In 2011, the Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) became the fourth club in history to win three straight Lamar Hunt US Open Cup (formerly known as the National Challenge Cup) championships. TheCup.us takes a look back at the three clubs who did it before the Sounders and how they pulled off the three-peat.
Fall River Marksmen (1930, 1931, 1932)
Won 1931 Cup after merger with New York Soccer Club (as New York Yankees)
Won 1932 Cup after merger with Fall River FC (as New Bedford Whalers)
Citing the Fall River Marksmen as a winner of three titles in a row is a bit tricky, considering by the time they lifted the cup as the New Bedford Whalers in 1932, they were in their third city in as many years.
After skipping the 1929 National Challenge Cup due to the “Soccer War,” the Marksmen began their 1930 Cup run with a pair of easy wins over Lusitania Recreation (5-0) and Pawtucket Rangers (5-2). This put Sam Mark’s club in the Semifinals against their old nemesis, Bethlehem Steel. After a 1-1 draw at the Polo Grounds in New York, the teams reconvened at Battery Park in New Bedford.
With Fall River leading 1-0 with 25 minutes remaining, the teams combined for four goals in an eight minute span. After Archie Stark brought the Steelmen level in the 64th minute, Dave Priestley took the lead back for Fall River three minutes later. Just six minutes after his first goal, Stark struck again to tie the game 2-2. Just one minute later, Bobby Ballantyne gave the Marksmen the lead for good. It turned out to be Bethlehem’s last game as the steel company that sponsored them discontinued the team, in part, due to the effects of the Great Depression.
After such a thrilling semifinal affair, the Final was quite anti-climatic. Facing Bruell Insurance from Cleveland in the first leg at the Polo Grounds, the Marksmen jumped out to a 7-0 halftime lead and would win 7-2. The second leg in Cleveland became a mere formality, as Fall River’s 2-1 win gave them a 9-3 aggregate tally and the championship.
The 1931 championship was different in a couple of ways. For the first time ever, the American Soccer League clubs would play round robin matches to determine who would advance to the Eastern semifinals. The clubs outside the ASL would play off in the traditional cup manner to determine the other two semifinals teams.
Touted by the ASL as a way to make sure the best teams play in the Eastern Semifinals, skeptics saw it as a way for the team owners to get more revenue from games. The ASL teams were split into two groups, one for the New York clubs, and the other for the New England teams.
The Marksmen easily won their round robin series, finishing four points ahead of Providence and New Bedford. It turned out the round robin games may have been the tougher obstacle for the Marksmen, as they trounced New York’s Galicia 6-1 in the Eastern semifinals, and ran away 6-1 winners in the Eastern Final over the Newark Americans, the lone ASL team to not partake in the round robin games.
A funny thing happened on the way to the game with Newark, however. Before the Spring ASL season started in 1931, owner Sam Mark decided New York would be a more lucrative location for his club. Having merged with the New York Soccer Club, the Marksmen were now the New York Yankees. However, since they began the 1931 Cup competition as the Marksmen, they were required to compete under that name, all while wearing Yankees jerseys in New York.
With the 1932 Challenge Cup came yet another location change for the club. With the move to New York not reaping the rewards he expected, Mark merged his Yankees with Fall River FC to become the New Bedford Whalers, the third such incarnation of that name since 1914. In a bit of irony, the second Whalers team that played in the ASL from 1924-1931 merged into Fall River FC in April 1931. The ’24-’31 Whalers were also fierce rivals with the Marksmen during that time, making the choice of New Bedford even more ironic.
After an easy 5-1 win over the Boston Bears, New Bedford were rescued by Billy Gonsalves’s 86th minute goal to push the Whalers past the Pawtucket Rangers 1-0 in the Eastern Quarterfinals. In their Eastern Semifinal game with Hakoah All Stars, the Whalers left it late again, with another 1-0 victory coming from a Johnny Caldwell goal with two minutes remaining. The Eastern Final against the New York Giants was a bit more relaxing with the Whalers jumping to a 3-0 halftime lead on their way to a 5-2 victory.
