The idea of once again having a soccer club in Bethlehem has gone from a hopeful thought into a stunning reality. On Sunday Bethlehem Steel FC will take the pitch for their second home match of the season. The team is now well underway in their inaugural season and this week marks a special anniversary for the club that came before them.
Bethlehem Steel was considered one of the first dominant teams in the history of U.S. Soccer. Founded in 1907, the club won six league championships in their first nine years of existence. It wasn’t until 1925 that the club finished the season below second in league play.
The history of Bethlehem hasn’t gone unnoticed by those who wear the crest today. Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke expressed his appreciation for the tradition that has been instilled within the community when he was announced as head coach.
“I’m looking forward to working with all the good people around the city of Philadelphia and honestly the tradition, the history of Bethlehem Steel has me very excited,” Burke said.
Their reputation for excellence came from their ability to conquer the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, formally known as the National Challenge Cup. To this day Bethlehem Steel is still tied with Maccabi Los Angeles of California for the most Open Cup championships in history with five, a record that has stood tall for 90 years. Current MLS teams Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders FC have four.
This past Monday marked the anniversary of the fifth and final U.S. Open Cup title for Bethlehem Steel. The club was able to secure their record-setting title win in a comfortable 7-2 victory over St. Louis, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on April 11, 1926. US Soccer Hall of Fame member Archie Stark scored a hat-trick for Bethlehem in front of 18,000 fans. The match, at the time, was an American record for a soccer game.
There is a sense of pride that comes with representing Bethlehem. Burke has not been shy in showing his players what it means to play in this town.
“The guys know the history. We have showed them a few videos to help them fully understand the history and we’ve talked to them about representing the mentality of the city.” Burke said, “They get it. They know we are a gritty blue-collar group at a bare minimum.”
Bethlehem is known as a proud city that helped build America. For the members of Steel FC who step on the pitch Sunday at Goodman Stadium, they’ll have the ability to continue to help build the exemplary soccer image in their town in the same way the men before them did 112 years ago.