The Chicago Fire captured their third U.S. Open Cup title in 2003.
JG Hoop/MLS/

Fire begins Open Cup defense July 20

CHICAGO, IL - U.S. Soccer has announced that the Chicago Fire will begin the defense of its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title on Tuesday, July 20 on the road in a fourth round match-up against either the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer or the United Soccer League (USL) A-League's Syracuse Salty Dogs. Syracuse and Columbus will contest their third round U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday, June 30 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, OH, with kick-off set for 6:30 p.m. CT. Should Columbus win in the third round, the Fire will travel to Crew Stadium to take on its Eastern Conference rival on July 20 at 6:30 p.m. If Syracuse can pull off the upset, the Fire will travel to Cortland, NY - located 30 minutes south of Syracuse - to face the Salty Dogs at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex at 6:30 p.m. CT.

"The Fire is proud to defend its Open Cup title for the third time in our short history," said Fire General Manager Peter Wilt. "Our coaches and players have prided themselves in bringing trophies back to our fans, and the U.S. Open Cup is a competition that we have enjoyed tremendous success in over the years. We expect this year to be no different and look forward to taking part in this prestigious tournament."

The Fire has enjoyed unparalleled success in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup since the team's inception in 1998, winning the coveted Dewar Trophy three times in the club's first six seasons. The "Men in Red" have dominated play in the nation's oldest soccer competition, as evidenced by Chicago's 15-3-1 record in the tournament. The 2003 championship for the Fire marked the eighth time a club from the Windy City had brought the title home to the shores of Lake Michigan in the competition's 90-year history. The Fire is also one of only seven clubs to win the U.S. Open Cup at least three times, and became the first to accomplish the feat since the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms won their third title in 1983. The Fire is the only team from America's top-flight soccer league to win the tournament multiple times.

The Fire would stake its claim as one of the most successful sides in the tournament's rich history in 2003 by winning the Cup for the third time. After breezing past the A-League's Milwaukee Wave United 4-1 on the road to begin the tournament in the fourth round, Chicago used a pair of one goal victories over the Colorado Rapids in the quarterfinals (2-1) and its traditional tournament rival, the Los Angeles Galaxy (3-2), to reach the tournament final. The Fire would again make history on Oct. 15 by becoming the first team in the MLS-era of the championship to win the title on the road, as forward Damani Ralph's 66th minute goal would prove enough to push the Fire to a 1-0 victory over the MetroStars at Giants Stadium, allowing the Fire to lift the Dewar Trophy once again.

The Fire won its first U.S. Open Cup championship when the club capped off its memorable inaugural season of 1998 on Oct. 30, as hometown hero Frank Klopas scored in the 99th minute to defeat the Columbus Crew 2-1 in overtime at Soldier Field. By winning the Open Cup and MLS Cup in its first season, the Fire became only the second team in MLS history to win America's version of "The Double." The Fire brought the city of Chicago its seventh Open Cup trophy on Oct. 20, 2000 when it defeated the Miami Fusion 2-1 at Soldier Field.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the U.S. Soccer Federation's National Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. Now in its 91st year, the U.S. Open Cup is the oldest annual team tournament in U.S. sports history and among the oldest soccer tournaments of its type in the world. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor long-time soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.

The 2004 edition of the U.S. Open Cup was expanded to a 40-team field, which began with 16 clubs from the United States Amateur Soccer Association (USASA) - eight from the USL Premier Development League and eight regional qualifiers - squaring off against each other in the first round earlier this month. Six teams from the USL Pro Soccer League, eight teams from the USL A-League and all 10 Major League Soccer squads round out this year's 40-team field. Still alive in this year's tournament are the Chicago Fire Reserves of the PDL, who have fought through the tournament's first two rounds and will face the Rochester Raging Rhinos this Wednesday, June 30 in a third round match. At stake in the 2004 tournament is $180,000 in prize money broken down as follows: $100,000 to the champion, $50,000 to the runner up and $10,000 to the team which advances deepest in the tournament from each of the Division II, Division III and amateur levels.

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