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By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor - Archive - Email
Open Cup the beginning for Seattle?
Clint Dempsey Is this the year the Sounders take the next step?
Philadelphia, PA ( - Seattle Sounders FC has only been a member of Major League Soccer for six years, yet the club captured its fourth major trophy on Tuesday, beating the Philadelphia Union, 3-1, in extra time in the U.S. Open Cup final.

The problem, if you want to call it that, is that all four of those major trophies happen to be U.S. Open Cups.

Now there is nothing wrong with the competition, which pits lower-level teams from various leagues in the United States against one another before the MLS sides enter the fray in the fourth round.

It's just the U.S. Open Cup doesn't carry quite the same cache as the Supporters' Shield or MLS Cup, two prizes that have managed to elude Seattle to this point.

The fact that the Sounders have established themselves as one of the premier franchises in MLS in such a short period of time speaks to the quality of the organization.

Seattle has the best attendance numbers in the league and easily one of the most passionate fan bases.

But despite making the postseason each year since their 2009 arrival, the Sounders have failed to reach the MLS Cup final, while the club has been a contender in the Western Conference each season and only been able to finish second in the Supporters' Shield race in 2011.

So is this the year the Sounders take the next step?

Seattle forward Clint Dempsey certainly seems to have his mind-set on the task, and he shouldn't be the only one.

"This is my first Open Cup. We've got the rest of the season to try and win the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup," said Dempsey, who scored the go-ahead goal in extra time in Tuesday's win. "This is just one step in what we're trying to accomplish."

With the Open Cup now in hand, Seattle will next turn its attention to the Supporters' Shield, given to the MLS team with the most regular-season points.

There is some debate as to which prize should actually carry more weight, Supporters' Shield or MLS Cup, but winning either this season for Seattle would be a big step forward.

Entering this weekend's action, Seattle sits atop the Supporters' Shield standings, three points clear of the Los Angeles Galaxy with a game in hand.

The Galaxy has six games to close that gap, including a home-and-home series to end the season against Seattle, which could very well determine the destination of the Supporters' Shield.

Those two sides could very well meet up in the MLS Cup playoffs once again, a matchup that traditionally has gone the Galaxy's way.

Los Angeles is easily the biggest threat to Seattle in both competitions because the Galaxy is one of the few teams that has the kind of game-changing players that Seattle possesses.

The Sounders showed that ability in Tuesday's Open Cup final as the team was a bit fortunate to get to extra time in Philadelphia. But after a 1-1 deadlock through 90 minutes, Seattle's attacking duo of Dempsey and Obafemi Martins was the difference as each player found the net to clinch another title for the Sounders.

With Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, the Galaxy is one of the few teams in the league that has the ability to match Seattle for star power, making those two sides the favorites in MLS.

Talent hasn't been a huge problem for the Sounders in the past, and the team once again has the pieces to contend for multiple trophies this season.

The question is whether or not Seattle can carry the momentum from the Open Cup and translate it to more success this season.

At this point, simply adding another Open Cup to the trophy cabinet isn't enough.

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