BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Tuesday night the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament proper kicks off in small venues around the country as 36 mostly amateur teams hope to begin a run towards the coveted Dewar Trophy, the prize for the United States’ longest standing team tournament.
Once tonight’s results are known, things will begin to get very interesting for the Fire as the U.S. Soccer Federation is expected to release the potential pairings for the third round of the competition (where
MLS teams enter) sometime on Wednesday.
There’s no doubt the Fire have found much of the club’s competitive success in the historic knockout tournament, with the club having reached the final six times and come away victorious on four occasions.
READ: Chicago Fire History
“From our point of view this tournament is important for several reasons,” said Fire COO Atul Khosla. “We obviously have a history of success in the tournament and because of that tradition, it holds a special meaning with our supporters."
"More recently, the winning club receives an automatic bid to play in the CONCACAF Champions League next season and with that, the potential to be the first MLS side to go to the FIFA Club World Cup.”
“Our goal is to give the club as many opportunities as possible to add trophies and compete against the best competition in the world.”
Having won the competition in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006, the Fire sit one title away from tying the tournament record jointly held by Maccabi Los Angeles and Bethlehem Steel.
In recent years, Seattle Sounders F.C. made their splash in the competition, winning three straight trophies, including their 2-0 defeat of the Fire in the 2011 final.
Part of Seattle’s success in the competition stemmed from their taking advantage of the old bid system that allowed teams to put down large sums of money to ensure the right to host matches.
Perhaps to keep with the Cinderella theme of the competition, that system was done away with by U.S. Soccer prior to the 2012 tournament in favor of a coin flip to determine which club would host tournament matches.
While hosting tournament matches is now left up to chance, in the past, the Fire have chosen to host some Open Cup games away from the team’s main stadium.
While matches in Milwaukee, Peoria and Wheaton have provided memorable backdrops in the team’s tournament history, Khosla believes playing at home when the club wins hosting rights is of great importance.
“We will be applying to host all possible U.S. Open Cup matches for the Fire this year at Toyota Park,” he said. “The goal is to provide our club with as big a competitive advantage as possible.”
Should the team not win the right to host a match, Khosla also committed to providing live coverage of the games.
“We have received positive feedback in the past regarding Open Cup games being streamed from home or on the road. One of those past games includes a particularly memorable match played in Peoria in 2011.
“We’re committed to making any Open Cup game viewable online to our supporters. Should we be playing away and the host does not live stream a game, we will do it as long as the venue has the proper capabilities.”
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With the Fire gunning for the elusive fifth title that would write the club’s name in Open Cup lore, Khosla points out why doing it this year would hold significant importance.
“It would be fitting for our Club to tie the tournament record in the competition’s 100th edition this year.
In addition, the timing is great as the 2013 final is scheduled to be played one week prior (October 1 or 2) to the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire and the founding of our Club (October 8).”
Mark your calendars and cross your fingers for a home draw. May 28 is two weeks away.
Until then, catch some Fire Open Cup nostalgia below...