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Jun 232014
The Philadelphia Union go head to head against the New York Cosmos on June 23rd, 2014 in the fifth round of the US Open Cup.

The Philadelphia Union have four seasons under their belt, and now in their fifth season are once again competing in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. This is the teams third attempt to win it all. The team has already cleared one hurdle this tournament, beating their USL Pro affiliate team, the Harrisburg City Islanders, in a  3-1 overtime thriller played on home turf  last Tuesday, June 17th, 2014. This Tuesday, June 23rd, the Union are back on the pitch again playing the New York Cosmos in the fifth round of the US Open Cup at 7:00pm at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.

A brief history of the tournament

The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is the oldest running soccer tournament in the United States and the third longest running soccer tournament in the world. It combines teams from all divisions of North American Soccer, from your local amateur adult team that plays in the park to professional teams in Major League Soccer. The inaugural tournament, known as the National Challenge Cup, took place in 1913 with Brooklyn F.C winning 2-1 over Brooklyn Celtic. Since then, Bethlehem Steel F.C and Maccabi Los Angeles hold the record for the most tournaments won at five. Since the establishment of Major League Soccer in 1996, only once did a non-MLS team win the tournament.

Now this tournament is not just for the glory and bragging rights. Each winner of the US Open Cup Tournament earns $250,000.00 in prize money and a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. The tournament winner is not the only team that leaves the tournament with something. The second place team in the tournament earns $60,000.00 and each lower division team that advances the farthest wins $15,000.00. As you can see, there are many winners in this tournament. 

Philadelphia Union and US Open Cup play

The first two seasons for the Philadelphia Union left them unqualified to participate in US Open Cup play. In 2012, the team made huge strides by beating the Rochester Rhinos, DC United, and their affiliates the Harrisburg City Islanders  for a spot in the semifinals. Unfortunately, the Union fell to Sporting Kansas City on home soil in the semifinal round 2-0. Freddy Adu led the team on the offensive front with three goals scored during the tournament.  Sporting Kansas City went on to win it all, beating the Seattle Sounders in penalty kicks.

The next year was even more disappointing in Open Cup play. Not only did the Philadelphia Union not qualify for the MLS playoffs, but made it only to the fourth round after conceding three goals to D.C United and only scoring once. Like the previous year, the team that beat the Union went on to win it all. DC United wrapped up a great run with the tournament championship beating Real Salt Lake 1-0 with a goal by Lewis Neal.

2014 US Open Cup

With the Union now in the fifth round of the tournament, their biggest test comes against the New York Cosmos.  The Cosmos are advancing to the fifth round after a thrashing victory against their neighbors, the New York RedBulls. The Cosmos’ effort led to a shut out and three goals. So far in the tournament the Cosmos have not conceded a goal. For a struggling defensive team like the Union, their back four will be tested tomorrow. It will be interesting to see the line up that newly appointed manager Jim Curtin makes up for the game.

The game will be exciting both on and off the field. The Sons of Ben, Philadelphia’s official supporter group will rival the Borough Boys, La Banda del Cosmos, and the Cross Island Crew, the Cosmos’ three supporters groups who plan to bring many numbers to PPL Park ahead of the clash between the teams.

This is the first meeting between the two teams and will make for an exciting match.

Adriana Lacy

Philly native who has a huge interest in soccer on all levels. Firm believer of giving back and paying it forward. Can be reached on twitter at @adrianabreziana.

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