With an expected attendance right about even with MLS league play of 35,000 for the US Open Cup Final against the Chicago Fire on Tuesday night, it is apparent that Seattle and the team have a connection to this tournament that most teams in MLS do not have. It isn't just about the ticket sales, but in the types of lineups that Sigi Schmid has field in the MLS era. But why is there this connection?
According to Roger Levesque after practice Sunday evening;
There's been a lot of pride, dating back to the USL days, in the Open Cup - the USL team going out and having a chance to play against the MLS teams. That's through Adrian, through Schmetzer, that's through the guys that are still around. With the MLS team coming in and the Open Cup, it's one of those things. Regardless of who steps on the field and what competition it is the goal is to win. That attitude has developed over the last few years. On top of that there's that little bit of extra that the Open Cup means especially after it is a our first trophy as the MLS Sounders and then winning it last year it's one of those things where we take it seriously. Now we want to go out and win it a third time.
For Levesque this is his 5th straight year with a deep run in the tourney. His 5th with Adrian Hanauer as his General Manager/Owner.
Both have watched the tournament pull in a few thousand in early rounds to over 10,000 against FC Dallas in 2007s semi-finals. This year Hanauer will get to see his team challenge another US Open Cup Final record and they've opened the Hawk's Nest for the first time in competitive play and face a team with their own history in the tournament;
They've obviously won it four times, we'd like to someday say we've won it four times, or five times. Certainly competing against teams that take the tournament seriously is a more of a challenge and adds an interesting element to it. I'm good friends with the owner of Chicago, Andrew and it's always fun to compete against friends and a little bit more satisfying if you can win the game.
Sounders connections to this tournament, to this Final are throughout the roster. Dozen game starter and third straight Sounder to be player of the tournament Nate Jaqua this is his opportunity for a 5th US Open Cup Final trophy. He won two with the Fire and two with the Sounders. Sigi Schmid today talked about how some of his old college teammates played for Maccabi LA tease him that even if he wins this week, he still won't have as many as they do. Osvaldo Alonso is in his 4th straight US Open Cup Final. In 2008 the Charleston Battery beat the USL Sounders to make the Final becoming only the 2nd lower division team in the MLS era to make the Final.
When asked about his Finals run he beamed and responded simply;
The fourth final and winning two [past couple years] for me I'm very happy.
The potential to see a trophy won on home soil in Seattle sports is rare. To do it two years in a row would be incredibly special. With the connections this community has to the US Open Cup and it's ideal that anyone can enter and win there is little surprise that Xbox and Microsoft worked with the Sounders to do something they have never done before in a competitive game. Hanauer praised them;
It's such a great spot in the stadium, still close to the field. It will be loud. It will be full. So we're excited to give it a try. Obviously it also involves a conversation with our good partners at Xbox and Microsoft. It was great that that they were willing to work with us, and allow us to try it out.
Throughout the organization there isn't just the acceptance of the US Open Cup as a part of their duty, but a drive to be a team that excels at it. One that uses their full roster thoughout every level of the competition and helps to raise the profile of the least major of the major trophies.