As MLS teams get ready to enter the always exciting Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fray, we decided to take a stroll down memory lane to identify the tournament's biggest stars during the MLS era.
There were so many excellent choices for this ranking, that there was no room for either repeated standouts such as C.J. Brown, Kenny Cooper, Dom Dwyer, Andy Herron, Nate Jaqua and Jaime Moreno, or for dazzling one-season flashes like Igor Simutenkov and Obafemi Martins. And yet, leaving all those guys out was far easier than deciding the final order of our amazing top four.
10) Ante Razov
The LA Galaxy assistant coach played for five MLS teams, but all of his Open Cup heroics came as a member of the Chicago Fire. Razov, who set up Jerzy Podbrozny's extra time winner in the 1999 final, celebrated three titles with the Windy City boys. In all, the striker notched six goals and five assists in 11 USOC matches for the Fire.
9) Benny Feilhaber
The LAFC playmaker has done nearly all of his Open Cup damage to date (four goals and 10 helpers in 14 career tournament games) with Sporting Kansas City. Feilhaber has keyed a pair of championship runs there, in 2015 and 2017. His late strike decided the 2015 semifinal and he teed up Daniel Salloi's final winner last year.
8) Matt Besler
Defenders often get forgotten on these types of list, but not this time. The Sporting KC center back stalwart has enjoyed three title celebrations. On top of performing all of his defensive duties, Besler made good on all-important penalty shootout tries in SKC's titles in both 2012 and 2015. The team has five shutouts in Besler's 15 cup matches, and an 8-1 record since he took the armband.
7) James Riley
We turn to another defender, and you may well be surprised to realize he was such an Open Cup hero. Riley played every minute of five finals for three clubs, and raised the silverware every time. His first crown came with New England in 2007, followed soon thereafter by three straight in Seattle (2009-2011), and then topped off with a D.C. United title triumph in 2013. His five teams (including Chivas USA and Colorado) went 17-1 when the wide back started and only leaked multiple goals once.
6) Josh Wolff
Now an assistant coach in Columbus, Wolff was often at his best in Open Cup play. In Chicago's 1998 final victory, the former US international drew the spot kick for their opening goal. Two years later, Wolff's 112th-minute semifinal winner sent the Fire to another championship match, which they won. After moving to Sporting KC, he earned the golden goal free kick buried by Simutenkov in the 2004 final. In total, the attacker put up 10 goals and five assists in 20 Cup games.
5) Sebastien Le Toux
It shows the great wealth of worthy choices for this ranking that the tournament's modern-era top scorer can only manage to land in the No. 5 spot. In addition to netting 16 goals (including 10 during consecutive shock semifinal runs in the Sounders' last two USL campaigns), Le Toux also recorded 11 assists in his 33 career USOC matches. He only triumphed in one of his three finals appearances, with Seattle in 2009, but he did lead the Philadelphia Union on stirring runs to the title game in 2014 and 2015.
4) Kasey Keller
The US national team legend's Open Cup story was short but sweet. Keller played in three tournaments for the Sounders and celebrated the title each time. After making six saves in the 2009 final, he was named Player of the Tournament. The following year, the netminder started Seattle's championship drive by making two penalty stops in a shootout win over arch-rivals Portland. Keller would end up 9-0 in Cup play with just six goals conceded.
3) Osvaldo Alonso
If not for a shootout-opening miss in the 2012 final, the Sounders captain might have topped this list. The heart of Seattle's midfield, he helped them to four championships from five title matches. Prior to that, Alonso helped Charleston reach the 2008 final, where they fell to D.C. United. He has even turned on his scoring boots in Open Cup play, with his 2011 final icebreaker among seven goals in 20 career tourney games.
2) Fredy Montero
The forward helped Seattle to four straight finals, winning the first three of them. Montero is the only player in the MLS era to have scored in two championship matches. One of those final strikes was the late winner in their 2011 three-peat job, which saw him named Player of the Tournament. In 13 career Open Cup matches, he bagged seven goals, including four game-winners. The only time Seattle lost a cup match with Montero in the lineup was the 2012 final, which saw him removed for tactical reasons 15 minutes before the penalty shootout. Oops.
1) Tim Melia
The Sporting KC 'keeper has backstopped two title runs in the last three years. In the 2015 final, Melia starred with eight saves over 120 minutes and added two more in the successful shootout. Last year, Melia made six stops in the final, and was named Player of the Tournament. Thus far, the KC bunch are 10-0 with four shutouts when he starts. Heck, he even won four of five cup contests (including two more penalty kick triumphs) while punching up a class with lower league sides Charleston and Rochester. You might get away with a tug on Superman's cape or spitting into the wind, but when it comes to the U.S. Open Cup, you don't mess around with Tim.