Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final (7 p.m., TICKETS) is highly prestigious in its own right, being the oldest cup competition for soccer and the oldest annual team sports tournament in the nation. Yet its potential impact for the Houston Dynamo goes beyond simply adding one more trophy to the cabinet.
The winner of the U.S. Open Cup also earns a spot in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League, the top club competition in North and Central America and the Caribbean. The new format for the competition would place the Dynamo directly into the knockout rounds in Spring 2019.
It would be the first time participating in the tournament for the Dynamo since the 2012-13 edition, when they reached the quarterfinals and hosted Santos Laguna at BBVA Compass Stadium in a memorable 1-0 win.
Twelve of the 16 teams have already qualified for next year’s tournament: Toronto FC, Sporting Kansas City, Tigres UANL, Santos Laguna, Monterrey, Toluca, Saprissa (Costa Rica), Alianza (El Salvador), Guastatoya (Guatemala), Marathón (Honduras), Independiente (Panama), and Atlético Pantoja (Dominican Republic).
Entry into the tournament means another trophy in play for the team as well as a chance at history, as no MLS team has won the CONCACAF Champions League since its rebranding from the Champions’ Cup in 2008. Two MLS teams have reached the final, but Mexican teams have brought home the hardware every time. Winning the Champions League, in turn, grants entry into the FIFA Club World Cup – an annual tournament played between the club champions of each federation to crown a world champion.
On top of all that, winning the U.S. Open Cup carries a cash incentive of $300,000 ($100,000 for the runner-up).