By Jeff Kassouf
Since Major League Soccer began its first season in 1996, the US Open Cup has more or less been a mid-season version of MLS Cup. With the exception of 1999 when the Rochester (then Raging) Rhinos took home the title, a team from Major League Soccer has won the competition every year.
Now, it could be time for another breakthrough story almost a decade later. The Charleston Battery will be looking to bring home their first ever US Open Cup title, but really there is even more to the game than that.
Forget the $100,000 purse for the winner. As great as that is, the US Open Cup gives the Charleston Battery – a team relatively unknown by many soccer fans around the country and world – the chance to compete at an international level.
The winner of Wednesday’s matchup at RFK Stadium receives an automatic berth into next year’s CONCACAF Champions League, which is an incentive for a team at any level. For MLS teams, it is another way into the competition other than league play, and gives them the opportunity to compete internationally against teams that have typically dominated MLS sides (see: MLS teams in Costa Rica).
However, it is a whole different ball game for United Soccer League teams such as Charleston. The international attention that can be brought to the club by even simply being in the competition is enormous. Just imagine the like of Chivas de Guadalajara playing in Charleston, South Carolina. The attention that would be brought to the team is undeniable, and the facilities and players that they have would surely show off a quality product.
Of course, Charleston must win on Wednesday for any of this to happen. The Battery are currently on an eight game winless streak in league play, while opponent DC United comes in having won three of their last five league matches. But, as any player or coach would say, all of those statistics get thrown out the window in a championship match such as this.
Charleston will most likely hold the psychological advantage, having a chip on their shoulder in their attempt to beat their supposedly superior MLS foes. Though it is arguable, United clearly possesses more natural talent on their side, but in a cup final, it all about desire and execution.
Look for history to be made in the year’s US Open Cup final, with Charleston winning 2-1 on goals from Randi Patterson and Stephen Armstrong, their workhorse in the middle. Inevitably, this will set Charleston and the USL up for a huge publicity boost; one of unimaginable proportions.
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: email@example.com
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