Since its recent inception, DC United has become synonymous with success in USA football. Join FIFA.com for a closer look at one of the younger Classic Clubs on Planet Football, from the early days of Bruce Arena and John Harkes up to today and the inspired antics of Marcello Gallardo and Luciano Emilio.
Birth of an institution
When you think of the world's elite clubs, many are measured - at least in part - by how early in the 19th century they were founded. DC United is a new boy by anyone's standards. One of ten founding members of Major League Soccer, DC - then under head coach Bruce Arena - played their first-ever game on 6 April 1996, losing 1-0 to San Jose Clash (now Earthquakes) on a goal by Eric Wynalda.
A brief dip in form saw them sink to last place before a profound revival took hold, as United went on to become the most successful and well-known American club since the New York Cosmos some 30 years before. Donning the classic colours of black and white, the now-famous eagle-adorned logo, and playing out RFK Stadium in the nation's capital - where Johan Cruyff once lined up for the Washington Diplomats - United took on the mantle of league aristocrats, and hit the ground running with a silverware double (League and Cup) in their opening season.
US internationals like John Harkes, Eddie Pope and Jeff Agoos led the way early on with a slick passing game. Bolivians Marco 'El Diablo' Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno and Salvadoran ace Raul Diaz Arce helped court the Hispanic population in and around DC, with the famous Barra Brava - their hopping and bopping supporters' club - taking root almost immediately.
Making of a legend
Arena held the reins until 1999, when he left to coach the USA national team to unprecedented heights. During his years at the helm, United were quite simply untouchable, with current captain Jaime Moreno beginning a scoring streak which continues to this day (his 121 goals for the club is a record unlikely to be broken).
The men from the capital repeated their inaugural title run in 1997 and lost out in the final in 1998, before winning again under Thomas Rongen (now a TV commentator for the club) in 1999. Although they failed to win league honours in '98, they did hit another first, beating Mexico's Toluca to be crowned cub champions of CONCACAF. Shortly after, they dispatched Brazilian giants Vasco da Gama on penalties to win the InterAmerican Cup.
After such a scintillating start to life, United suffered a downturn before rebounding to win their fourth US crown in 2004 under the guidance of former Poland international and current USA Olympic coach Peter Nowak.
After ending the 2007 'regular season' in first place, DC failed to make headway in the all-important play-offs, losing out to Chicago Fire in the first round.
With the determination of a true Classic Club, they shook off the disappointment and are currently still alive in the inaugural instalment of the CONCACAF Champions League (formerly the Champions Cup). And they have already taken the first silverware on offer this year, beating second-division side Charleston Battery to win their third US Open Cup (the USA's version of the FA Cup). With MLS heading into the play-offs in November, DC are looking a good bet to qualify, but will not be pleased with their current position of third from bottom in the Eastern Conference.
Although there are plans in the works for a new stadium just outside the capital, DC United are still playing at their spiritual home of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium (RFK). Built in 1961, it hosted the 1980 NASL Soccer Bowl where the Cosmos beat Fort Lauderdale 3-0. With a capacity of over 56,000, the massive ground - which often hosts USA national team games and was a venue for the 1994 FIFA World Cup™ - is an intimidating road trip for all-comers.