Things you should know about the Semifinals of the US Open Cup

Posted by | July 3, 2012

Ukrainian Nationals logoSince 1996, only 13 non-MLS teams have advanced to the Semifinals.

2017 – FC Cincinnati (USL)
2011 – Richmond Kickers (USL Pro – 3rd Division)
2009 – Rochester Rhinos (USL First Division)
2008 – Charleston Battery (USL First Division)*, Seattle Sounders (USL First Division)
2007 – Carolina RailHawks (USL First Division), Seattle Sounders (USL First Division)
2005 – Minnesota Thunder (USL First Division)
2004 – Charleston Battery (A-League)
1999 – Charleston Battery (A-League), Rochester Raging Rhinos (A-League)*
1997 – San Francisco Bay Seals (USISL Division 3 Pro League)
1996 – Rochester Raging Rhinos (A-League)*

* Advanced to the Final

Since 1996, only seven teams have advanced to the Semifinals after beginning play in the First Round. The Richmond Kickers (2011), Rochester Rhinos (2009), Charleston Battery (2008), Carolina RailHawks (2007), San Francisco Bay Seals (1997) and the Seattle Sounders who did it twice in 2007 and 2008. San Francisco and Richmond are the only Third Division clubs (now called USL Pro) to advance to the final four during that span.

Before the Charleston Battery eliminated the Seattle Sounders in the 2008 Semifinals, the Rochester Raging Rhinos in 1996 and 1999 were the only USL teams to win a Semifinal match. The Rhinos were the only non-MLS team (since 1996) to win the title when they defeated the Colorado Rapids 2-0 in 1999.

2008’s Semifinal match between the Charleston Battery and the Seattle Sounders ended in a 1-1 draw, and then went to penalties where the Battery moved on 4-3. It was the first time a Semifinal game went to penalties during the Modern Era (1995-present) and the first time two non-MLS teams met in the final four.

The Chicago Fire entered Major League Soccer as an expansion team in 1998, and won the US Open Cup (and MLS Cup) in their inaugural season. In total, they have advanced to the Semifinals 12 times, which is more than any team in the history of the tournament.

After Major League Soccer debuted in 1996 (1996 doesn’t make sense to include, since every Semifinalist was in their inaugural season that year), only four teams have advanced to the Semifinals in their inaugural season. The Fire (1998), Houston Dynamo (2006 – although they were essentially the San Jose Earthquakes, but they were still technically a “new franchise”), Carolina RailHawks (2007) and the Seattle Sounders MLS team in 2009 (also “technically” a new franchise).

In 2010, the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS expansion team to win a Semifinal match in each of their first two seasons as a franchise. They also won a Semifinal match in their third year (2011), and their fourth year (2012).

The 2007 US Open Cup marked the first time that both Semifinal matches went to extra time. The New England Revolution edged the Carolina RailHawks 2-1, followed by FC Dallas eliminating the Seattle Sounders (USL-1) by the same scoreline. Since then, this has only happened one other time: 2017 US Open Cup when Sporting Kansas City needed penalty kicks to take out the San Jose Earthquakes and then the New York Red Bulls came back to beat FC Cincinnati, 3-2.

Semifinal appearances by MLS teams:

Chicago Fire – 12 (6-6-0 record)
DC United – 9 (5-4-0)
FC Dallas – 9 (4-4-1, 0-1 PKs)
Los Angeles Galaxy – 7 (4-3-0)
New York Red Bulls – 5 (2-3-0)
Sporting Kansas City – 5 (3-1-1, 1-0 PK)
Seattle Sounders – 5 (5-0-0)
Columbus Crew – 4 (3-1-0)
New England Revolution – 4 (3-1)
Philadelphia Union – 3 (1-1-1, 1-0 PKs)
Chivas USA – 2 (0-2-0)
Colorado Rapids – 2 (1-1-0)
Houston Dynamo – 2 (0-2-0)
San Jose Earthquakes – 2 (0-1-1, 0-1 PK)
Real Salt Lake – 2 (1-1-0)
Miami Fusion – 1 (1-0-0)
Portland Timbers – 1 (0-1-0)
Tampa Bay Mutiny – 0

Note: The New York Red Bulls (Metrostars) have the most semifinal appearances (four) without an Open Cup championship.

