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

Posted by | July 3, 2012
The New York Red Bulls take on FC Cincinnati in the US Open Cup Semifinals at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH on Tuesday August 15, 2017. Photo: Ryan Meyer | New York Red Bulls

The New York Red Bulls take on FC Cincinnati in the US Open Cup Semifinals at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH on Tuesday August 15, 2017. Photo: Ryan Meyer | New York Red Bulls

Since 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 pro clubs to advance to the final four during that span.Ukrainian Nationals logo

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 13 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). The Seattle Sounders were a new MLS franchise in 2009, but the club had existed in the USL for several years prior to joining MLS.

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 Houston Dynamo celebrate after defeated LAFC in a PK shootout in the 2018 US Open Cup Semifinals. Photo: Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo celebrate after defeating LAFC in a PK shootout in the 2018 US Open Cup Semifinals. Photo: Houston Dynamo

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 in extra time.

Semifinal appearances by MLS teams:

Chicago Fire – 13 (6-7-0 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 PKs)
Seattle Sounders – 5 (5-0-0)
Columbus Crew – 4 (3-1-0)
New England Revolution – 4 (3-1-0)
Philadelphia Union – 4 (2-1-1, 1-0 PKs)
Houston Dynamo – 3 (0-2-1, 1-0 PKs)
Chivas USA – 2 (0-2-0)
Colorado Rapids – 2 (1-1-0)
Portland Timbers – 2 (0-2-0)
Real Salt Lake – 2 (1-1-0)
San Jose Earthquakes – 2 (0-1-1, 0-1 PKs)
Atlanta United FC – 1 (1-0-0)
Los Angeles FC – 1 (0-0-1, 0-1 PKs)
Miami Fusion – 1 (1-0-0)
Minnesota United FC – 1 (1-0-0)
Orlando City SC – 1 (0-1-0)
Tampa Bay Mutiny – 0

Note: The New York Red Bulls (Metrostars) have the most semifinal appearances (five) 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 records, this was the second-highest attendance ever recorded for a US Open Cup match. The second-highest Semifinal attendance on record is the 1924 match between Bethlehem Steel and the Fall River Marksmen at Dexter Park in Brooklyn, NY. The game drew about 20,000. The third highest was achieved in 2019 when Orlando City SC drew an announced crowd of 18,461 for their match against Atlanta United FC.

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:
New Hampshire
North Dakota
South Dakota
West Virginia

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.


  • ERic says:

    Interesting that in the Consecutive Semis appearances, only Chicago won it all the last year they were in the Semis. In all other cases, the team won in their first or second year of making the semis — if they won it.

    Also, shouldn’t Seattle be in there? They won it all last year, so they have to have been in the semis, and they are again this year. And they continue the trend of winning their first year of making the semis. Expect them to not win it this year.

  • ERic says:

    …though, checking Wiki, Seattle fans could argue that Seattle actually has a run of 2007-2010 going, the USL1 Sounders having made the semi in ’07 and ’08.

  • Josh Hakala says:

    That’s very true, you could make the argument, but we’ve been told multiple times that the MLS Sounders are considered to be a “new franchise” … which is unfortunate, I think, because we’re trying to establish some history and tradition in (North) American soccer, and it would be nice if teams like Portland, Vancouver, Montreal and Seattle held on to their USL roots. I’ve never had anyone give me a good explanation as to why they don’t.

    And you were right about Seattle being in there, I forgot to add them when I updated this article for 2010. Thanks.

  • Chris says:

    I believe that the Sounders FC has embraced their roots. They have hung a banner for the USL championships that were won by the previous Sounders at Xbox Pitch.

  • I am happy for the richmond kickers but in all earnest the us open cup needs a new direction. The Concacaf champions league 4 us entries should be the supporters shield winner and runner up and the mls cup winner and runner up. Plain and simple.
    Since relegation and promotion do not exist, in all earnest, the us open cup is in an awful place in the scheme of things it needs freeing.

    click my name above for my suggestion and please tell me what you think?

  • J.T. Alwin says:

    I absolutely disagree. First off, remember what happened a few years ago when Red Bull NY made the MLS Cup final? They had a lucky streak, but were really a mediocre team, and that showed when they got hammered in the qualifier round in the CCL. At least with the Open Cup, it requires a bit more than just a week or two of luck, since it’s a tournament over an extended period of time.