Open Cup Fever

Tuesday, September 01, 2009 | View Comments
US Open Cup Trophy

After all of the cattiness, the hurt feelings, the back and forth, and the clever marketing, the 2009 US Open Cup final is almost upon us. The Seattle Sounders, looking for their first trophy as an MLS club, will take on the defending cup holder DC United in front of an as-yet-to-be-determined crowd at RFK Stadium.

The day before kickoff, and the game itself somehow seems secondary.

The focus still seems to be on the location of the final, and each team's ability to draw a significant crowd; Seattle, through GM Adrian Hanauer, continue to maintain that they would have sold out the final, despite an afternoon kickoff. United is working hard, though creative marketing efforts like and tour of the city with some of United's significant trophy collection, to drum up as much interest in the game as possible in the Nation's Capital. Even with those efforts, however, word is that the club has only sold 11,000 tickets thus far.

Is it enough? Will United get a significant walk up crowd and push beyond the 15,000 mark? Tough to say, and disappointing if they don't. Sounders fans will certainly revel in the "failure", and depending on the outcome of the match, could have more than a few shots to lob at United fans tomorrow night.

Will a "failure" on DC's part to draw a good crowd have a lasting effect? Hard to say, with the process that US Soccer runs in regards to the host sites for this tournament, but I would expect that Seattle and their management would make some more noise; add to the Sounders heat the participation of others (namely Bryan of the Sons of Ben, whose has taken to their potential and natural rivalry with DC with abandon) in the DC-bashing, and it could be both a good night (provided they win) and a bad one for United.

Hell, it might even affect some change if attendance is disappointing tonight. How could US Soccer continue with the sealed bid process as it exists if DC fails to live up to what Seattle might have been able to provide?

Believe it or not, despite my natural bias, I might be on the side of Seattle here. The Open Cup is an afterthought for American soccer fans, even the ones emotionally invested in MLS and USL, and needs all the excitement it can get. Will 15,000 fans in a mostly-empty RFK Stadium, no matter how good the game itself is, help push the tournament to a new level? Probably not. If the game was at Qwest Field, and 30,000 Sounders faithful "packed" that stadium, the game might get the kind of atmosphere it deserves. Say what you will about the prospects of a sell out at 1 PM on a weekday (the scheduled local kickoff time if the game had taken place in Seattle), and I myself have serious doubts about that possibility, it would be shortsighted to sell the Sounders and their fans short by assuming it couldn't happen.

Nonetheless, the game will go on, and receive (hopefully) a little more attention than usual thanks to the battle over the final site. It might now be the dawning of a new era for the US Open Cup and the final itself, but it could be a step in the right direction.
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