The Double is a triumph, in the same year, in both a country's top league and its national cup competition, and it seems possible that there might be a winner of the American Double in 2010. Next week, the U.S. Open Cup will be won by either the Columbus Crew or the Seattle Sounders. Both are in strong contention to make the MLS playoffs, so the cup winner could win the MLS title as well.
At the moment, the top U.S. league and the national cup are easy to identify, but that hasn't always been the case. Without getting bogged down in the whys and wherefores, here are the leagues that appear to have been the best each year over the last century.
1910-21: National Association Foot Ball League (a semipro league in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania).
1922-31: American Soccer League I (the first lasting pro soccer league in the United States).
1932-33: St. Louis Major League.
1934-67: American Soccer League II (a scaled-back, semipro version of the first ASL).
1968-84: North American Soccer League (whose teams didn't enter the U.S. Open Cup anyway).
1985-87: Western Soccer Alliance (a West Coast league).
1988-89: American Soccer League III (which merged with the WSA to form the APSL).
1990-95: American Professional Soccer League/A-League.
1996-present: Major League Soccer.
On the cup side, there are only two candidates. The American Football Association Cup was first held in 1885 and was the national cup competition through 1913. In 1914, it was superseded by the U.S. Open Cup, originally called the National Challenge Cup, which has been the national cup ever since.
So, given those ground rules, here are the teams that can be called winners of the American Double:
1912: West Hudson of Harrison, N.J., NAFBL champion and winner over Rangers of Paterson, N.J., in the AFA Cup final.
1919: Bethlehem Steel of Bethlehem, Pa., NAFBL champion and winner over Paterson FC of Paterson, N.J., in the USOC final.
1924: Fall River Marksmen of Fall River, Mass., ASL champion and winner over Vesper Buick of St. Louis in the USOC final.
1930: Fall River Marksmen of Fall River, Mass., ASL champion and winner over Bruell Insurance of Cleveland in the USOC final.
1933: Stix, Baer & Fuller of St. Louis, St. Louis Major League champion and winner over New York Americans in the USOC final.
1943: Hispano of Brooklyn, N.Y., ASL champion and winner over Morgan-Strasser of Pittsburgh in the USOC final.
1945: Brookhattan of the Bronx, N.Y., ASL champion and winner over Cleveland Americans in the USOC final.
1954: New York Americans, ASL champion and winner over Kutis of St. Louis in the USOC final.
1961: Ukrainian Nationals of Philadelphia, ASL champion and winner over Los Angeles Scots in the USOC final.
1963: Ukrainian Nationals of Philadelphia, ASL champion and winner over Los Angeles Armenian in the USOC final.
1996: D.C. United, MLS champion and winner over the Rochester Rhinos in the USOC final.
1998: Chicago Fire, MLS champion and winner over the Columbus Crew in the USOC final.
2005: Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS champion and winner over FC Dallas in the USOC final.
This list is stretching the definition of a Double about as far as it will go. Some would say too far. They'd say that championships in local or regional leagues shouldn't count for this purpose and that West Hudson, Bethlehem Steel and Stix, Baer & Fuller shouldn't be on this list. They may be right. But with or without those three teams, it's an illustrious list the Crew or Sounders could be joining this year.