Ten days from now, Sporting Kansas City will play for their third Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship in club history.
The 2015 Open Cup Final on Sept. 30 will be a familiar spectacle for a team that achieved tournament glory in 2004 and 2012 with wins over the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders FC, respectively.
This time around, however, there's one apparent difference: Sporting Kansas City will fight the battle away from home.
Arrowhead Stadium was the site of the 2004 title game, while sold-out Sporting Park hosted a dramatic penalty shootout in 2012. Now, Peter Vermes' side is faced with the task of knocking off the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. And in a league where parity reigns, home field advantage is oftentimes a decisive factor in Major League Soccer matches. Home teams, after all, have a .645 winning percentage in the 2015 regular season.
So how will this affect Sporting Kansas City's chances on Sept. 30?
Part of the answer depends on the quality of the opponent. The Philadelphia Union (8-15-6, 30 points) are currently 19th in the Supporters' Shield standings and have the worst home record in MLS (5-7-3) heading into tonight's home fixture with the Houston Dynamo (6 p.m. CT, FS1, FOX Deportes). But with the club's first ever trophy within touching distance -- and having so narrowly missed out on the Open Cup last year, losing to Seattle in extra time at PPL Park -- there's a good chance that Jim Curtin's side will deliver a resolute performance in 10 day's time.
On the flip-side, Sporting Kansas City is 3-7-4 away from home in 2015. It's no small dip in form compared to the previous three MLS seasons, when they aggregated a league-best 24-17-10 road record.
Another variable to consider, then, is how previous visitors have faired in Open Cup finals. Take a sample size dating back to the start of the competition's modern era in 1995, and it becomes clear that home field advantage isn't the be-all, end-all in determining who lifts the Dewar Challenge Trophy. In fact, the visiting team has won two straight Open Cup Finals and four of the last eight.
Excluding the 1997 and 1999 finals, which were played on neutral sites, road clubs have won seven of 18 Open Cup championship games.
VICTORIOUS ROAD TEAMS IN U.S. OPEN CUP FINAL (1995-PRESENT)
|Year||Match-up||Venue||Road team result|
|1995||Richmond Kickers at El Paso Patriots||SISD Stadium||T 1-1 (W 4-2 in PKs)|
|2003||Chicago Fire at NY/NJ MetroStars||Giants Stadium||W 1-0|
|2007||New England Revolution at FC Dallas||Toyota Stadium||W 3-2|
|2009||Seattle Sounders FC at D.C. United||RFK Stadium||W 2-1|
|2013||D.C. United at Real Salt Lake||Rio Tinto Stadium||W 1-0|
|2014||Seattle Sounders FC at Philadelphia Union||PPL Park||W 3-1 (AET)|
All things considered, the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final isn't an easy game to pick. The Philadelphia Union will have the luxury of playing in friendly confines, but with that may come added pressure: no team has lost back-to-back Open Cup finals since 1975-1976.
Furthermore, Sporting Kansas City has tasted Open Cup success at PPL Park before. In 2012, Jacob Peterson and Graham Zusi bagged goals to spark a 2-0 semifinal victory in which Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Paulo Nagamura and Roger Espinoza also featured.