Los Angeles Galaxy president Alexi Lalas, on the eve of his team's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday against Chicago (live at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT on Fox Soccer Channel), told the Press Enterprise, "I took as much pride winning an Open Cup as an MLS Cup. They're all championships and they're all rings, and many years from now you can talk about it."
But he would say that wouldn't he?
Lalas, who lifted the Open Cup with the Galaxy in 2001, presides over a team that won MLS Cup last season but is likely to miss the MLS playoffs this season.
Winning tomorrow against the Chicago Fire, which with a 2-1 league win over Los Angeles last Saturday qualified for the postseason and struck a near fatal blow to the Galaxy, would serve as some consolation if it misses the MLS playoffs for the first time in club history.
Only once has a defending MLS champion not reached the playoffs the following year: D.C. United in 2000.
Dating back to 1914, the U.S. Open Cup is the American equivalent of the English FA Cup, the world's oldest soccer competition, which was launched in 1871. The appeal of "Cup" play comes from giving minor league and amateur teams a chance to compete against top-tier pro teams in a knockout format.
In the USA, MLS clubs have won all but one of the Open Cups since MLS's inception.
In no other nations does the Cup have the stature that it does in England, but doing the double -- winning league and Cup titles in the same year - is considered a unique achievement worldwide. (In Germany, Bayern Munich celebrated a historic two-straight doubles last season.)
Three MLS teams have done the double: Los Angeles (2005), Chicago (1998) and D.C. United (1996).
Los Angeles may not have that opportunity, but a win tomorrow over Chicago, a record three-time Open Cup champ, would make the Galaxy the first repeat winner since 1983, when New York Pancyprian-Freedom did it.
The Open Cup winner earns a $100,000 prize. The runner-up gets $50,000.
U.S. OPEN CUP FINALS (since MLS inception)
2005 Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS) 1 FC Dallas (MLS) 0
2004 Kansas City Wizards (MLS) 1 Chicago Fire (MLS) 0
2003 Chicago Fire (MLS) 1 MetroStars (MLS) 0
2002 Columbus Crew (MLS)1-0 Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS) 0
2001 Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)2 New England Revolution (MLS) 1
2000 Chicago Fire (MLS) 2 Miami Fusion (MLS) 1
1999 Rochester Rhinos (A-league) 2 Colorado Rapids (MLS) 0
1998 Chicago Fire (MLS)2 Columbus Crew (MLS) 1
1997 Dallas Burn (MLS) 0 D.C. United (MLS) 0 (Dallas wins on PKs)
1996 D.C. United (MLS)3 Rochester Rhinos (A-League) 0
Click here for all-time U.S. Open Cup winners.