US Open Cup histories of the eight quarterfinalists seeking a first title and the cities they represent

Posted by | July 10, 2019

The 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup quarterfinals have the distinction of being just the eighth time in the tournament’s 106-year history in which none of the final eight teams have ever won an Open Cup championship.

We take a look at the Open Cup history of each team in this year’s quarterfinal field, as well as the Open Cup history of the city or state they represent. Five of the teams and the locations they hail from have a relatively brief Cup history, while the remaining three come from three of the all-time greatest Open Cup locales.

New Mexico United

New Mexico United rallied from a first-half deficit to advance to the Quarterfinals of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 2-1 win against FC Dallas on Wednesday night. | Photo courtesy Matt Begala / FC Dallas

New Mexico United rallied from a first-half deficit to advance to the Quarterfinals of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 2-1 win against FC Dallas on Wednesday night. | Photo courtesy Matt Begala / FC Dallas

The history of New Mexico in the US Open Cup isn’t much longer than the existence of New Mexico United itself. The New Mexico Chiles of the Southwest Independent Soccer League (now the USL) made runs in the 1991 and 1992 US Open Cup and made it all the way to the Semifinals in the 1991 tournament.

The Chiles first defeated fellow SISL club Colorado Comets 4-2 in extra time, and then rolled past 1992 Open Cup champions San Jose Oaks, 3-0. In the Region IV Final, the Chiles cruised past Strikers SC of Southern California, 5-0. New Mexico but came up short in the Semifinals, dropping a hard-fought 1-0 decision to the Richardson Rockets (Texas) of the SISL, on a 84th minute goal from Shane Schwab.

In 1992, the Chiles were eliminated in the second round of the Region IV tournament, and never played another Open Cup game.

In 1997, the Albuquerque Geckos of the USL’s D-3 Pro League qualified for the competition but lost their opening round game to the Central Coast Roadrunners of the PDSL (now USL League Two). 19 years later, the Albuquerque Sol qualified from USL League Two, but they were also one-and-done, falling to Harpo’s FC 2-0.

So with New Mexico advancing four times, they are making some significant New Mexico soccer history.

Portland Timbers

Like New Mexico, Oregon doesn’t have much of an Open Cup history prior to the Portland Timbers. According to TheCup.us records, the earliest Oregon-based club to compete in the tournament was Gresham United who reached the Round of 16 in 1989. Prior to the Timbers’ rebirth in the 2000s, the team that had advanced the farthest in the competition the Portland-based Kell’s Celtic who reached the Quarterfinals in 1992, losing 3-0 to eventual champions San Jose Oaks. During the Timbers’ USL era (2001-10), they reached the Fourth Round in 2004 and 2005 but never beyond that until the club made the jump to MLS in 2011.

The MLS Timbers had to wait until 2013 to surpass the accomplishment of Kell’s Celtic cup run in 1992 when they reached the Semifinals. After knocking off the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL Pro) 5-1 and Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) 2-0, the Timbers faced FC Dallas in the Quarterfinals. Goals from Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri and Frédéric Piquionne pushed Portland past their MLS rivals and into a semifinal matchup with Real Salt Lake. A goal from Diego Valeri in second half stoppage time gave the Timbers late hope, but ultimately the Rose City booters could not overcome the two-goal deficit, falling 2-1 to Real.

Minnesota United

Melvin Tarley of the Minnesota Thunder tied for the tournament lead with six goals in the 2005 US Open Cup.

Melvin Tarley of the Minnesota Thunder tied for the tournament lead with six goals in the 2005 US Open Cup.

After surviving on penalties against underdog darlings FC Cincinnati (then in the USL), Minnesota United’s Open Cup debut in 2018 came to an end in the fourth round with a 1-0 defeat to eventual champions Houston Dynamo.

