Open Cup: Story of the Dewar Cup, the historic tournament's first, and now retired, prize

When it’s all over on Wednesday night, after 90 minutes are up, any extra time is finished, and any potential penalties are through, the Philadelphia Union or Sporting Kansas City will lift the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

But the trophy that Maurice Edu or Matt Besler will hoist at PPL Park, a chromed-out cup roughly three feet high, won’t be the silverware that’s been awarded for the overwhelming majority of the tournament’s 101-year history. In fact, the current US Open Cup trophy is only eight years old, first lifted by the New England Revolution after they defeated FC Dallas in the 2007 final.

The old trophy, the historic Dewar Cup, sits in U.S. Soccer’s headquarters in Chicago’s South Loop. Standing over three feet high and weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 pounds, the Dewar Cup was given to the American Amateur Football Association – the precursor to the U.S. Soccer Federation – by Scottish whisky baron Thomas Dewar in 1912.

Gifting trophies was a relatively common practice for Dewar, a bit of an eccentric marketer who – in addition to creating various awards for a slew of competitions in the British Isles and the US – wrote and published A Ramble Round the Globe, a popular 1894 travelogue detailing his journeys around the world promoting Dewar’s scotch.

First awarded in 1913 to American Amateur Football Association Cup winners Yonkers FC before becoming the official silverware of the US Open Cup – then known as the National Challenge Cup – one year later, the Dewar Cup is now retired. According to a US Soccer spokesman, the old trophy is too fragile to travel, let alone take the beer-soaked beating that comes with a title celebration.

It hasn’t come out of hiding since 2006, when the Chicago Fire paraded it around Toyota Park after beating LA in that year’s USOC final. Union head coach Jim Curtin was on that Fire team, coming on in second-half stoppage time to help close out the match against Philadelphia technical director Chris Albright and the Galaxy.

The Dewar Cup wasn’t even the official USOC trophy back then – that would’ve been the all-glass cup that was in rotation from 1999-2006 – but it was on-site in Chicago, sitting stage-left before the Fire made it the focal point of their postgame party.

Tommy Dewar, the old liquor lord, would’ve approved of their celebration.

“I just remember the top was removable, so that spent a lot of time on top of a lot of people’s heads and a lot of adult beverages were being consumed [out of it],” said Curtin, a two-time Open Cup champion. “Good memories from that. Again, there’s only two trophies in this country that kind of truly matter, and that’s the MLS Cup and the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. It’s special any time you can win it, but in front of your home fans is always a little more special. We have that opportunity here in Philly.”

While Wednesday’s winner won’t be able to wear the USOC trophy as a hat, they will have their team name added to the original Dewar Cup. The club names etched into the venerable trophy read as a walk through American soccer history, starting with inaugural Open Cup winners Brooklyn Field Club, stretching through early-stage powerhouses Bethlehem Steel and Fall River Marksmen, running into 1970s USOC dynasty Maccabi Los Angeles and continuing with MLS-era cup kings Chicago and Seattle.

The name of the Open Cup champion has been inscribed into the Dewar Cup every year since the tournament began in 1914, including when the trophy was out of rotation due to disrepair from 1979-1997 and through its current stint on the sidelines.

The Dewar Cup has been at Soccer House since 2010, when the National Soccer Hall of Fame museum in Oneonta, N.Y. – where the trophy was moved in 1999 – closed. It won’t be in Philadelphia for Wednesday’s final, presumably remaining in Chicago until a new Soccer Hall of Fame opens.

Until then, the public won’t be able to readily see the oldest trophy in American soccer. The Union and SKC will have their shot at stamping their name on it on Wednesday, however, with the winner pushing into the record books and onto an old, heavy piece of American soccer history.

“There’s no better feeling than lifting a trophy,” Curtin said. “You can’t really explain it, you can’t describe it. I can’t put words to it. Just know it’s forever, it’s permanent and the bond you have between the guys that do it, you look across the room at them and you know you’ve accomplished something special. You remember that forever.”