The 1932 Final was a crossroads of sorts, pitting the Whalers against the next team to dominate the Open Cup, Stix, Baer & Fuller of St. Louis. The first leg in St. Louis finished in a 3-3 extra time draw, which saw both teams score in extra time. The second leg was also played in St. Louis, and New Bedford dominated the game, out shooting Stix 27-6 on their way to a 5-2 victory.
There would be no chance for a fourth straight Open cup title. The effects of the Great Depression caught up with the club and the team folded just six games into the ASL’s fall season in 1932. The core of the team moved west to continue playing for Stix, Baer & Fuller, and would start another Open Cup dynasty there.
5-0 Lusitania Recreation (Eastern 1R 2/2/30)
5-2 New Bedford Whalers (Eastern QF 2/22/30)
5-2 Pawtucket Rangers (Eastern SF 3/2/30)
1-1 Bethlehem Steel (Eastern Final 3/16/30)
3-2 Bethlehem Steel (Eastern Final Replay 3/23/30)
7-2 Bruell Insurance (Cle.) (Final, First Leg 3/30/30)
2-1 Bruell Insurance (Final, Second Leg 4/6/30)
Won round robin qualifying with 4-0-2 record against
Providence Gold Bugs, New Bedford Whalers and Pawtucket Rangers
6-2 Galicia (NYC) (Eastern SF 2/23/31)
6-1 Newark Americans (Eastern Final 3/22/31)
6-2 Bricklayers (Chi.) Final, First Leg 4/5/31)
1-1 Bricklayers (Final, Second Leg 4/12/31)
2-0 Bricklayers (Final, Third Leg 4/19/31)
5-1 Boston Bears (Eastern 1R 1/17/32)
1-0 Pawtucket Rangers (Eastern QF 1/23/32)
1-0 Hakoah All Stars (NYC) (Eastern SF 2/14/32)
5-2 New York Giants (Eastern Final 2/12/32)
3-3 Stix, Baer & Fuller (St. L) (Final, First Leg 3/26/32
5-2 Stix, baer & Fuller (Final, Second Leg 4/2/32)
The core of the Stix, Baer & Fuller dynasty (left to right) Alec McNab, Billy Gonsalves, Werner Nilsen, Jimmy Roe, Willie McLean. Photo: St. Louis Post DispatchStix Baer & Fuller (1933, 1934, 1935)
1936 & 1937 runners-up
As with the Fall River Marksmen, Stix, Baer & Fuller would win their Open Cup championships under several different names, but for a different reason. Teams in St. Louis often took the name of whoever was sponsoring them for the season, often resulting in teams carrying multiple names during their life span. The Stix club actually began in 1929 under the sponsorship of the Hellrung & Grimm House Finishing Company, and the team was called the Hellrungs. This lasted until 1931 when team sponsorship switched to one of the largest department stores in St. Louis: Stix, Baer & Fuller.
Stix benefited the most from the demise of the New Bedford Whalers in the Fall of 1932, as four of their standout future Hall of Fame players moved to the Gateway City to ply their soccer trade. When it was all said and done, Bill McPherson would go on to win five straight Open Cup championships while Alec McNab and Billy Gonsalves would take home six straight Cup titles with Nilsen missing out on the 1935 title. On top of that, McNab and Gonsalves would appear in eight straight Open Cup Finals from 1930-1937, a feat that may never come close to being matched.
As was the case with the Marksmen, the early rounds of the 1933 Cup came easy for Stix. A 5-1 win over St. Louis amateur club Kavanaugh was followed up by a 10-1 demolition of Chicago’s Jugoslavs. Their run seemed to be over when they dropped a 2-1 decision to fellow St. Louis League club Anderson SC, but a protest from Stix was successful, and they won the replay by a 4-1 score. The Western semifinal against Chicago’s Sparta A & BA proved to be no contest as Stix swept aside their Windy City challengers on an 8-3 aggregate over two legs.