The Minnesota Thunder came along in the early 90s and had some league success, reaching the league championship game six times, but only lifting the trophy one time (1999). However, it wasn’t until 2005, a year that they finished in 10th place in the league, that they made their best US Open Cup run.

Led by the duo of Melvin Tarley and Johnny Menyongar, who combined to score 11 goals in the 2005 tournament, the Thunder knocked off FC Dallas in the Third Round (4-1) and the Kansas City Wizards in the Quarterfinals (3-1). Awaiting them in the Semifinals was the Los Angeles Galaxy, who were on their way to claiming a MLS and Open Cup double championship in 2005. Goals from Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez put the Galaxy up 2-0 just after halftime, only to see Menyongar cut the lead in the 54th minute. The Galaxy would add three more goals to pull away in the second half and finish with a 5-2 victory.

Prior to the emergence of the Thunder, Minnesota was fairly anonymous in the Open Cup. In the 1960s, a single team from Minneapolis/St. Paul would enter each year, only to be eliminated in their opening match against the winner from Wisconsin. Entries from Minnesota began to tail off during the 1970s. The Thunder would break that streak by qualifying for the first time in 1999, only to have the state of Minnesota receive a rude welcome back to the tournament as they were upset by amateur side the Mid-Michigan Bucks (now Flint City Bucks) of USL League Two.

Orlando City SC

Benji Michel of Orlando City celebrates after scoring a goal against the New England Revolution in a Round of 16 match in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Orlando City SC

Benji Michel of Orlando City celebrates after scoring a goal against the New England Revolution in a Round of 16 match in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Orlando City SC

Through its years in the USL and MLS, Orlando City has only made it as far as the Quarterfinals three times (2013, 2015, 2018), although other teams from Florida have had some success in the past.

When the Open Cup changed its format to four regions (East, South, Midwest, and West) in 1979, a semifinal spot was guaranteed for southern teams making their first Open Cup appearances. The H. Brooks Dodge Chargers of St. Petersburg became the first southern semifinalist, defeating Atlanta’s Datagraphic 2-1 in the Region III Final. In 1989, the St. Petersburg Kickers won the state’s only Open Cup championship with a dramatic 2-1 extra time victory over Greek American Atlas of New York. Just as the game seemed to be headed toward a penalty shootout, Gordon Singleton scored in the 120th minute. Singleton, who came on as a sub with three minutes left for the penalty shootout, had knee surgery three weeks prior and wasn’t expected to play for another three months. The Kickers were really the only team from Florida who challenged for the trophy in the 1980s and early 1990s. One of their last entries was in 1994 when they infamously reached the Semifinals of the tournament only to forfeit because they team had purchased World Cup tickets in advance.

The last Florida team to reach the Semifinals was the Miami Fusion (MLS) who finished as the runner-up to the Chicago Fire in 2000. Their road to the Final was not easy. After surviving an upset scare from the PDL’s Mid-Michigan Bucks (now Flint City Bucks) via penalties in the third round, the Fusion needed sudden death extra time to take a 3-2 win over D.C. United. The semifinals were another close affair for the Fusion with another 3-2 win, this time over the MetroStars. In the Final, the Chicago Fire held a 1-0 lead for most of the game, and a Tyrone Marshall own goal in the 88th minute extended the lead to 2-0, although Welton cut the score to 2-1 in the final minute. Welton finished the tournament with six goals, tied for the lead with Chicago’s Josh Wolff. Six goals remains the single-tournament record for goals.

Atlanta United FC

Atlanta United’s lone Open Cup run in 2018 lasted just two games, but the club and their fans still made Open Cup history. After knocking of the USL’s Charleston Battery 3-0 in the Third Round. While Atlanta’s Fourth Round ended in a 1-0 defeat to the Chicago Fire, 41,012 fans saw the game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, setting an all-time attendance record for a U.S. Open Cup game.

