Region’s Previous Soccer Giants Paved Way for Philadelphia Union

Image of the Bethlehem Steel in 1930 via U.S. Soccer.

As the Philadelphia Union prepares to maintain its U.S. Open Cup winning streak in the semifinals against the Chicago Fire, the franchise owes a lot to the sport’s early pioneers in the region, including the five-time champion Bethlehem Steel, writes Frank Dell’Apa for U.S. Soccer.

The Steel was one of a number of local soccer clubs that dominated the U.S. Open Cup during its initial season from 1913-1914. Another team that made waves that first year was the Philadelphia Electrics, an amateur team that won the 1913-1914 American League of Association Football Clubs title.

The first U.S. Open Cup, then known as the National Challenge Cup, had seven teams from the Philadelphia area competing.

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“Philadelphia back then was a very heavily industrial city,” said National Soccer Hall of Fame historian Roger Allaway. “All sorts of factories sponsored teams.”

And while this probably sharpened Philadelphia’s competitive edge, it was difficult to fit the cup into the already busy schedule. In fact, some teams had to play two big games in one day, which is probably why Bethlehem lost to Brooklyn FC that first year.

However, the team continued to dominate the competition, not losing again until the 1917 finale.

Read more about Philadelphia’s soccer pioneers from U.S. Soccer by clicking here.

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