium may or may not come again so RSL will look to take full advantage with manager Jason Kreis ready to deploy his full starting 11 (he made 10 changes to his lineup in a league match this past weekend).

With D.C. United, the model team from the early years of MLS with its fanbase and trophies, this year's edition of the Open Cup is a relief as it reels from one of the worst campaigns in league history. An opportunity to add another cup to their cabinet would be a remarkable feat for D.C. However, with only three wins in 30 matches this year, no one is giving them a chance.

Regardless, the competition is celebrating 100 years of football in this country that not many casual fans or outside fans of the U.S. scene knew about. Its prominence on a global scale is miniscule by comparision to its cousins overseas, such as the FA Cup or Copa del Rey. But stateside, it's gaining respect by select media and bands of supporters, including those in the lower divisions. That alone is an accomplishment...so far.