The city of Atlanta began its Open Cup history in 1979 along with the other teams from the south. In 1980, the Atlanta Wolves reached the Semifinals before losing to eventual champions New York Pancyprian Freedoms, 3-1. The next year, Datagraphic represented the city in the Semifinals, suffering a 7-0 loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers (now Brooklyn Italians). These two semifinal appearances would mark the deepest run any team from the state of Georgia has made in the Open Cup. In 1995, the Atlanta Ruckus participated in the first Open Cup tournament of the Modern Era (1995-present). Once the Ruckus changed its name to the Atlanta Silverbacks, the team participated in the Open Cup 11 out of 15 seasons, but only once managed to get as far as the Quarterfinals in 2014. That year, the team, led by head coach Eric Wynalda, upset two MLS teams (Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids), before falling to the Chicago Fire, 3-1, in the round of eight.

1988 US Open Cup champions: Busch SC of St. Louis

1988 US Open Cup champions: Busch SC of St. Louis

Saint Louis FC

During their five years of existence, Saint Louis FC has struggled in the US Open Cup. Only twice have they managed to reach the Fourth Round, each time ending in 1-0 losses to Sporting KC in 2015, and the Chicago Fire in 2017.

Like New Mexico and Atlanta, the city of Saint Louis has not seen much Open Cup glory in the past 20+ years. However, prior to the Modern Era, from about 1920-1994, teams from Saint Louis were the cornerstone of the tournament, winning 10 Open Cup championships and finishing as runners-up in 10 others. St. Louis first participated in the Cup in the 1920 edition, and immediately made an impact with Ben Miller FC defeating Fore River 2-1 in the Final. St. Louis clubs would go on to appear in five of the next six Cup Finals, the sole missed season being in 1925 when the four professional St. Louis clubs joined the American Soccer League in boycotting the tournament.

By the 1930s Stix, Baer & Fuller (later known as Central Breweries and Shamrocks due to sponsorship changes), appeared in a record-setting six straight Cup finals between 1933 and 1937, winning three. From 1938 to the mid-50’s St. Louis was fairly quiet in the Open Cup, until the Kutis Funeral Home took over sponsorship of the St. Louis Raiders, winners of the 1952 National Amateur Cup. Kutis would go on to win the Amateur Cup six straight times (1956-1961), win the Open Cup in 1957, and become a fixture in the final four of each year’s tournament.

The 1960s and 70s brought another relatively quiet era for St. Louis. Kutis re-emerged as a power in the 80s, reaching the final in 1985 and winning once again in 1986 (the biggest gap in between championships in tournament history). Busch SC would add the most recent title in 1988. St. Louis Soccer Park became a regular host for the semifinals and the finals of not just the Open Cup, but all of the USSF’s cup competitions during the late 80s.

Los Angeles FC

Maccabee AC won five US Open Cup titles (1973, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1981),

In it’s very first year of existence in 2018, Los Angeles FC reached the semifinals, and very nearly made the Final. Down 3-1 to Houston with fifteen minutes to go, Diego Rossi led a dramatic comeback, scoring with 12 minutes remaining, then tying the game in the fifth minute of stoppage time. After 30 scoreless minutes of extra time, Houston wound up prevailing on penalties, 7-6. Rossi’s performance was so impressive that he was voted TheCup.us Player of the Round despite not advancing.

While the rest of the quarterfinalists have very little recent Open cup success to compete with in their area, LAFC has the shadow of the Los Angeles Galaxy looming over them. From 2001-2006 the Galaxy won two Open Cup championships, and were runners-up in two others. However, since their last trip to the Final in 2006 (where they lost to the Chicago Fire), they have only advanced beyond the Quarterfinals one time (2016) in 10 tournament appearances.

