Wednesday, April 11, 2012

11 April 1926 - Bethlehem Steel Takes The Fifth

On 11 April 1926, Bethlehem Steel beat Ben Millers to claim their fifth National Challenge Cup, setting a record that remains unbroken.

Despite being separated by half a continent, the two teams had developed a healthy rivalry over the previous decade. In 1916, Bethlehem Steel (pictured in a 1921 photo) were the strongest team in the eastern half of the United States, while Ben Millers were the dominant side in the powerful St. Louis soccer world. The teams met for a Christmas Day friendly that year in St. Louis to settle which team was the country's best and played to a 2-2 draw. In a rematch in New York the following year, Bethlehem Steel won 2-0.

Playing in separate leagues, both teams continued to do well in the intervening years, with Ben Millers winning four league titles (1916, 1917, 1918, 1920) and one National Challenge Cup (1920), while Bethlehem Steel had won six league titles (1913, 1914, 1915, 1919, 1920, 1921), and a record four National Challenge Cups (1915, 1916, 1918, 1919). (The National Challenge Cup has since been renamed the US Open Cup.)

Bethlehem Steel reached the National Challenge Cup Final again in 1926 as Eastern Division champions, where they met Western Division champions Ben Millers. But despite the rivalry, it turned out to be one of the tournament's most lopsided matches, as Bethlehem Steel rolled to a 7-2 victory led by a hat-trick from Archie Stark.

It was the last appearance in the Final for either team, but Bethlehem Steel's five wins remain a record (though it is shared with Maccabi Los Angeles, who matched it in 1981).

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