Yonkers’ Trophy Hoarders Target More Cup Magic

Riding a trophy-riddled last few years, Lansdowne Yonkers FC will look to upset the apple cart in American soccer’s oldest and proudest tournament.
By: Michael Lewis

It may be difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate what Lansdowne Yonkers FC accomplished in 2020 and 2021, when the club went 487 days between losses and won nine trophies.

That's right, nine championships. You can count ‘em.

To complete the overall record, Lansdowne won 13 major titles in the past nine years. The trophy cabinet includes the Manning Cup (2022), National Amateur Cup (2017, 2021), Fricker Cup (2017, 2019, 2021), Eastern Premier Soccer League (2021), NISA Cup (2021), Rapaglia Cup (2021) and the Cosmopolitan Soccer League (2014, 2015, 2016, 2018).

That’s 21 pieces of hardware in 26 years.

"Had we not been in the professional era like MLS, we’d probably be looked at the same way as the historic clubs of American soccer," said Lansdowne media director Pat Murphy of the club that’s ranked, perennially, among the top amateur outfits in the country. "So, it's great to see what is accomplished today with what we have."

Murphy makes a good point. Prior to the modern-era of professional soccer, clubs such as the N.Y. Greek Americans (four Open Cup titles) and the N.Y. Pancyprian Freedoms (three) were among the best New York clubs around.


Open Cup Aims

There’s one trophy that Lansdowne hasn't won, and that’s the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It will be a tough one to grasp no matter how hard they try.

Let's face it. There’s no easy road for anyone in the 21st century, other than an MLS side, to win the biggest and oldest tournament in the American soccer universe.

But what Lansdowne Yonkers accomplished in a short amount of time has been quite impressive for any club – at any level. "It's been very satisfying these last five, six years," said club president William McGrory, who hails from Donegal, Ireland and now lives in Yonkers.

Lansdowne has its roots several miles south. In the Bronx.

Lansdowne Yonkers (left) during the 2023 Qualifying Rounds

The club was born as the Bronx Bhoys FC. They’re original home was the Lansdowne Bar, located on Broadway in the Bronx’s Riverdale neighborhood. Irish immigrants and players with ties to the old country helped the team in those early days.

Above the bar, the team had a small clubhouse which included private locker rooms where players could change before and after matches.

"It was cool," Murphy said.

The bar closed down in 2001, and the team moved north to Yonkers. They now call Tibbetts Brook Park home.

Early Troubles for the Bhoys

Lansdowne had humble beginnings in the lower divisions of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, working their way up to the First Division before changing names to Lansdowne Bhoys FC and eventually to Lansdowne Bhoys Yonkers.

"[It was] Your average Sunday League team with a lot of the players being bartenders, construction workers, things like that," Murphy said.

Little did the club members realize there was so much glory ahead.

In 2014, Lansdowne won a first CSL title, which ignited a prosperous era as the team went on to win three successive league championships. "It was an upward growth that just kept going," Murphy said.

Former player Sean Kelly (left) is now the Lansdowne manager

The club levitated to another orbit in 2016 as the Bhoys spread their wings during a head-turning three-week Open Cup run. It started with a 1-0 win over the Long Island Rough Riders in the First Round and a 2-0 Cupset of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL Championship) in the Second Round before dropping a 2-0 decision to the Rochester Rhinos in the Third Round.

Had Lansdowne beaten Rochester, they would have played the New York Red Bulls in the Round of 32 at Red Bull Arena.

"These guys went in and took out a team which understandably was near the bottom of the table in the USL but at the end of the day, that was still the second division in the country," Murphy added. "If you were to go by the logic, our team was effectively a sixth-division club, taking them out, it shocked me."


Battling Elements & Obstacles

McGrory said those matches are high on his own personal list, although games when the team gutted out wins in less than favorable conditions, in rain and snow, were also near the top.

"I love those ones," he said. "But for me it would be the 2017 National Amateur Cup title."

That's when Lansdowne defeated six-time champions Milwaukee Bavarian SC in a dramatic penalty-kick shootout (9-8) after playing to a 2-2 draw. Under the tutelage of then-head coach Austin Friel, the team became the first Irish club to be crowned U.S. amateur kings.

"It was something we decided to aim for," McGrory said. "We worked hard for three years, along with growing the youth program and to get there and become national champions."

Long days and mid-week games are just another part of the Lansdowne grind

In 2021, Lansdowne won a second National Amateur Cup, downing Cal FC 2-1 in Bridgeview, Illinois with head coach and former player from the 2016 Open Cup run, Sean Kelly, pulling the strings.

Winning an amateur competition is one thing. Trying to best professional teams is another. In fact, this is how difficult it is for lower-division pro clubs to capture the Open Cup: Since Major League Soccer came into existence, only one non-MLS team has emerged as Cup winners: the 1999 Rochester Ragin’ Rhinos.

During the recent Local Qualifying Rounds, Lansdowne demonstrated dominance again, winning all four contests while outscoring the opposition 14-1. The Yonkers-based side booked a spot in the tournament behind a 2-0 road victory at SC Vistula Garfield of New Jersey, riding a Dean Dillon tally late in the first half and a second-half own goal.


‘Deeper than Last Year’

“I think we’re a deeper side than last year and our aim is to make as long a run as possible,” said striker and club youth director Shamir Mullings.
The team has been in pre-season mode since early January and played five games to prep for the First -Round match against Hartford City FC (National Premier Soccer League) at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford, Connecticut on Thursday, March 23 (Streamed LIVE on the B/R App and B/R Football’s YouTube Channel).

Murphy said that he would love to see Lansdowne play an MLS side somewhere in the competition.

"It's a dream to get to play against an MLS team, but obviously, to do that you have to beat an NPSL team or USL Championship team," McGrory added. "So it's a massive ask, but the boys are up for it.

"As long as everybody stays fit, I think we have a chance to reach the Third Round at least. If we went any further, that would be a miracle. Who knows?" Murphy added.

If Lansdowne get past the First Round, they’ll make another journey to Connecticut’s capital to meet Hartford Athletic (USL Championship) in the Second Round on April 4.

Lansdowne's first-team roster includes players with an array of pursuits, from construction to finance jobs.

Since its inception some 26 years ago, Lansdowne has grown and grown. It is more than just one of the top amateur/semi-pro teams. It has become a viable club with a pyramid structure. The youth program has more than 20 travel teams and 400 players that play in the Westchester Youth Soccer League, EDPSoccer and the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association State Cup.


Building for the Future

"You can see that the kids and the parents, especially the newer groups that are coming in, will come to the games and they look up to the first team players a lot," McGrory said.

"That’s something we're very proud of, doing it the right way. We've actually started to have one or two who at 19, made their debut for the first team,” he added. “That's something we always wanted to do.”

After winning multiple cups, the players and staff were honored at Yonkers City Hall. It wouldn't be surprising if the team were to make a few more trips there in the near future.

The main priority is March 23, however, and an opportunity to move on in the Open Cup and pull off another Cupset or two.

"If years down the road, we could get to that Quarterfinal or go beyond that…to really put our mark in the history books of U.S. Soccer…" Murphy mused.

Who knows? If things fall into place, this could be that year.

Michael Lewis can be reached at socwriter@aol.com and @Soccerwriter on Twitter. His book (ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers) is available for purchase.