US Open Cup final tonight at the HDC (GolTV, 11pm ET). The Galaxy has beaten Chivas USA, San Jose, and the USL-1’s Minnesota Thunder to reach the final, while FC Dallas, which entered the competition in the third round, defeated the USL-2’s Wilmington Hammerheads and fellow MLS clubs Columbus, DC United, and Chicago en route to the championship match. Tonight’s all-MLS final continues a trend, as it’s been six years since a lower-division club has reached the final match. Here are the USOC finals in the MLS era:
1996: DC United 3-0 Rochester
1997: Dallas Burn 0 (5) – 0 (3) DC United
1998: Chicago 2-1 Columbus
1999: Rochester 2-0 Colorado
2000: Chicago 2-1 Miami Fusion
2001: LA Galaxy 2-1 New England
2002: Columbus 1-0 LA Galaxy
2003: Chicago 1-0 MetroStars
2004: Kansas City 1-0 Chicago gg
Note that San Jose is the only original MLS club to not reach a cup final. Although two MLS teams will be competing tonight, two lower-division sides were the stories of this year’s tournament: The PDL’s Des Moines Menace, an amateur club, played way above its head in defeating the USL-2’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds and the USL-1’s Charleston Battery and Atlanta Silverbacks, before succumbing to the KC Wizards in round four. The Minnesota Thunder, led by Liberians Melvin Tarley (who was sold to RSL) and Jonny Menyongar, did the USL proud by knocking off three MLS sides (RSL, Colorado, KC) to reach the cup semis.
Much debate as been made concerning the USSF’s shoddy marketing of the Cup, and that cup matches are usually played at “alternative” smaller venues when MLS clubs are the hosts. As it stands, LA will downsize the HDC to a capacity of 10,000 for tonight’s match. There’s no easy answer here. The clubs and leagues need to shoulder the load in both educating their fans on the importance of the competition and marketing the matches. Getting the final on national TV is a great thing, but hopefully MLS/SUM/USSF can bundle more cup matches in when the next television contracts are up for renewal. Best of luck to both Dallas and LA tonight.