Semifinal appearances by non-MLS teams:

Charleston Battery – 3 (0-2-1, 1-0 PKs)
Rochester Rhinos – 3 (2-1-0)
Seattle Sounders – 2 (0-1-1, 0-1 PKs)
Carolina RailHawks – 1 (0-1-0)
FC Cincinnati – 1 (0-1-0)
Minnesota Thunder – 1 (0-1-0)
Richmond Kickers – 1 (0-1-0)
San Francisco Bay Seals – 1 (0-1-0)

Most consecutive Semifinal appearances (all-time):

Ukrainian Nationals (Philadelphia) – 8 (1959-66) — champions: 1960, 1961, 1963, 1966
Seattle Sounders (USL/MLS) – 6 (2007-2012) — champions: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Stix, Baer & Fuller (St. Louis) – 6 (1932-37) — champions: 1933, 1934, 1935
Bethlehem Steel (Bethlehem, Pa.) – 5 (1915-19) — champions: 1915, 1916, 1918, 1919
Chicago Fire – 4 (2003-06) — champions: 2003, 2006
Chicago Fire – 4 (2013-16) — champions: None
Los Angeles Galaxy – 4 (2000-03) — champions: 2001
Philadelphia Nationals (1949-52) — champions: None
DC United – 3 (2008-2010) — champions: 2008
Pawtucket Rangers – 3 (1933-35) — champions: 1941
Dallas Burn (FC Dallas) – 3 (1996-98) — champions: 1997
Maccabee AC (Los Angeles) – 3 (1980-82) — champions: 1973, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1981
NY Greek Americans (New York City) – 3 (1967-69) — champions: 1967-69
Brooklyn Hispano (Brooklyn, NY) – 3 (1943-45) — champions: 1943, 1944
Croatian SC (Chicago) – 3 (1979-81) — champions: None
Ponta Delgada (Mass.) – 3 (1946-48) — champions: 1947
Fall River Rovers (Mass.) – 3 (1916-18) — champions: 1917
Scullin Steel (St. Louis) – 3 (1921-23) — champions: 1922

The most popular Semifinal matchup in the Modern Era has been the Chicago Fire against the Los Angeles Galaxy who have played each other three times.

2000: Chicago Fire 2:1 (ASDET) Los Angeles Galaxy (at Los Angeles)
2001: Los Angeles Galaxy 1:0 (ASDET) Chicago Fire (at Los Angeles)
2003: Chicago Fire 3:2 Los Angeles Galaxy (at Chicago)

The highest attendance for a Semifinal match in the Modern Era was 16,117 set by Sporting Kansas City when they defeated Real Salt Lake 3-1 at Sporting Park in Kansas City on Aug. 12, 2015. Two years later, USL side FC Cincinnati more than doubled that record with an announced crowd of 33,250. According to TheCup.us records, this was the second-highest attendance ever recorded for a US Open Cup match.

The highest average attendance between two Semifinal matches came in 2013 when Real Salt Lake hosted the Portland Timbers and the Chicago Fire hosted DC United. The average was 12,889. Real Salt Lake drew a then-record 14,742 and Chicago had an announced crowd of 11,036. However, in 2017, FC Cincinnati’s record crowd of 33,250 pushed the average attendance to nearly double the previous record: 24,722.

The following states have never had a team advance to the Semifinals:
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Delaware
Hawaii
Idaho
Iowa
Kentucky
Maine
Mississippi
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
North Dakota
Oklahoma
South Dakota
Tennessee
Vermont
West Virginia
Wyoming

The longest current Semifinal drought is from the state of Rhode Island, who hasn’t had a time reach the Semifinals since 1942 when the Pawtucket Rangers reached the final four for the ninth and final time.