Climbing the Ladder: MLS club's Open Cup runneth over
It's time once again for the start of Major League Soccer involvement in America's knockout cup competition, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. There have been plenty of memorable moments over the past 15 seasons, from dramatic golden goals (Frank Klopas, Danny Califf, Igor Simutenkov) to vicious attacks (Luis Hernández, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Josh Wicks) as teams have battled to add their names to the Dewar Cup. Plus, there’s the bonus of qualification to next year's CONCACAF Champions League.
MLS club records in the Open Cup
(“Years” refers to the number of seasons participated. Qualifying games aren’t considered part of the final tournament and are not included above.)
Top Open Cup coaches
(ranked by points per game, minimum 10 games; only including stats with MLS teams)
Eight MLS teams will begin the annual journey next Tuesday, entering in the round of 16.
In general, since the league’s inception in 1996, MLS clubs have done well in the US Open Cup, winning 14 of the last 15 tournaments.
The glory of any cup competition is the possibility of an upset. And although MLS teams have generally been on the winning side, they have not always gotten the victory.
MLS teams are 111-42-19 against lower-league competition. They’ve also won 12 of those 19 draws in penalty shootouts, so in total they’ve advanced 71.5 percent of the time. The most outright losses have come against the Rochester Raging Rhinos (seven) and the Charleston Battery (six), the only two non-MLS teams to make the final since 1996.
Rochester will host Chicago next week, but the other seven MLS teams will play at home. In the four previous years with this format, less than half of the MLS teams in this round have played at home (14/32). That should mean a better chance this year for MLS to advance a high number of teams, and along with the lack of second division NASL clubs, fewer excuses for any team that does lose.
Current LA Galaxy assistant Dave Sarachan was once the head man at Chicago, and while there, he made the US Open Cup his playground. He won two titles, and reached three finals and a semi in four years with Chicago.
But Sarachan's impressive run still leaves him behind Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, who won a trifecta of titles, two with the Sounders and one with the Galaxy. His three also puts him in front of current US national team coach Bob Bradley, who, like Sarachan, won twice with the Fire.
Bradley's two predecessors on the US sideline, Bruce Arena and Steve Sampson, also each won the Open Cup once. It’s worth noting that Sampson, when with the Galaxy in the mid '00s, had a perfect 4-0-0 record in the Open Cup as a result of LA's 2005 title run. The other two coaches to win one are Steve Nicol and Tom Soehn.
The worst record goes to Preki and former KC boss Ron Newman, both 0-3.
Play To Win
With a maximum of four games to be played by each team, Jesse Marsch will remain safely at the top of the MLSer appearance ranking for another year. The tenacious midfielder and current assistant for the USMNT was on the field for the Chicago Fire’s first three titles in 1998, 2000, and 2003.
If Peter Vagenas hadn’t been traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps, then he might’ve taken first place this year. As it stands, RSL’s Andy Williams may be the active player most likely to surpass Marsch in the future. Chris Albright probably should be higher, as he hasn’t made an appearance since 2006.
The player who’s made the most MLS appearances without one in Open Cup play is the Galaxy’s Juan Pablo Ángel, followed closely by former Red Bulls teammate Dane Richards. Both have appeared in qualifiers, but they each should get their first taste of final tournament action next Tuesday. If they do, the record will fall to ex-MLSer Robbie Findley.
It may be an even longer time until Jaime Moreno is overtaken as the leading scorer among MLSers. Mainly because the top active scorers are on teams that failed to qualify this time around. Having scored in eight editions of the tournament, he’s been in first for more than a decade already. The top single season mark is six, shared by Christian Gómez (2005), Welton (2000) and Josh Wolff (2000).
Ángel also holds the record for most MLS goals without one in the Open Cup. He’s followed by Conor Casey, who won’t get a chance this year.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Abdul Thompson Conteh scored his seven goals in only six games, by far the top goals/games strike rate. He accomplished that in part by scoring a hat trick in 2001 against the third division New Jersey Stallions, in a game D.C. United won 8-0. That’s the largest margin of victory for any MLS team in a competitive game, along with United’s other 8-0 win against Joe Public in the 1998 Champions Cup quarterfinal.
Most Open Cup appearances
(only including stats with MLS teams)
|1||Jesse Marsch||28||DC, CHI, CHV|
|2||Peter Vagenas*||27||LA, SEA|
|3||Jaime Moreno||26||DC, NY|
|3||Zach Thornton*||26||CHI, COL, NY, CHV|
|6||Andy Williams*||23||CLB, MIA, NE, NY, CHI, RSL|
|6||Carey Talley||23||DC, KC, DAL, RSL, CHV|
|10||Chris Albright*||21||DC, LA|
* still active
Most Open Cup goals
(only including stats with MLS teams)
|7||Abdul Thompson Conteh||7|