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Why winning the Open Cup is more important than you think

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A 102-year old trophy would be a prized possession for any team

Tomorrow evening FC Dallas will play in their first Open Cup Final in nearly a decade and will have the chance to win their first major trophy in nearly 20 years. The Open Cup is America’s oldest major sports trophy, having been founded in 1914 when it was known as the National Challenge Cup. In 2016, 91 teams competed for a chance to win the trophy, in a single elimination format that has basically welcomed nearly every conceivable soccer team on US soil.

In a move to honor one of US soccer’s most important figures, US Soccer changed the name of the tournament to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. If that name seems familiar it’s because Lamar Hunt owned FC Dallas from 2003 until his passing in 2006 and now the club is owned by the Hunt family. He is also honored before every home match by a scarfing ceremony where the club chooses an honorary scarfer to wrap an FC Dallas scarf around the Lamar Hunt statue. This won’t give the Hunt family justice, but in short, he basically single-handidly kept soccer alive in America by financially backing MLS during its infancy and kept things afloat to a flourishing league that we have now. In other words, no Lamar Hunt, probably means no MLS or professional soccer here in America.

Because of the legacy and that the trophy bares the name of the club’s owner, there is extra significance for FC Dallas to bring home this trophy despite it’s lack of allure compared to other trophies. All things considered equal, I would personally put the Supporter’s Shield, MLS Cup over the US Open Cup in terms of value. Because of the scheduling, it is also why most MLS teams will field their youth players in the opening rounds. If they advance, great. If not, then the kids got some valuable experience and the team can focus on the MLS regular season. It becomes a bit of a “roll-the-dice” scenario which, to me, overemphasizes luck than observing the full body of work over the course of the season.

But things are not always equal, especially in this case with Dallas in the Final and also simultaneously contending for the Supporter’s Shield. Oscar Pareja opted to rest some key starters on Saturday - despite it coming against the Colorado Rapids who are also in contention for the Shield - and did so with Tuesday’s final in mind. For one of the original MLS clubs that launched with the league in 1996, Dallas’ trophy cabinet is one of the more barren in the league. Of the three major domestic trophies (Shield, MLS Cup, Open Cup), Dallas only has one in their 20+ years of existence. Ironically enough, it’s Tuesday’s opponent, the New England Revolution, who share in the abysmal trophy haul with Dallas with also one major trophy. Fun note, New England’ solo trophy was also the Open Cup in 2007, courtesy of defeating Dallas in the finals.

As we near the end of the third year under Pareja’s helm and his “FC Dallas Way” of playing the kids and developing professionals for the future, the time to win is now. This may be a year or two sooner than he had envisioned, but the team is here and is on the cusp of winning something significant. If FC Dallas wants to be treated and seen as a major sports player in the DFW metroplex, it starts changing that narrative by winning tomorrow night.