The Colorado Rapids were one of the ten founding clubs of Major League Soccer, owned and operated by the Anschutz Corporation. The inaugural 1996 season was a forgettable one for Colorado. Despite fielding experienced players like Shaun Bartlett, Chris Henderson, Chris Woods, Roy Wegerle, and Marcelo Balboa, and head coach Bob Houghton, the team finished last in the Western Conference with the worst record in the league. Balboa became the first player ever to score for the club and also the first to record a goal at Mile High Stadium (in 1996).
For the following season, there was a new head coach (Glenn Myernick) and a new general manager, Dan Counce. Myernick and Counce brought new faces to the squad including Paul Bravo, Wolde Harris, Ross Paule, and keeper Marcus Hahnemann. The team struggled early on but rallied to grab a post-season spot. The Rapids pulled off two upsets and advanced to the 1997 MLS Cup final. Chris Henderson scored a mid-air volley past Dallas keeper Mark Dodd in the 87th minute in the Western Conference final, ensuring Colorado’s place in the MLS Cup final. They scored in the Cup thanks to a goal by Adrián Paz but lost the final 2–1 to D.C. United.