When it comes to Cincinnati soccer history, some fans who have been following FC Cincinnati’s 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup run might think back to the Cincinnati Kings. The Kings were part of the USL Second Division (USL-2, Div. 3 pro) from 2005-07 and later joined the Premier Development League before folding in 2012. The Kings’ predecessor was the Cincinnati Riverhawks who spent most of their time as an USL’s A-League (Div. 2 pro) starting in 1998 before falling apart financially during the 2003 season and folding.
The Riverhawks never qualified for the US Open Cup during its seven seasons and the Kings only made the tournament three times as a pro team and they were upset by an amateur team each time.
With that in mind, when one thinks of US Open Cup history, Cincinnati has never been the first city to come to mind. However, with ESPN shining the national spotlight on Nippert Stadium tonight for FC Cincinnati’s Fifth Round match against the Chicago Fire (MLS), one might be surprised to know that the Queen City’s Open Cup history did not start in 2005 with the Cincinnati Kings.
It started 87 years ago.
On October 21, 1930, the Cincinnati Enquirer made the announcement that for the first time ever, the Queen City would be represented in the National Challenge Cup (now known as the US Open Cup). Two clubs, the Cincinnati Kickers and New Era, were set to face off on Oct. 26 at Ludlow Avenue Viaduct Grounds in nearby Cummingsville in the opening round of the Ohio qualifying tournament. The competition included teams from Akron, Cleveland, and Youngstown. The clubs’ junior teams were to kick off the day at 1:15 p.m., with the Cup game to follow.
In the young Southwest Ohio Soccer League season, New Era were 3-0, while the Kickers had only dropped one of their first five matches. Witnessed by what the Enquirer called a “large crowd”, the Kickers were ahead 1-0 at halftime, and increased their lead shortly after the break. New Era pulled a goal back a few minutes later through Leo Moorecroft, but the Kickers scored again to put the game away. Lou Schueneman, Holmes and Glasel provided the goals for the winners as the Kickers advanced to the next round.
The aura of Cincinnati’s first Cup game was short-lived however. Just two weeks later, the Kickers forfeited their Second Round game to Mahoning Valley, informing the Youngstown club the night before that they could not make the trip. While the Kickers cited no specific reason, the Youngstown Vindicator suggested that the Cincinnati club “did not want to play so far from home”.
The disappointing end of the 1930/31 Cup run did not deter the Cincinnati clubs. The Chevoit Sport Club joined New Era and the Kickers in qualifying for the 1931/32 Cup. With the Kickers receiving a bye, New Era faced Chevoit in the preliminary round at Chevoit Ball Park. With two minutes remaining, Leo Moorecraft scored to give New Era a 2-1 win. This gave them a chance to avenge their loss in last year’s tournament.
In the rematch, the Kickers took a 2-1 halftime lead, but New Era stormed back to score three unanswered goals in the second half to win 4-2. New Era were one win away from qualifying for the tournament proper, and Cleveland’s Shamrocks SC stood in their way. Playing at Kickers Field in Cincinnati, New Era took a quick 1-0 lead when Jimmy Furguson scored within five minutes of the kickoff. The Shamrocks soon took over and got two goals apiece from Magyary and McCourt to win 4-1.
New Era held out of the 1933 tournament, giving way to Sun Life Insurance. Sun Life and the Kickers played to a 3-3 extra time draw in the opening qualifying game, with Jack Lyle scoring all three goals for Sun Life. A week later, the Kickers won the replay 1-0 on Lou Schuenman’s 85th minute goal. Sun Life protested the eligibility of the Kickers goalscorer, but their complaint was turned down and Kickers advanced.
In the next round, the Kickers defeated fellow Southwest Ohio Soccer League club Indianapolis SC 3-2. In the Ohio semifinals, the Kickers nearly pulled off an upset over Cleveland’s Bruell Insurance, a team that was the runner-up in the 1930 National Challenge Cup Final. With their goalkeeper Hutmacher stopping two penalty kicks, the Kickers led 1-0 for most of the game. Near the end of the second half, Bruell scored to tie the game, and won the game on a goal that Hutmacher failed to save because he thought play was stopped for an offside call.
In 1934, the Kickers beat Dayton’s Edelweiss SC 4-1 to once again reach the Ohio final, only to fall to the Cleveland Indians in a 6-4 barnburners. After trailing 5-0 early in the second half, the Kickers Willie Keiner scored three of the four unanswered goals to pull them within 5-4 with 15 minutes remaining, only to see the Indians score a sixth to put the game away.
From 1935-37, the Kickers were the only team to enter the competition from Southern Ohio, and never won another Cup game. The next known appearance by a Cincinnati club didn’t come until the 1960s when the Schwaben SC (not to be confused with the Chicago-area club Schwaben AC) would fail to get past their opening game with the winner from Michigan each time they entered.
So as you’re watching Djiby Fall and his FC Cincinnati teammates push for their second straight MLS scalp tonight, remember that the Cincinnati Kickers and New Era got it all started for the Queen City almost 90 years ago.