When U.S. Open Cup debutants San Francisco City FC take to the Kezar Stadium field against Cal FC in one of Saturday’s two U.S. Open Cup “Play-In” matches, the club will have the city’s rich history in the tournament to draw on.
|Club: San Francisco City FC
Head Coach: Andrew Gardner
Affiliation: U.S. Club Soccer (NorCal Premier League)
Stadium: Kezar Stadium; San Francisco, Calif.
Tournament Appearances: First appearance (2015)
There was the Italian Athletic Club, coached by local soccer icon Steve Negoesco, who brought the first title to the Bay Area in 1976. Before becoming U.S. Men’s National Team coach, Lothar Osiander led Greek-American A.C. to the 1985 title, with the club earning another Open Cup Final appearance in 1988. Upstart San Francisco Soccer Football League side C.D. Mexico barnstormed to the 1993 championship, before Greek-American won another trophy in 1994.
Three years into the tournament’s “Pro Era”, the Division Three San Francisco Bay Seals downed MLS sides Kansas City Wizards and San Jose Clash before their historic run ended in a 1997 semifinal defeat to then reigning champions D.C. United and even the short-lived California Victory made a small run in 2007.
San Francisco City FC will take it all into account when the club honors San Francisco’s soccer history at halftime of Saturday’s match.
“It’s been a while since this city got to see the Open Cup,” club president Jacques Pelham told ussoccer.com. “There’s a lot of history to inspire our players and, we’re excited to honor San Francisco’s past success in the tournament while we try to write our own story.”
Founded as a local league side in 2001, City FC switched to a supporter-owned model last year, pushing to create a more competitive team to play in U.S. Club Soccer’s NorCal Premier League and qualify for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. In their first attempt earlier this year, the side ran through the U.S. Club Soccer tournament and defeated Stanislaus United Academica 3-0 in the league final on February 3.
On that day, City FC’s 300 members, who pay annual $50 dues or a lifetime $350 stake, saw their first success as owners. Since then, the amateur club has drawn 400-600 fans to matches at the city’s refurbished Kezar Stadium (former home to the NFL’s 49ers) and brought an increased local spotlight to the club.
“Our structure and early success has created some good,” said Pelham. “When we started we really had no idea what success would be. We had goals to aim towards what Detroit City FC and Nashville FC have done. I don’t think we’ve hit their level of success, but we’re getting there. No matter what, this is a good step for soccer in the Bay Area – people are excited about what’s happening here.”
The personnel of the amateur side expectedly has a number of interesting stories, beginning with head coach Andrew Gardner. A student of the game, the City FC boss began moonlighting as a field goal kicker in high school and eventually earned a scholarship to play football at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
"Soccer is my first love. I watched and played constantly, studied tactics, but football was paying the bills," said Gardner.