In the first leg of the 1933 Final against the New York Americans, Willie McLean, a holdover from the team that reached the Final in 1932, scored the lone goal to give Stix a 1-0 advantage heading into the return leg in New York. A week later at Starlight Park, McLean scored again in the 15th minute for a 1-0 lead, but the Americans knotted the score with a goal just five minutes later. With seven minutes remaining, Nilsen ended all doubt by scoring on an assist from McLean.
The 1934 Cup started the way the previous one had, with a lot of lopsided games for Stix. Victories over St. Louis’ Minit Rubs (6-1), Detroit’s Sons of Malta (3-0), and Pittsburgh’s Curry SC (4-0) led to a Western Semifinal showdown with the Wiebolt Wonderbolts of Chicago.
Wieboldt were the former Bricklayers FC, having become sponsored by a Chicago area store. Stix won the first leg in St. Louis 5-3 on extra time goals from Nilsen and McNab, but Wieboldt took the second leg 1-0 in Chicago. Back in St. Louis for the third and deciding game, Willie McLean powered Stix with two first half goals to help Stix earn a 2-0 victory.
The Final versus the Pawtucket Rangers was also a three-leg affair. The first game was set for St. Louis, and Stix pulled out a 4-2 extra time victory with Werner Nilsen scoring both extra time goals for the home side. As happened in the Wiebolt series, the Stix team once again lost the second game. Pawtucket’s Jimmy McAuley scored with seven minutes remaining to give the Rangers a 3-2 win. In the third and deciding game back in St. Louis, Stix out shot Pawtucket 20-4 and turned a 1-0 halftime lead into a 5-0 rout. Nilsen scored twice and Gonsalves tallied in each half. Eight of the eleven goals scored by Stix in the final were from Nilsen and Gonsalves.
By the fall of 1934 the Stix, Baer & Fuller dropped their sponsorship of the team, a void that was quickly filled by Central Breweries. The path to the Western Final was once again, for the most part, unchallenging. The only real “scare” was a 1-0 win over Cleveland’s Bartunek Slavia in the Western Quarterfinals.
The Western Finals once again was a showdown against Wiebolt Wonderbolts, and it would turn out to be one for the ages. One major difference would be that Werner Nilsen was now playing for Wiebolt instead of against them. Just as the previous year’s Western Final, the teams would play a best of three series to determine who would move to the Grand Final. Central took the first game 2-1 in St. Louis thanks to goals from Willie McLean.
The second game in Chicago finished in a 1-1 draw after extra time. Since the series winner was determined by games won and not aggregate goals, the game would be replayed in St. Louis a week later. The replay ended in a 3-3 draw after extra time, meaning yet another replay would be set for Chicago the next week. Down 2-0 at halftime, Wiebolt rallied back to tie the game 2-2, and would go on to win in extra time 3-2. The final game in St. Louis was another close affair, with Bert Patenaude scoring the only goal in Central’s 1-0 win to advance to the Open Cup Final.
In the Final, Central Breweries ran into another familiar foe, the Pawtucket Rangers. In the first game in St. Louis, Central led 1-0 at halftime but powered their way to a 5-2 victory on a pair of braces from Gonnsalves and Patenaude. The second leg in Pawtucket finished in a 1-1 extra time draw, but Central were still comfortably ahead on aggregate 6-3. The final leg was played on a neutral field in Newark, New Jersey, and Central pushed their aggregate lead to 7-3 by halftime. Pawtucket staged a furious rally by scoring three goals in the second half, but ultimately fell short by a count of 7-6.
The Finals appearances, and name changes, did not stop for the St. Louis club. Now known as the Shamrocks, the St. Louis club reached the Final in 1936 and 1937, losing to Philly’s German American SC and the New York Americans respectively. Werner Nilsen rejoined the club in 1936 after missing out on the 1935 championship.
As the 1937-38 St. Louis season drew near, several players left to play for another club in St. Louis, St. Patricks. A player tampering lawsuit by Shamrocks did not hold up, and the club disbanded with the rest of the roster, including Alec McNab and Werner Nilsen, joining the South Side Radio team. Billy Gonsalves wasn’t finished making Open Cup Finals appearances. He turned up once again with Chicago’s Manhattan Beer in the 1939 Final, and won two more Cup championships with Brooklyn Hispano in 1942 and 1943.
