Welcome to our continuing series of Meet the USASA features where we annually profile the clubs representing the United States Adult Soccer Association in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Advancing from the four regional tournaments, these often unknown clubs have great stories to tell and each year, our goal is to allow fans to get to know them as they attempt to become this year’s Cinderella story. Click here for more Meet the USASA stories.
Playing its inaugural season in 2010, the Philadelphia Union is one of Major League Soccer’s newest franchises. But just about 40 miles northeast of the Union’s PPL Park Chester-based home exists the overlooked Phoenix SC, one of the nation’s oldest soccer clubs. It is a sports club that has survived hardship over and over throughout much of the past century to find its way into the national spotlight.
The full name of the club as it was founded is First German Sport Club Phoenix, and while the team commonly referred to as simply Phoenix SC may be making its first appearance in the US Open Cup in the Pro Era, the club has a rich history that dates back 85 years. Playing as the oldest among the field in 2011, the USASA Region I finalists have become the third oldest club to participate in the U.S. Open Cup in the Pro Era. The only clubs that are older are fellow Philadelphia-area club United German Hungarians (founded in 1910) and the Croatian Eagles of Milwaukee (1922).
The club’s roots date back to the early 1920s, when a group of German immigrants formed the German American Soccer Club. After a disagreement within the club caused some officers and members to leave, the group decided to form their own club. On April 9, 1926, the First German Sport Club Phoenix was formed.
Despite being born out of strife, the team found success almost immediately, winning the German-Pennsylvania Cup League in 1931, 1933 and 1934. When housing expansion began in Philadelphia in 1938, the club lost all of its regular playing fields. But instead of throwing in the towel, the management of the club made another great decision. The club purchased 38 acres of land 20 miles northeast of Philadelphia in Feasterville, a location the club has remained at ever since.
Soon after wining the Philadelphia Soccer League title in 1941, the club fell on hard times. A combination of members serving in World War II in addition to an embargo on German immigration during the war left Phoenix struggling to field teams. Following the return of club members from the war German immigration bans were eventually lifted and the club began to rise from tumult yet again for a third time.
Their first known match in the US Open Cup was on October 18, 1936, defeating the German Hungarian SC 4-1. While Phoenix were not always the most successful team in Open Cup play, year after year you can find their name among the results of both the Open and Amateur Cups in the archives.
Fast forward about 60-70 years and you will find the modern version of Phoenix SC has compiled an impressive list of achievements in the Eastern Pennsylvania Soccer Association. Since 2008 they have won Philadelphia’s United Soccer League three times (2008, 2010 & 2011) and finished just four points out of the top spot in 2009. Phoenix has also represented the EPSA in the USASA Region I Amateur Cup tournament the last three years as well as in 2007 and 2003.
The Sunday after their Open Cup game against the Rochester Rhinos, Phoenix SC will be playing in the Region I final of the USASA Open Cup against the New York Pancyprian Freedoms for the chance to be one of four regional champions that will play for the USASA Open Cup championship in July in Bowling Green, KY.
The Freedoms are one of the other few clubs among the Open Cup field in 2011 and recent years that are twice the age of MLS having been founded in 1974. In their first round match they play the second-oldest team in the tournament this year, the Brooklyn Italians of a 1949 birth. Unlike their older counterpart Phoenix SC, the two New York sides have both won the tournament in the past, a total of three each to be more precise.
Phoenix, though, has its own marquee first round contest at hand facing a Rhinos franchise that is the only lower division club to win the US Open Cup since the birth of MLS in 1996, downing four from the top flight in a row to win the 1999 championship. Although Rochester is the lower division’s best at giant-killing by eliminating MLS teams on nine occasions, the USASA side does have some hope as the Rhinos have a habit of letting their guard down against lower level teams in the early rounds of the tournament, including the fact they needed overtime to oust the then PDL Freedoms in the first round in 1999.
And if Phoenix performs a miracle in western New York, they’ll be guaranteed a return to the Keystone State for a second round match against fellow Pennsylvania sides Reading United AC (PDL) or Harrisburg City Islanders (USL Pro), both of whom are, ironically, affiliates of the Union.
Fre Kamara, Dan Murtagh and Virgis Anusaukas were the teams leading scorers during the league 12-1-1 campaign in league play while Bobby Francis and Ryan Soroka were among the leaders setting up the goals.
In the Region I Tournament, it was Murtagh and Francis that were regularly on the scoresheet, guiding Phoenix SC to the berth and a spot in regional final.
The club opened the Region I tournament with a dramatic affair with goals from Scott Rowling and Danny Murtagh to take a two-goal lead against the Maryland Bays only to see the lead disappear at home in the second half, forcing overtime. A Bobby Francis penalty seven minutes into extra time gave Phoenix the 3-2 Quarterfinal win. The Semifinal match proved much easier with Murtagh giving the side a 1-0 lead in the 41st and Francis a two-goal lead from the spot in the 51st. An own goal from Go Soccer FC sealed the opponent’s fate in the 70th, sending Phoenix to the US Open Cup with a 3-0 win.
Phoenix SC are the third team from Eastern Pennsylvania to advance to the tournament from Region I, following in the footsteps of Vereinigung Erzgebirge (1999) and United German Hungarians (2002) after a nine-year absence. Prior to the Pro Era, clubs from Eastern PA were quite successful, winning nine US Open Cup championships in 16 appearances. The Bethlehem Steel, in fact, have more championships than any other club having won five (1915, 16, 18, 19, 26) in addition to finishing runners-up in 1917. The Ukrainian Nationals won four championships in the 1960s (1960, 61, 62, 66, runners-up 64), part of a quartet tied for second-most that includes Greek American Atlas (NY), Fall River Marksmen (MA) and the Chicago Fire, who are among the field this year. Finishing as runners-up previously in the tournament were United German Hungarians (1977, 93), Philadelphia Nationals (1949, 52) and German American SC (1936).
|Oldest teams to qualify in US Open Cup
Professional Era (1995-present)*
|1910 – United German Hungarians (Oakford, PA)
1922 – Croatian Eagles (Milwaukee, WI)
1926 – Phoenix SC (Feasterville, PA)
1927 – SAC Wisla (Chicago, IL)
1929 – Bavarian SC (Milwaukee, WI)
1931 – Vereinigung Erzgebirge (Warminster, PA)
1940 – AAC Eagles (Chicago, IL)
1941 – Greek American Atlas (Queens, NY)
1959 – RWB Adria (Chicago, IL)
*Year club was founded, not their first USOC appearance