The year 1967 marked a turning point in American soccer history. The first professional leagues since The Great Depression formed, inadvertently ushering in a new era for the US Open Cup; an era defined by the North American Soccer League’s (NASL) refusal to partake in the tournament; an era bookmarked by the league’s existence.
With the emergence of the National Professional Soccer League and the United Soccer Association in 1967, professional soccer returned to the United States for the first time since the original American Soccer League folded in 1933 creating two alternative national championships alongside the historic US Open Cup. Due to the haphazard construction of these two professional leagues and their internecine battle for professional legitimacy, both leagues spurned America’s oldest soccer championship during their first year of existence.
In 1968 the two leagues combined to form the NASL, but their initial eschewal of the Open Cup continued throughout the new league’s existence and came to define this era of the Open Cup’s history leaving the tournament in the hands of semi-professional and amateur clubs dedicated to competing in the tournament who became involuntary caretakers of the historic competition ensuring the Cup’s survival for another generation.
Similar to the era that followed World War II, this period of the Open Cup was dominated by clubs that many would define as “ethnic,” though many of these clubs were cosmopolitan in their makeup and only amateur in name.
The NASL’s refusal to enter its clubs into the tournament did not stop professionals from taking part in the tournament. Many of the semi-pro and amateur clubs fielded professional players. The San Pedro Yugoslav-Americans of the National Soccer League (Los Angeles) are but one example: San Pedro featured Novak Tomic and Felipe Ruvalcaba, both World Cup veterans representing Yugoslavia and Mexico respectively. Other professional players and former NASLers featured in the tournament as well with Karl Minor, Tony Douglas, and Leif Aaroe among them.
Every championship won during this era was won by a club from either California or the New York Metropolitan area. The two coasts exclusivity began with New York Greek Americans’ run of three straight championships from 1967-1969. The Greeks became just the third club in history to three-peat, and the first to do it since Stix, Baer & Fuller of St. Louis won (under various team names) from 1933-35.
Another defining feature of this period is the emergence of championship caliber clubs on the West Coast, namely Maccabee AC (Los Angeles) who reached the final seven times during this period winning five titles, tying Bethlehem Steel as the club with the most Open Cup titles in the process.
Despite the growth of the game nationally and the emergence of a sustained professional league, the attention that the Open Cup tournament garnered remained meager with most newspapers across the country neglecting to dedicate any coverage of the tournament. The tournament was completely overlooked. As the NASL grew in popularity, some of the media found more time for the tournament. Club participation remained small with only 183 clubs of 2500 eligible entered into the 1982 tournament, and waned further after the dissolution of the NASL in 1984 abruptly ending this era of the Open Cup.
Note: 1968 marked the last time the tournament’s champion would be decided over a two-leg format.
|1967||Greek American SC||4:2||Orange County SC||Eintracht Oval||New York, NY||2,500|
|1968||Greek American SC||1:1||Olympic SC||Hanson Stadium||Chicago, IL||N/A|
|Leg 2||Greek American SC||1:0 (2:1 agg)||Olympic SC||Eintracht Oval||New York, NY||4,000|
|1969||Greek American SC||1:0||Montebello Armenians||Rancho Cienega Stadium||Los Angeles, CA||N/A|
|1970||Elizabeth Sport Club||2:1||Croatia SC||Downing Stadium||Randall’s Island, NY||2,000|
|1971||San Pedro Yugoslavs||6:4 (AET)||New York Hota||Rancho Cienega Stadium||Los Angeles, CA||4,700|
|1972||Yugoslav-American SC||1:0||Elizabeth Sport Club||Farcher’s Grove||Union, NJ||2,000|
|1973||Maccabee AC||5:3 (AET)||Inter-Italian SC||Rancho Cienega Stadium||Los Angeles, CA||2,500|
|1974||Greek American SC||2:0||Croatian SC||Metropolitan Oval||Queens, NY||2,000|
|1975||Maccabee AC||1:0||Inter-Giuliana||Murdoch Stadium||Torrance, CA||2,152|
|1976||San Francisco AC||1:0||Inter Giuliana||Metropolitan Oval||Queens, NY||N/A|
|1977||Maccabee AC||5:0||United German Hungarians||Rancho Cienega Stadium||Los Angeles, CA||2,125|
|1978||Maccabee AC||2:0||Vasco Da Gama||Giants Stadium||East Rutherford, NJ||1,000|
|1979||Brooklyn Dodgers||2:1||Croatian SC||Winnemac Park Stadium||Chicago, IL||1,000|
|1980||NY Pancyprian Freedoms||3:2 (AET)||Maccabee AC||Metropolitan Oval||Queens, NY||600|
|1981||Maccabee AC||5:1||Brooklyn Dodgers||Daniels Field||Los Angeles, CA||1,200|
|1982||NY Pancyprian Freedoms||4:3||Maccabee AC||Hanson Stadium||Chicago, IL||1,200|
|1983||NY Pancyprian Freedoms||4:3 (AET)||Kutis SC||Delmar Stadium||Houston, TX||800|