4-1 Kavanaugh SC (St. Louis) (Western 1R, 1/22/33)
10-1 Jugoslavs (Chicago) (Western QF, 2/12/33)
1-2* Anderson SC (St. Louis) (Western SF, 2/26/33)
*Stix protest of match upheld, replay ordered
4-1 Anderson SC (Westerrn SF Replay, 3/12/33)
7-2 Sparta A & BA (Chicago) (Western Final, 1st Leg, 3/18/33)
1-0 Sparta A & BA (Western Final, 2nd Leg, 3/26/33)
1-0 New York Americans (Final, 1st Leg, 4/16/33)
2-1 New York Americans (Final, 2nd leg, 4/23/33)
6-1 Minit Rubs (St. Louis) (Western 1R, 1/14/34)
3-0 Sons of Malta (Detroit) (Western QF, 2/4/34)
4-0 Curry (W. Pennsylvania) (Western SF, 2/18/34)
5-3 (AET) Wiebolt Wodnerbolts (Chicago) (Western Final, 1st Leg, 3/11/34)
0-1 Wiebolt Wonderbolts (Western Final, 2nd Leg, 3/18/34)
2-0 Wiebolt Wonderbolts (Western Final, 3rd Leg, 3/25/34)
4-2 (AET) Pawtucket Rangers (Final, 1st Leg, 4/1/34)
2-3 Pawtucket Rangers (Final, 2nd Leg, 4/8/34)
5-0 Pawtucket Rangers (Final, 3rd Leg, 4/16/34)
9-1 Ben Miller SC (St. Louis) (Western 1R, 1/20/35)
1-0 Bartunek Slavia (Cleveland) (Western QF, 2/24/35)
5-0 Vienna AC (Milwaukee) (Western SF, 3/3/35)
2-1 Wiebolt Wodnersbolts (Chicago) (Western Fina, 1st Leg, 3/24/35)
1-1 (AET) Wiebolt Wonderbolts (Western Final, 2nd Leg, 3/31/35)
3-3 (AET) Wiebolt Wonderbolts (Western Final, 2nd Leg Replay, 4/6/35)
2-3 (AET) Wiebolt Wonderbolts (Western Final, 2nd Leg Replay, 4/14/35)
1-0 Wiebolt Wodnerbolts (Western Final, 3rd Leg, 4/21/35)
5-2 Pawtucket Rangers (Final, 2st Leg, 4/28/35)
1-1 (AET) Pawtucket Rangers (Final, 2nd Leg, 5/6/35)
1-3 Pawtucket Rangers (Final, 3rd Leg, 5/12/35)
Greek American SC team in 1969. Photo: Bill Graham Guide | National Soccer Hall of FameGreek American SC (1967, 1968, 1969)
Unlike the Marksmen and Stix, Baer & Fuller, the Greek American SC (they wouldn’t add “Atlas” to the name until the 1980s) didn’t have the luxury of having a core of future Hall of Famers power their team. Instead, their team was made up of former Greek professional players, and was led by Alkis Panagoulias, who would later go on to manage the United States national team from 1983-1985. He would also have three stints as the manager for Greece, including leading them to their first-ever World Cup Finals appearance in 1994.
In the days of the Marksmen and Stix, a dozen of the top teams in the East and West were given byes into the first round proper, while the other clubs, mostly amateur sides, would play qualifying matches to fill the other four spots. By the late 1940s things had changed and all teams were required to start at the beginning. This turned out to be not much of a disadvantage for the Greek American SC, since the Southern New York final was often only a couple games away from the Open Cup final.
