As originally aired on the Rochester Press Box
It was one of the greatest achievements in Rochester professional sports history. On a Monday night, September 13, 1999, the Raging Rhinos soccer team won the US Open Cup. It was a first. And quite possibly, a last.
The US Open Cup competition has been in existence since 1913. It’s literally an open field. Any team, amateur or professional, registered with the United States Soccer Federation, is eligible to compete. In 2023, 99 teams gave it their best shot. Fourteen of the last 16 teams standing were from Major League Soccer. The Houston Dynamo won it. It was the 22nd consecutive time an MLS team claimed the Cup. Every year since Rochester took it in 1999.
And what a run that was. The Rhinos won five tournament games. Four straight against MLS clubs. The two games played at Frontier Field each drew over ten thousand fans. It was the heyday for the team. The toughest ticket in town. There was talk of building a stadium and joining MLS themselves. The players, Biello, Allnutt, Miller, Andracki, Onstad, Tanner and Tilley were local heroes. The Open Cup run was unprecedented, culminating in a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids.
Last week came the news that MLS would no longer compete for the US Open Cup. There was a lot of hand wringing over the decision which was universally panned as traitorous to American soccer. History and tradition and all that. But really, hasn’t MLS outgrown the US Open Cup tournament? There’s nothing to prove. Their players aren’t interested anymore. It’s all for show.
Remember how we felt when the Baltimore Orioles stopped playing an exhibition game against the Red Wings? Or when Major League Baseball cut the legs out from under the Batavia Muckdogs by dissolving the entire New York-Penn League? And how we’ll feel when the Buffalo Bills finally pull training camp out of St. John Fisher College? Which they will someday.
It’s called progress. Progress produces perpetrators and victims. The little guy is always the victim.