IMAGE: 1996 MLS Cup

Birth of a dynasty | The story of the 1996 MLS Cup final

With the second leg of the MLS Conference Championships scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, the soccer world waits in anticipation to see which two clubs will earn the right to battle for the 22nd edition of the MLS Cup. In honor of the the inaugural league championship between United and the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996, MLS released a video commemorating the match, which marked the birth of the Black-and-Red’s dominant dynasty.

On Oct. 20 on a waterlogged pitch in Foxborough, Mass., United found themselves down two goals after 56 minutes of play. Galaxy midfielder Chris Armas had slashed through United’s backline for Los Angeles’ second goal, giving the Galaxy a seemingly insurmountable lead.

“It was 2-0 and it didn’t seem like it was a game that we were going to be able to get back into,” Jess Marsch, United reserve, said.

But as United had on several occasions that season, the Black-and-Red stormed back, fueled by the offensive creativity of Marco Etcheverry and goals from Tony Sanneh and Shawn Medved.

After clawing their way back to level the scoreline and force overtime, United completed the impressive comeback and claimed the championship with an Eddie Pope golden goal off a set piece from Etcheverry.

“I’m going to be honest, I didn’t know the game was over when Eddie scored,” Etcheverry said. “Many of the other players also didn’t know the game ended there.”

While the first-ever MLS Cup final was uncharted territory for the upstart league and its players, the match was one to remember, helping the league build a loyal following after year one. The game also set the stage for the rise of the Black-and-Red, who proved to be the best team in three of the league’s first four seasons.

United would go on to win their second and third MLS Cups in 1997 and 1999, becoming the first club to win multiple championships and back-to-back titles. Add in United's 1996 U.S. Open Cup title and their 1997 and 1999 Supporters' Shields, and the Black-and-Red built the first-ever dynasty in Major League Soccer. 

Watch the full video, including interviews with Marco Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno, Jeff Agoos, and Jesse Marsch, below.

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