A preview of the Greeks’ success could be seen in the 1966 Open Cup, when they made it to the final eight before falling 2-1 to fellow New Yorkers Ukrainian SC. In 1967, the Greek Americans started their tournament with a pair of shutout wins, 2-0 against German American SC and 3-0 versus Eintracht SC. This led to the Southern New York Final showdown, the equivalent of an Eastern semifinal, with German American League rivals Blue Star, which the Greeks prevailed 3-2. The Greeks threw another pair of shutouts in the two-leg Final against Paterson Roma, 2-0 and 1-0. In the Final at Eintracht Oval in Queens, the GASC topped Orange County SC from Los Angeles 4-2 with John Kosmides scoring two goals.
The GASC’s run in the 1968 Open Cup featured much closer games than the year before. A 90th minute goal from Kosmides boosted the team to a 3-2 win over Blau Weiss Gottschee in the Southern New York quarterfinals, and a 1-0 replay win was needed to dispatch the Ukrainian Nationals from Philadelphia after a 2-2 draw in the Eastern Final. The Open Cup final against Chicago’s Olympic SC was played over two legs with the first ending in a 1-1 draw in Chicago when the home side pulled even on an 89th minute goal. The return leg at Eintracht Oval in New York was won by the Greek Americans 1-0, giving them a 2-1 aggregate victory for the trophy. Crowd trouble caused the match to be halted for 24 minutes when fans rushed the field after an altercation between players from each team.
The drive for the third successive title was nearly stopped at the Southern New York Semifinals, when the Ukrainian SC held the Greek Americans to a 1-1 extra time draw. In the replay, the GASC showed no mercy, whipping the Ukrainians 5-0. A 3-0 win over Hellenic SC in the Southern New York Final led to a 8-2 aggregate pounding of Paterson Roma in the Eastern Final, in which Denis Nanos netted a hat trick in the first leg. The Open Cup Final was once again a single-game affair, and a trip to Los Angeles to face the Armenian SC was in order. Just as extra time seemed unavoidable, Nanos scored the game-winning goal in the 88th minute for a 1-0 victory.
The Greek American juggernaut was finally stopped on March 1, 1970 when Blau Weiss Gottschee managed a 1-0 extra time victory over the Greek Americans in the Southern New York Semifinals, ending the quest for four consecutive Open Cup titles.
All told, in 22 matches over three years the Greek American SC side traveled outside of the New York/New Jersey area just twice, visiting Chicago in 1968 and Los Angeles in 1969. Both times were for the Open Cup Final.
2-0 German American SC (NYC) (Southern NY 1st Round 11/6/66)
3-0 Eintracht SC (NYC) (Southern NY SF 12/4/66)
3-2 Blue Star (NYC) (Southern NY Final 4/2/67)
2-0 Paterson Roma (NJ) (Eastern Final, 1st Leg 5/14/67)
1-0 Paterson Roma (Eastern Final, 2nd Leg 5/28/67)
4-2 Orange County (LA) (Final 7/23/67)
1-0 Fiorentina (Southern NY 1st Round 11/26/67)
3-2 Blau Weiss Gottschee (NYC) (Southern NY QF 12/10/67)
2-1 Blue Star (NYC) (Southern NY Semifinal 3/10/68)
3-0 Ukrainian SC (NYC) (Southern NY Final 3/24/68)
2-2 Ukrainian Nationals (Philadelphia) (Eastern Final, 1st Leg 5/12/68)
1-0 Ukrainian Nationals (Eastern Final, 2nd Leg 5/19/68)
1-1 Olympic SC (Chicago) (Open Cup Final, 1st Leg 7/21/68)
1-0 Olympic SC (Open Cup Final, 2nd Leg 7/28/68)
4-1 Fiorentina (NYC) (Southern NY 2nd Round 12/1/68)
2-0 New York Hota (Southern NY QF 12/9/68)
1-1 (AET) Ukrainian SC (NYC) (Southern NY SF 3/16/69)
5-0 Ukrainian SC (Southern NY SF Replay 3/23/69)
3-0 Hellenic (NYC) (Southern NY Final 3/30/69)
7-2 Paterson Roma (NJ) (Eastern Final, 1st Leg 6/15/69)
1-0 Paterson Roma (Eastern Final, 2nd Leg 6/22/69)
1-0 Armenian SC (LA) (Open Cup Final 6/29/69)