Teams from Los Angeles sand San Francisco did not participate in the Open Cup until 1954, primarily due to the long travel distance. However, in 1952 the Los Angeles Scots entered the Open Cup only to later withdraw due to the high cost of traveling to St. Louis to play Simpkins Ford. The following year McIlwaine Canvasbacks attempted to represent Southern California but were also forced to withdraw for the same reason. Once California became a full participant in 1954, the winner between Los Angeles and San Francisco was guaranteed a spot in the Western Final against the winner of the Midwest (St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee). This honor usually went to the team representing Los. Angeles.

The Danish American SC was the LA team to reach an Open Cup final, dropping a 2-0 decision to Sport Club Eintracht of New York City in 1955. Southern California finally got the Dewar Trophy in 1958 when the Los Angeles Kickers topped Baltimore’s Pompei SC 2-1, and the Kickers prevailed again in 1964 by stopping the Ukrainian Nationals over two legs.

The 1973 marked the beginning of one of the greatest dynasties in Open Cup history as Maccabee AC (Los Angeles) defeated Inter Italian SC of Cleveland 5-3 after extra time. Over the next ten years, the Maccabees would capture five Open Cup championships (1973, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1981), and finish as runners-up in two others (1980, 1982). The seven finals appearances is the most for any club in Open Cup history, and their five titles is tied with Bethlehem Steel and the Fall River Marksmen. In 1984 and 1986, the Yugoslav American SC were the last pre-MLS team from Southern California to reach the Final.

New York City FC

Brooklyn Field Club won the inaugural National Challenge Cup in 1914.

Brooklyn Field Club won the inaugural National Challenge Cup in 1914.

In their first four appearances in the US Open Cup, NYCFC had no luck whatsoever in advancing past their first game of the tournament, each time coming at the hand of local rivals. NYCFC were eliminated by the NASL’s New York Cosmos in 2015 & 2016. In 2015, Lucky Mkosana scored in the 90th minute for the Cosmos to send the game into extra time, and the Cosmos eventually advanced on penalties. In 2016, it was an 88th minute goal from Danny Szetela that put the Cosmos over the top, 1-0.

The past two seasons it was the New York Red Bulls that knocked out NYCFC, 1-0 in 2017 and 4-0 in 2018. NYCFC managed to avoid their NY/NJ boogeymen in 2019, as the Red Bulls were eliminated by New England and the NPSL’s New York Cosmos B fell in the second round.

While New York City FC has a steep history to live up to as far as the Big Apple is concerned, no team from New York City proper has advanced past the Quarterfinals since the Brooklyn Italians won the Open Cup in 1991. All told, New York City has accounted for 25 Open cup champions since the tournament began in 1913, 15 more than St. Louis and Los Angeles, the next closest cities. Add in the 13 times a team from New York reached the final and lost, you have 38 Open Cup finals with a New York team involved.

Teams from New York City did not often appear in the early cup finals. Only four times in the first 14 years did a NYC club reach the final (1914, 1915, 1921, 1922), with only Brooklyn Field Club (1914) and Robins Dry Dock (1921) emerging victorious. During the mid-1940s Brooklyn Hispano (1943 & 1944) and Brookhattan (1945) gave the Big Apple three championships in a row. In 1967, Greek American AA began the first New York dynasty, winning three Cups in a row from 1967-1969. The Greeks added another title in 1974.

By the early 1980s, NYC was back on top again, appearing in six straight Open Cup Finals. After the Brooklyn Dodgers won in 1979, the Pancyprian Freedoms triumphed in 1980, 1982 and 1983. AO Krete followed up with a championship in 1984. Gotham cooled off until the 1990s, when the Greek Americans reached another final in 1989, followed by the Brooklyn Italians (formerly Dodgers) in 1990. The Italians added their second Open Cup championship in 1991.

US Open Cup championships by city
New York City – 25*
St. Louis, MO – 10*
Los Angeles, CA – 10*
Chicago, IL – 9
Fall River, MA – 6
Philadelphia, PA – 5
Bethlehem, PA – 5
Pittsburgh, PA – 4
Washington, D.C. – 4

*Has team active in 2019 Open Cup

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