Seven Reasons to Watch the Union’s Open Cup Final Tomorrow Night

And only one involves nudity!


Aug 12, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union fans celebrate forward Sebastien Le Toux (not pictured) goal against the Chicago Fire at PPL Park. The Union won 1-0.

Aug 12, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union fans celebrate forward Sebastien Le Toux (not pictured) goal against the Chicago Fire at PPL Park. The Union won 1-0.

Pity poor soccer. While the rest of the world can’t get enough of it, America blithely continues to thumb its nose at the sport, choosing instead to worship baseball, football, basketball and even ice hockey. This is dumb. Soccer has so much to recommend it. And tomorrow night at Chester’s PPL Park, Philadelphia’s very own professional soccer team, the Union, will be competing in the finals of the Lamar Hunt Open Cup, one of the oldest soccer competitions in the world. The Open Cup is very democratic, because it’s open to amateur as well as pro teams, and also very Republican, as it’s named for the younger brother (and Hill School grad!) of the famed Hunt Brothers silver-hoarding tycoons.

But you don’t care about that. You likely don’t even care that to the immense joy of U.S. soccer fans, the final match of this year’s Cup competition will be televised on ESPN2, which was not at all assured right up until last Friday. (It’s the first time ESPN has televised the final game since 1999.) And while the Union aren’t normally a powerhouse team, they have performed extremely well in Open Cups; last year, they lost in overtime in the finals to Seattle, which is a powerhouse team. This year, they’re playing Sporting Kansas City.

So, why should you spend your Wednesday night cheering for the Union? Here are great seven reasons why.

The rules

You’ve either played soccer yourself or you’ve watched your kid play. That’s it. That’s the game. Two goals, into which those on the field attempt to kick the ball. No complicated offensive schemes, no constant stoppages of play for obscure violations, no interminable waits while pitchers and then batters pick at their crotches. This game moves along so briskly you may need a catheter.

The uniforms

There are hardly any. Just shiny, tight-clinging shirts and shorts. No masks or pads or pudgy pinstriped plus-fours to interfere with one’s full appreciation of highly developed male bodies. Plus, players take their shirts off at the drop of a goal.

The kissing

This may actually be why soccer hasn’t caught on here in America, land of the uptight homophobic sports fan. Lots of soccer players come from cultures where guys feel perfectly comfortable kissing other guys. This is a practice the stars of other American sports should emulate.

The celebrations

Sure, sure, football players celebrate when they score. But soccer players really celebrate when they score a goal. Sometimes it’s by taking their shirts off. (See number 2 above.) Sometimes it’s by going fishing. Or riding a stationary bike. Or dancing like Shakira. Sort of makes T.O. look lame.

The acting

There’s not a lot of violence in the game of soccer, but you’d never guess that from the carnage on the field, where bodies fly helter-skelter and strong men regularly curl into fetal agony at the tap of a cleat. You think Richard Gere can act? He’s got nothing on these guys. And even though the game penalizes unearned falls (or what it calls “simulation”) you’ve got to admire soccer’s greatest thespians.

The hair

Baseball players wear hats. Football players wear helmets. Ice hockey players, too. Soccer players wear hair. Spiky hair. Two-tone hair. Medusa hair. Man-bun hair. Modified man-bun hair. Striped hair. Dreadlocked hair. Really, really dreadlocked hair. Fabulous hair! You’ll get more fashion ideas in 90 minutes than in a season full of NFL games.

The competition

No, not on the field—in Philly sports. What other team are you going to cheer for these days—the shaky Eagles? The ever-rebuilding Sixers? The dismal Phils? The meh Flyers? Come on, get real. Isn’t it time you backed a winner for a change? 7 p.m. on ESPN—or, better yet, in Chester. Seats are still available!

Follow Sandy Hingston on Twitter.