Twenty years ago this October, the Columbus Crew hoisted its first-ever trophy when the club was crowned the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion.

Can the team replicate that moment in 2022?

That’s one of the questions on the minds of Black & Gold supporters ahead of Tuesday night when the club begins participating in this year’s U.S. Open Cup – the American soccer national championship.

The Crew will play USL Championship side Detroit City FC in the third round of this year’s tournament, marking first time Columbus has played in the competition since 2019. (The competition was halted because of the pandemic.)

The Black & Gold are one of 17 MLS teams competing in the third round of the competition. With a win, the club will advance to the Round of 32, which occurs in mid-May.

The beauty of the U.S. Open Cup is that it pairs first tier teams with lower division sides for a shot at a place in next year’s Concacaf Champions League and, potentially, an opportunity to play in the FIFA Club World Cup.

For Columbus, Tuesday night’s cup tie in Detroit is the first time the team has played a lower-division team since June 11, 2019, when the Crew beat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 1-0 at Historic Crew Stadium.

Overall, the Crew is 15-2-1 in the U.S. Open Cup against lower-division teams and has a +11-goal differential.

With this in mind, the third-round matchup comes at a great time for head coach Caleb Porter and his players, who are in the midst of a scoreless three-game losing streak.

An opportunity to face a lower-division opponent in a meaningful competition presents a “season within a season” opportunity for a team hoping to regain the momentum it carried a month ago.

But the matchup with Detroit – and hopefully future U.S. Open Cup games – also creates a chance for players to break into the matchday squad. Through the first seven games of the 2022 MLS regular season, the starting XI has been the same on six occasions.

For someone like Aidan Morris, who’s trying to break into the starting lineup, the Open Cup offers an opportunity impress Porter before he makes his next MLS matchday lineup. (The same can be said for several Crew players, of course.) 

When the Crew last won an Open Cup, Brian McBride, Brian Maisonneuve and Robert Warzycha were the players lifting the team’s first trophy. Will players from this year’s squad be the next Black & Gold players to hoist the Dewar Challenge Trophy?

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