It's a Texas Derby in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
After the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas won their respective third round matches, the two Lone Star State rivals will face off in the round of 16 on Wednesday (8 p.m. CT, live stream on HoustonDynamo.com), with bragging rights again on the line.
Of course, this comes after a thrilling (and controversial) MLS regular season game in Frisco, in which FC Dallas came away with a 3-2 win and the rights to El Capitán, the replica 18th century mountain howitzer that goes to the winner of the season series between the two teams. But will that change after the teams meet in the Open Cup?
It's a question worth asking, and a question many have been asking us. What happens to the cannon if the Dynamo win on Wednesday night?
The short answer: probably nothing, at least according to the current rules.
The current guidlines for the distribution of El Capitán stipulate that the winner of the regular season series gets the cannon. Head-to-head goal differential is used as a tiebreaker, and if that's still even, then results from other competitions, such as MLS Cup playoffs or U.S. Open Cup matches, are taken into consideration. If everything is even, the holder of the cannon keeps possession.
Those rules are a change from the original arrangement, which used goal differential, then away goals scored and finally total goals scored as tiebreakers. This was implemented in 2006 and 2007, when the teams faced each other four times in the regular season--twice in Houston and twice in Frisco.
Matches outside of those in the regular season happened, but none in a way that would have impacted who received El Capitán (had there been provisions on how to handle those matches in the guidelines).
In 2006, Houston defeated FC Dallas 3-2 in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup, but also won the regular season series with a 2-1-1 record. They also faced off in the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals, where the Dynamo won 4-2 on aggregate over two games (0-1 loss in Frisco, 4-1 win in Houston). The series was already decided in the regular season that year, however, as the Dynamo went 3-0-1 against FCD.
The current state came about in reaction to the 2008 series, when the teams started playing each other three times per season. That season saw three draws in three matches between the rivals, and FC Dallas was proclaimed the victor via the away goals rule. Two of those matches occured in Houston, however, giving FC Dallas more opportunities for away goals and prompting both sides to reconsider the tiebreakers in place.
Then, in 2010, the Dynamo moved to the Eastern Conference, and the number of matches against FC Dallas dropped again. With a 34 game balanced schedule, every team played each other twice in the regular season. There was no need for tiebreakers in 2010 or 2011, as both teams won the season series outright, and no matches outside of MLS caused any confusion.
2012 brought another scheduling change, as teams would only face out-of-conference opponents once during the regular season. The Dynamo won the only meeting between the clubs that year.
Which brings us to 2013. The existing rules were clearly written for a multi-game regular season series and use SuperLiga results as a possible tiebreaker. Neither of these things can happen in the current state of affairs because of the MLS scheduling format and the fact that SuperLiga doesn't even exist anymore.
The rules of 2009 were written for those times, but we've failed to keep them updated for the current situations.
It's unlikely that anything will change who gets the cannon this year, but should the rules be modified to head off this type of confusion in the future?
Especially as the league anticipates the arrival of New York City FC in 2015 and regular season scheduling and possibly even conference affiliations change, can the clubs stay ahead of the curve and determine the fairest way to crown "the best Major League Soccer team in Texas during the year?"
Of course, a Dynamo loss or penalty shootout win (penalty shootouts are recorded as draws in official stats) would render this all a moot point for now, but that doesn't mean the issue should be ignored.
So what do you think? Does the system need to be overhauled, tweaked with, or left alone? If you were making the rules, how would you determine who reigns supreme in the Lone Star State?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! The best comment will receive two free tickets to Social Media Night on June 22!