Sorentino, Mazzeo, the Campagna Brothers, Lombardo, Narduzzi, Pusateri, Carestia, Camposeo, the Fugallo and Piscopo brothers. Sounds like a list of names that came right out of the Godfather movie doesn’t it? Well these men are not from the movie, but do have one thing in common with the head honchos in the Godfather. These men are actually the founding fathers of what is to be considered one of the greatest and the oldest Italian-American soccer club in the United States, the Brooklyn Italians.
Local social clubs were a popular gathering ground for men to play cards and talk amongst themselves. However in 1949, a group of Italian immigrants inhabiting the Brooklyn area decided that playing cards at the local social club was just not enough. They decided to mesh their old way of life with their new country. The result was the Brooklyn Italians Football Club.
The Brooklyn Italians found success in its early years, winning the first two championships in the Metropolitan League. However, after changing the club name to Palermo Football Club in 1950, they went on to having an unlucky streak of seasons and underwent numerous club presidency changes. Then, in 1974, Corrado “Joe” Manfredi became club president and the club soon found success. The Palermo Football Club once again became known as the Brooklyn Italians Football Club and went on to be the first Italian-American soccer club to win the National Challenge Cup (which is now known as the Lamar U.S. Open Cup) in 1979 against Croatia S.C. After winning the championship, the Brooklyn Italians did not win again for many years.
Not only were the Brooklyn Italians looking for success on the field, but they were also looking for success off the field in the form of club presidents. They were searching for a leader who could take the Brooklyn Italians Football Club to the next level. After ten club presidents, they finally found a leader, in 1987, when Jerry Valerio took the seat as president. For 13 years, Valerio served as club president, winning local, state, and international trophies. In 1991, the Brooklyn Italians won its second U.S. Open Cup against the Richardson Rockets out of Texas. A few years later, in 1994, the U-14 Brooklyn Italians won the “Enzo Ferrari” International Youth Tournament in Italy, beating Club Napoli of Palomonte in penalties.
Today, the Brooklyn Italians compete in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League in Eastern New York. Valerio has concentrated on youth soccer with teams ranging from the ages of U-8 to U-18 and an over 30’s men team. Not only do they play at a competitive local level, but you can also find them in national tournaments; the Dallas Cup, Presidents Day Tournament in Phoenix, and other college showcases, as well as international tournaments.
Because players are exposed to the highest levels of training and competition, the Brooklyn Italians have been providing a haven for undiscovered and discovered talent since its creation in 1949. They have developed players who are, or have been, part of the U.S. National Team, European Teams, USL, and the MLS. Such players include New England Revolution standout Shalrie Joseph, Juan Carlos Osorio, former New York Red Bulls coach, and Chivas USA assistant coach Carlos Llamosa.
In 2010 the Brooklyn Italians first team took a next step in their growth and left the Cosmopolitan Soccer League to join the National Premier Soccer League. Under the leadership of first year head coach Joe Barone, the Italians maintain a 5-1-0 record and are tied for first place in the Atlantic Conference in the Northeast Region.
This year the Brooklyn Italians took an unconventional route into the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Italians lost their first match against Imigrantes Das Ilhas but were given the win when Imigrantes were discovered to have fielded an ineligible player. They then won their next match against Go Soccer FC and defeated Fenerbachce USA 4-0 in their Region I final.
With over 100 trophies in 50 years, you can truly say the Brooklyn Italians are building a soccer empire and are here to stay. So next time you visit Coney Island, grab a hot dog from Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and head over to John Dewey High School to catch a glimpse of the oldest Italian American soccer club, the Brooklyn Italians. Who knows, you may just be watching the next Pelé.