The heartbreak of losing two US Open Cup finals at home will never vanish entirely. But keep in mind: Reaching the final twice is pretty rare. Since the Union franchise was born, only Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City, and Philly have made it to the final more than once.
And for Philadelphia, the US Open Cup is special: Both a five-time USOC winner (Bethlehem Steel represent!) and a four-time winner (Ukrainian Nationals) come from the City of Brotherly Love, and Philadelphia German Americans were the first amateur team ever to win the cup in 1936. Steel's big run came in the late 1910s and 1920s, in the early years of the cup, while Ukrainian Nationals rose to the top of the heap in the 1960s.
So when Jim Curtin says Philadelphia Union take the US Open Cup very seriously, he means the club respects and wants to build on a tradition of cup success no other city in the United States can claim. And Union fans that have made it out to this year's cup have helped their team understand and build on that tradition with banter, unique and hilarious chants, and the type of support that players crave in win-or-go-home matches.
Let's go through a brief history of the Union's US Open Cup runs as the team prepares for a July 18th showdown with Orlando City SC, the first time these clubs have met in the tournament.
Record The Union are 17-8-0 in US Open Cup play. They have been to a shootout seven times, winning three and losing four. Philly was actually 3-1 in USOC shootouts heading into the 2015 cup final against Sporting Kansas City. KC had icy veins in that one, nailing seven of eight shots to take home the trophy. Since then, the Union are 0-2 in USOC penalty shootouts. But if England can break their World Cup penalty curse, Philly can certainly do the same this season.
Rounds This season marks the fifth time the Union have made it to the USOC quarterfinals, meaning the club has advanced that far in over half the seasons it has existed. Twice they have continued on to the final, once to the semi-final, and once they were knocked out in the quarters (by New England Revolution in 2016 on penalties). Philly was knocked out in the qualification round in their first two seasons, bounced by DC in the fourth round in 2013, and felled by Red Bulls in the Round of 16 a year ago.
Opponents One of the fundamental joys of the US Open Cup is the unexpected upsets that break brackets each year. That joy ends when it's your team on the end of the sucker punch, but the Union have never had to deal with that trauma. Only MLS clubs have knocked Philly out of the tournament in the past: New York Red Bulls, DC United, and Sporting KC have done it twice each, and the Revs and Seattle Sounders have come out on top once each. Notably, the Union have avenged their losses to Eastern Conference rivals, dropping DC and New England once each and Red Bulls three (!) times.
Firsts Do you even have to ask? Sebastien Le Toux scored the U's first Open Cup goal on April 27, 2010 in a 2-1 loss to NYRB. He also scored Philly's first penalty shootout goal against DC United a year later. The Union's first USOC match was at Red Bull Arena, and they didn't play at home until 2012 when Josue Martinez nabbed the club's first open cup goal at Talen Energy Stadium against Rochester Rhinos.
A final first: Not only will this be the first USOC meeting between the Union and Orlando City, but it will be new OCSC head coach James O'Conner's first open cup match in charge of the purple lions. O'Conner was coaching USL side Louisville City FC, and brought them into the quarterfinals, where they will face Chicago Fire. O'Conner's first match in charge of Orlando City will be this weekend on the road against LAFC, who remain undefeated at home.