The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer’s National Championship, crowns its 2019 champion on Tuesday, Aug. 27, when defending Major League Soccer champs Atlanta United host fast-rising Minnesota United, who currently sit one point out of second-place in MLS’ Western Conference standings and have scored a busload of goals in 2019 Cup play. No matter what the result on Tuesday, history will be made in this, the 106th consecutive U.S. Open Cup Final [WATCH 7:45 p.m. ET; ESPN+].
New Winner No DoubtWhile we don’t know who’ll be lifting the trophy, we do know it will be their first time doing it. Atlanta United, coming on line as an MLS expansion club in 2017, are on their first run of any consequence in America's oldest soccer tournament – but they’ve gotten accustomed to drawing huge attendances and winning trophies too. They edged Portland Timbers in last year’s MLS Cup Final, drawing a huge crowd and ushering in a new –high-power force on the American soccer scene.
Minnesota United’s arrival in the top flight (also in 2017) was slightly less dramatic. The Twin Cities’ club missed the MLS playoffs in both of its first two MLS seasons, but things are very different in 2019. Led by defensive stalwarts like new arrivals Ike Opara (2017 Open Cup winner with Sporting KC) and Ozzie Alonso (a four-time Cup champion with Seattle Sounders), Adrian Heath’s Loons are a side born anew and drawing strength from their recently christened Allianz Field in Saint Paul, where capacity crowds have become a North Country norm and energized an already fervent fan base.
Either winner will also be the first representative from their respective States – Georgia or Minnesota – to pick up the old, venerable trophy.
Where to Watch
If you’re in or around Atlanta, Georgia, tickets are still available for the game (kick-off at 8 p.m. ET) at the futuristic and bombastic Mercedes-Benz Stadium. A new cathedral to match any that came before it, the Benz recently hosted an MLS regular season contest that drew a record 72,548 fans. The only previous Open Cup game played at the stadium came last year, a 1-0 Round of 16 Atlanta United loss to the Chicago Fire that set a record for the largest-ever crowd for any Open Cup game in history (41,012).
If you’re elsewhere in the country and rolling up to the box office is no option, you can catch the game live starting at 7:45 ET on ESPN+, who have broadcast all 2019 Open Cup games from the First Round on and will continue to do so in the years to come.
The Road to the Final
Atlanta United, led by coach Frank de Boer, are flying high in all competitions. They’re fresh off winning the inaugural Campeones Cup, with a victory over Mexican giants Club America. With six straight league wins on the trot, goalkeeper Brad Guzan hasn’t conceded a goal in the Five Stripes’ last two Open Cup games – a hot streak indeed.
The Georgians began their 2019 Open Cup with a wobble, driving all the way to South Carolina only to find USL Championship side Charleston Battery’s field unplayable. They turned around and got the job done at home in Kennesaw, Georgia by coming from a goal down and winning 3-1 in OT – thanks to a pair of goals from Brandon Vazquez and some elegant service from Justin Meram. Vazquez, still just 20, scored two more in the 3-2 Round of the 16 win over Columbus Crew on the road, which required an hour-long delay after heavy rains in Central Ohio. That was the last game that Atlanta United conceded a goal in the Cup. A pair of 2-0 wins over Cinderellas Saint Louis FC and Orlando City (without star striker Josef Martinez) sent the side clean through to their debut Final.
.@ATLUTD went into a fired up Exploria Stadium and left with a 2-0 win over @OrlandoCitySC and a first-ever ticket to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final.#USOC2019 Highlights ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/edq0qJAtm1— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) August 7, 2019
Minnesota United will have no fear – their own form of late being up among the best in MLS. They opened their 2019 Cup account with a pair of wins over the 2017 champions Sporting Kansas City and 2018 holders Houston Dynamo. The Loons rolled over Peter Vermes’ SKC 4-1 and then came from two goals down on the road to send Houston packing in what felt like a turning-point game for a team that hadn’t won an Open Cup game before 2019 as an MLS squad. MNUFC then went down a goal again in the Quarterfinals only to roar back and hammer second-tier New Mexico United 6-1 at their Allianz Field, before sealing a place in a first Final with a 2-1 win over Portland Timbers in Saint Paul. Darwin Quintero is on top of the 2019 scoring charts with a modern-era record six goals. In all, the team bagged 15 goals in their four Open Cup games and you can safely say they’re up for the Cup.
It's the end of the road for defending champs @HoustonDynamo as @MNUFC scored three goals in a sensational 2nd half comeback to win 3-2 & move through to the Quarterfinals where they'll face the winner of @FCDallas v @NewMexicoUTD.#USOC2019 | 📺 Highlights pic.twitter.com/GXzYRlUo9S— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) June 19, 2019
What They’re Saying
“I’m not one of those, ‘listen let’s go out and enjoy it guys;’ I don’t say that. The only way to enjoy a cup final is to win. I’ve lost in finals and I didn’t enjoy it at all. We have players who know – we’re 90 minutes from achieving something really important and that people didn’t think we had a cat in hell’s chance of doing. We’ve come a long way and I’m not saying ‘go and let’s make it a great day out’. I’ll be saying ‘let’s be competitive and go and try and win it’ – if my players believe that, then there’s no reason we can’t have it.” – Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath, who won a pair of English top flight titles and the 1984 FA Cup in his playing days with Everton.
“It’s impossible not to think about winning a trophy and we are going full for the Open Cup. Our focus is very serious on this tournament. We are still a very young club and we don’t have that much history. In that history, we have an MLS title and to play in another Final this year is great for this club. We are eager to win prizes and the U.S. Open Cup is one we can win this year. Playing a Final at home is a special thing too. You have to consider it. To play for a trophy with these supporters behind us is a great thing to give to these fans and they can give the players that extra feeling they need on the field.” – Atlanta United coach Frank de Boer, who played in two FIFA World Cups and amassed over 100 caps for the Netherlands.
- REWIND VIDEO – Brooklyn Italians: More Than a Club
- REWIND VIDEO – Florida’s Only USOC Winners (’89 St. Pete Kickers)
- REWIND STORY – Saint Louis Kutis & a Father-to-Son Cup
- REWIND STORY – Maccabi LA & Hollywood’s Dynasty
What’s at StakeIn addition to the $300,000 in prize money (the runner-up receives $100,000) and bragging rights on offer for the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner, there’s also the small matter of a place in the Concacaf Champions League next year (the tournament that sends Concacaf’s representative to the FIFA Club World Cup). Were Atlanta United to win, it would be their second straight run out in the North, Central American and Caribbean’s showpiece event. If Minnesota United are able to overturn Atlanta in Tuesday’s decider, it would not only be their first trophy of any kind but it would also represent their first appearance in the Champions League.
And there you have it. Tune in Tuesday and may the best team win…