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History of Soccer in Los Angeles: Dynasties emerge as U.S. Open Cup comes to the West Coast

The oldest continuous soccer competition makes a mark in the Golden State.

The U.S. Open Cup trophy in 2014.
The U.S. Open Cup trophy in 2014.
John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles sports scene is long known for titles and wins, with teams like the Lakers, Dodgers and in recent years, the Kings winning championships. The same can be said for the soccer scene in the city, and the titles go all the way back to the 1950's. At this time in the sport there were many regional leagues, and many small clubs all looking for glory. A uniting theme in all the leagues was the U.S. Open Cup, the national knockout tournament and the longest such competition in the United States.

Such is the same in the current league setup nowadays. Of course, the last team to win the Open Cup from Los Angeles is the LA Galaxy, in 2005. But the history of LA teams in the tournament reaches much, much further back. One of the famous teams of this pre-professional era is the Los Angeles Kickers.

The Kickers were formed by six German immigrants in 1951. Initially a local team that was already pretty good, co-founder Albert Ebert transformed the club after he searched far and wide for top players. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they really took off after that. They won the State Cup in 1956, and then followed that one up with seven straight between 1958 and 1965.

While the Kickers may have been the talk of the town, they weren't even the only team to really make a mark on the U.S. Open Cup during their era of prominence. The late fifties to early sixties was a time of dominance of the US Open Cup by Los Angeles teams. Between 1958 and 1964, six Open Cup finals featured a team from the area. The Kickers won it two times, in 1958 and 1964, while the LA Scots were runners-up in 1961, the San Pedro McIlvane Canvasbacks won in 1959, and Los Angeles Armenians made the final in 1963.

Still, the Kickers continued to distinguish themselves, even among their local competitors, as their USOC win in 1958 was the first in the tournament's history by a west coast team. And they did so well that a Swiss promoter financed a world tour in 1963, where they played teams in Australia and New Zealand, Iran, and even Germany. Most impressive? The Kickers in the 1964 season won quite possibly the only quadruple in American soccer history. They won the GLASL title (their local league), Douglas Cup (southern California champ) the Cal State Cup, and the U.S. Open Cup.

After this the club faded from prominence, as was common among amateur teams of the era, and they sought to stay alive by merging with a series of local teams in the 1960s and 1970s. You may be surprised to learn, however, that they still exist. They play in the city run Los Angeles Municipal League, and are now known as LASC-Palonia United.

In the decades before the MLS era, local teams remained active in the U.S. Open Cup, with several reaching the finals in the late-1960s and '70s. The dominant team in the time following the Kickers' peak ended up being Maccabi Los Angeles, who won the Open Cup five times in quick succession (1973, 1975, 1977, 1978 and 1981), before the Galaxy won their first Open Cup title, in 2001. Also of note: Maccabi Los Angeles remain the true "Kings of the Cup," as they have won the most USOC titles in tournament history, with five, alongside iconic side Bethlehem Steel.

Next time in our series: Los Angeles gains entrance in the the North American Soccer League, and enjoys the success of money, fame, and famous names. A future Watford chairman would bring the stars of England, and the name the LA Aztecs. The glitz of the world game, the spending of a bottomless bank account gave the region its first taste of first division soccer.

Note: Background information provided by "History of Soccer in Greater Los Angeles" page, maintained by David Litterer, as well as Wikipedia.

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