This week marked the beginning of the 104th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The US Open Cup is a nationwide, single-elimination tournament that began in 1913 in Brooklyn, New York, and has been played continuously ever since. True to its name, the competition is open to any club in the United States, amateur or professional, of any age. The cup is one of the oldest soccer competitions in the world; older than the DFB-Pokal in Germany or the Copa América in South America.
The 2017 edition of the Open Cup kicked off Tuesday night. This year, four Colorado clubs qualified for the tournament: Colorado Rush, Azteca FC, Colorado Springs Switchbacks, and Colorado Rapids. This represents the most Colorado clubs ever to compete in the US Open Cup. No Colorado club has ever won the competition.
All MLS, NASL, and USL clubs were granted automatic berths in the competition, and were given byes for the first few rounds. Six Colorado amateur sides vied for 17 spots as local qualifiers last fall, all of whom compete in what is now called the Colorado Premier League, with Azteca and Colorado Rush ultimately earning spots in the Open Cup.
Wednesday night, Azteca faced off against FC Wichita in Iowa, while Colorado Rush took on FC Tucson in Arizona. Azteca midfielder Christian Moran was sent off in the 12th minute for a poorly timed two-footed tackled, and yet Azteca were able to stay in the match all the way through regulation, keeping things 0-0 through 90 minutes. In the 104th minute, however, a shot from the left side by Wichita was parried to striker Travis Pittman, and Azteca were ousted, 1-0. I got to watch this one, and Azteca were the better team for most of the game despite being down a man. Their counterattack from the right side came with blistering pace, and for a soccer fan used to the Rapids droll and cautious approach, their pace and technical ability were a joy to watch.
Meanwhile, Colorado Rush also lost, also on a late winner, as FC Tucson summoned the go-ahead goal in the 89th minute to defeat the Colorado club,
You can see all the results here.
After the first round games for NPSL, PDL, and local qualifying teams, the higher-tier USL and NASL clubs enter the US Open fray in the second round, with a third round to pare down the competition before MLS teams jump in for the fourth round.
Tucson move on face USL club Colorado Springs Switchbacks on May 17. That match will take place in Colorado Springs - tickets are on sale now. Wichita move on and host St. Louis FC in the second round of the tournament.
The Colorado Rapids will play their first Open Cup match on June 13 or 14. Based on past history, their most likely opponent will be a nearby club like the Switchbacks, who traveled to DSGP in 2015 and 2016, only to see defeat both times. In the event the Switchbacks are defeated in the second or third round, the Rapids are likely to see a team from the Midwest, like St. Louis FC, or from Arizona, such as Phoenix Rising FC.
Like many clubs worldwide that are engaged in multiple cup competitions throughout the year, the Rapids often use the Open Cup as a chance to give their younger reserve players some game experience. Tickets also tend to be cheap, and it attracts the most devoted of Rapids fans.
I’m a big fan of the Open Cup because the matches are fun and the vibe is a little different in a DSGP with only 3,000 or so fans. Also, there’s a certain ‘hipster street cred’ element to watching the Open Cup, since the smaller crowd tend to be more knowledgeable, more passionate, and more devoted. The whole thing has kind of a ‘soccer speak-easy’ feel to it: only those ‘in the know’ are gonna be there. In other words, if MLS matches are the Rolling Stones, then the US Open Cup is Hüsker Dü. Or Echo and the Bunnymen.
Colorado’s MLS Cup win in 2010 is its only piece of hardware in club history. The team has yet to collect the other trophies up for grabs for US clubs: the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the Supporters Shield, and the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Cup. It ain’t looking good this year for Supporters Shield, and we won’t start playing for the CCL Cup until 2018. But the US Open Cup is anybody’s for the taking.