We mentioned yesterday that history is on the line tonight in the final of the U.S. Open Cup between the Seattle Sounders FC and the Chicago Fire. Seattle of course is going for their third straight USOC title, a first for any Major League Soccer franchise, while the Fire are going for their fifth title in club history.
For the most part MLS should be happy either way with the winner. It is yet another club winning the oldest soccer trophy in America from MLS. But diving a little deeper into it for each side, there are some serious pros and cons for each side winning tonight.
Seattle Winning The Cup: The Good
Three-peats in sports do not happen often. From the Chicago Bulls in the NBA in the 1990s, to the Manchester United in the EPL here recently. They happen but not very often, especially not for a MLS side.
Seattle winning the Cup tonight not only is special for the three-peat reason but for the fact that they once again prove that they are one of the few clubs what really care about this competition. Out of the few MLS clubs that made it to the late stages in this competition, it was Seattle who continues to out-bid everyone in their path to host games.
Now you may not like the bidding process for hosting games in this competition but it is the reality that we have to deal with in regards to the USOC. Seattle puts more into it because they can. Teams like Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas tried to put as much stock into this competition this season as they could but in the end it wasn't enough to match the Sounders both on and off the field.
Next is the chance that Seattle has at pulling the double this year by winning the USOC and the MLS Cup later this fall. We haven't seen a MLS team pull off the double since the Los Angeles Galaxy back in 2005.
Lastly, having Seattle win is good for MLS in the international competition scene. The Sounders have done well in the CONCACAF Champions League this year and have even advanced to the knockout rounds next spring. Winning this competition ensures their place yet again in next year's CCL tournament. Given the way the Sounders are managed, they are proving to be one of the few teams that can handle the brutal schedule that goes with the CCL.
Seattle Winning The Cup: The Bad
This old hat again? Really? Another win? Naturally it was because they played at home and outbid everyone in the process to host this game.
Seeing a new champion helps grow the USOC. It shows that someone else is willing to step up and go on the road to beat someone like Seattle. The USOC need a new champion and an underdog like the Chicago FIre.
Then there is the thought that seeing Seattle back in the CCL again could hurt their chances in the 2012 season. Obviously that is a long ways away here to think about but given the additional games that the Sounders would have to deal with at the beginning of the season in the CCL knockout round and the potential ones they'd deal with at the backend of the schedule, it could be possible that they would play around 50 games in 2012. That is an awful lot for any MLS team at this point. Even the additional allocation that they will receive from the league may not be enough.
Chicago Winning The Cup: The Good
Some new(ish) blood winning the Cup is always a welcome thing to see. The Chicago Fire have had a long year that has gone from down in the dumps when manager Carlos de los Cobos was fired to a team that is on the verge of potentially reaching the playoffs and winning the USOC.
The big thing with the Fire winning tonight would be the fact that they would become the first pro-era club to win the USOC five times. Only two clubs have done it in the long-history of the tournament, Maccabi Los Angeles and Bethlehem Steel. Those may not be household names for some but seeing a MLS club become one of the most winning clubs in USOC history is a good thing to see.
Winning the Cup would also mean that the Chicago Fire would get their chance at playing in the Champions League next year, a first for the club. Having a big market club like Chicago in the CCL would be a good thing for MLS in some ways.
Chicago Winning The Cup: The Bad
The bad really comes down to them winning the Cup and having to represent MLS in next year's CCL tournament. Not to knock on the Fire and what they have accomplished over the last two months here but does anyone really believe this club has the depth to compete on an international stage just yet?
Sure the likes of Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa, Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko have been good for the Fire here lately but behind them there are plenty of question marks. Depth on this club like many other MLS teams is pretty limited. Adding an additional two to eight games to their schedule next year could be the difference in seeing this club be a MLS Cup contender or just another playoff hopeful.
Then there is the whole issue of interim boss Frank Klopas. Will he be the coach next year or won't he? Should he step aside and go back into the front office, the club may not continue to go in this forward direction under a new boss.