Monday, August 1, 2011

The US Open Cup and Soccer in the USA

The US Open Cup may not receive the coverage the MLS enjoys but its place in the USA's sporting history is bigger than many may realize 
Pleasant surprises: those wonderful little moments of unexpected glee. We all love them and we all experience them. They make life enjoyable and can give us that extra lift to get through the day. And I had one of the best of all time.
My hometown team, Sporting Kansas City, was having to qualify to enter the 2011 version of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and the first qualifier was that night. We were fighting for the last two MLS spots to this national cup competition and our first match was against the Houston Dynamo. I went to wikipedia, my source for most of my sports scores, and searched "US Open Cup". Every page for a competition has this nifty link at the bottom of the info box on the right side that takes you directly to all the information about the current edition and the US Open Cup page was no different. 
Before I reached that expertly placed link, I was pleasantly surprised. 
Wait. That's probably understating it, though. 
No. That's definitely understating it. 
It was much more of an stupendous shock. The sort of moment that takes your breath away and makes your heart stop for half a second. Above the link to the 2011 US Open Cup was one simple piece of information about this cup. It stated simply: "Founded: 1914." I was dumbfounded! I was still in the middle of learning a lot about soccer in America and it was only a few weeks before this that I began to hear tales of the mythical North American Soccer League that brought professional soccer to the States way back in the 1970's. I was stunned when I heard that the Portland Timbers were not merely an expansion side and that the Cascadia Cup was not a new competition. Not at all! The Timbers and Sounders have been duking it out for decades. American soccer had history! We've played for over 40 years! 
But, nearly 100 years? Since 1914? Surely not!
It was all true, though. The United States has a rich footballing history and the US Open Cup is the best example of that fact. 
To understand the US Open Cup, you actually have to go even farther back into history to 1884. In this year, the first organizing soccer organization, the American Football Association (AFA), was born. It only covered regions around New Jersey and New York, but was still ground-breaking. Most importantly for this story, the AFA organized America's first non-league cup, the American Cup. The first American soccer dynasty of sorts came about as Clark ONT, a team from northern New Jersey sponsored by the local Clark Thread Company, swept the first three American Cups. Teams from New Jersey and Massachusetts dominated the competition until 1897 when the Philadelphia Mainz defeated the previous year's champions, Paterson True Blues. 
Read the rest of the article on In Bed With Maradona here.

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