The soccer scene in New England is pretty depressing right now since the US men's national team has been knocked out of the World Cup and the New England Revolution are on a run of bad form. This sorrow is understandable, but allow me to help change the mood: the Revs are three games away from winning the US Open Cup.
The Open Cup has long been an undervalued championship in American soccer since many MLS teams field reserves, but it does serve a great purpose. Beyond being the oldest soccer tournament in North America, it's important because the winner automatically receives a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. The winner also receives prize money to help cope with the additional games.
The modern version of the Champions League has been elusive to MLS teams, though DC United and the LA Galaxy have won previous incarnations. Real Salt Lake nearly obtained the prestigious title in 2011, but feel short to Monterrey at home. Our domestic league has clearly grown in recent years, but the general consensus is that a MLS team must win the Champions League to prove it. Although they have sputtered in the past, the Revolution could be the team that finally gets MLS the recognition that it deserves.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, it's necessary to recognize that the Open Cup itself is a trophy. The Revs have captured the MLS Eastern Conference Championship in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and have won the Open Cup and SuperLiga championship in 2007 and 2008, respectively. With the trophy case relatively bare, though not as much as the New York Red Bulls, the team should be excited about the prospect of winning some hardware.
Furthermore, the team could be hoisting the trophy at home. In a recent interview with the Tom Quinlin of The Q Spot Podcast, President Brian Bilello revealed that the team has put in a bid to host the finals of the Open Cup. Having been at Gillette Stadium when the Revs beat the Houston Dynamo for the SuperLiga crown, I can honestly say that there's nothing better than seeing your team lift a championship. The joy, gratitude and overall emotions make everything worthwhile and help erase bad memories.
It's hard to know what to do tactically this week. Playing a strong lineup on Tuesday would make sense when you consider that the Revs are in that latter stages of the tournament. However, they haven't been doing well in league action and they have a busy month ahead, including a home fixture against rival Chicago Fire on Saturday. The Philadelphia Union must also consider league play, though they have received a boost after Jim Curtin took over as interim head coach.
There's a lot of sadness in the New England soccer community, and I think it's completely understandable. But remember, the Revs are three games away from winning the US Open Cup, and while it might be an undervalued championship, it's a championship nonetheless.