Major League Soccer (MLS) was still gaining traction in the American and Canadian markets in 1996 when the Colorado Rapids first took the field. The team played its inaugural season at Mile High Stadium outside of Denver and was named for the surging Rocky Mountain streams and rivers that dot the Colorado landscape. While the Rapids ended up with an 11-21 record during their first season, MLS fans were in for a big surprise when the Rapids quickly took the league by storm.
In 1997, the Rapids were the ultimate underdog story by finishing with a below .500 record and sneaking into the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Amazingly, the Rapids swept the Kansas City Wizards and the Dallas Burn in two games to punch their tickets to their very first MLS Cup appearance. Pitted against the defending champions D.C. United, the Rapids couldn't overcome a goal at the 68th minute and would fall 2-1.
Over the course of the late '90s and 2000s, the Colorado Rapids were one of the most successful franchises in the MLS. With steady goalkeeping from Joe Cannon, the Rapids slowly began to build a contending roster of young players and always seemed to be in the thick of the postseason race. The Rapids would make the playoffs six times over the course of the 2000s, but it wasn't until 2010 that they finally broke through with their first title.
The Rapids' first MLS Cup win culminated from the elimination of the Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes in the playoffs, which set up a date with FC Dallas. Although Dallas took the early lead, Conor Casey and Macoumba Kandji hit timely goals and then the Rapids' defense took care of the rest. Casey was named the MLS Cup MVP and showed that they had finally arrived in the world of professional soccer.
In 2011, the Rapids followed up their MLS Cup season with a strong start out of the gate, but couldn't recapture the same magic as the playoffs. Today, the team has moved on from its old stomping grounds at Mile High Stadium and now uses the Dick's Sporting Goods Park, a state-of-the-art multi-purpose venue with ideal sight lines and the proper setup for the sport. The dazzling venue speaks to the growing popularity of MLS soccer throughout the United States and how supportive the community has been to the franchise.