Soccer arrived in Northern California late in the nineteenth century. Amateur teams from San Francisco such as the Pastimes and Vampires Football Clubs flourished in state and local competitions in the early twentieth century. Collegiate soccer started to grow in the 1920s and the successful teams of that time — the University of San Francisco, San Jose State, Stanford University, and the University of California — continue to thrive to this day.
The rise of men’s professional soccer in the Bay Area in the 1960s saw much instability as new leagues competed with each other for fans. The San Jose Earthquakes survived for fourteen seasons — 1974-1988 — playing at San Jose State’s Spartan Stadium and fielding an indoor team at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. Finally, in 1996, Major League Soccer arrived with a franchise for San Jose: the Clash who played at Spartan Stadium. The Clash were renamed the San Jose Earthquakes and went on to win two Major League Soccer (MLS) Championships in 2001 and 2003.
In 2005, without enough support to build a soccer specific stadium, the Earthquakes moved to Houston and were renamed the Dynamo. When new ownership of the San Jose franchise (with plans to build a new stadium) was secured, MLS gave San Jose their Earthquakes back. Since 2008, the team has played at Buck Shaw Stadium at Santa Clara University, awaiting construction of a new stadium on a site west of the San Jose International Airport.
The evolution of women’s professional soccer has mirrored the early years of the men’s leagues. Despite fielding stars from the 1999 winners of the Women’s World Cup, the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), including San Jose’s CyberRays (playing at Spartan Stadium), only played for three years: 2000-2003. A new league, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), began playing in 2009 with a Santa Clara franchise called FC Gold Pride that played at Cal State East Bay’s Pioneer Stadium. FC Gold Pride won the WPS Championship in 2010 but folded before the 2011 season started. The WPS ceased operations in 2012.
Despite the ups and downs in the professional leagues, youth soccer across the nation continues to flourish. Thanks to the efforts of Umberto Abronzino who brought youth soccer to Santa Clara Valley in the 1960s, kids from clubs like Santa Clara Sporting (SCSC) and Almaden Valley Youth Soccer League (AVYSL) can play at Watson Park in San Jose. After years of remediation, San Jose’s Watson Park re-opened in 2011 featuring two new fields — one grass, one turf — and night lighting, part of the Abronzino Soccer Bowl.
Reflecting these last 100 years of the rich soccer history in the Bay Area, The San Jose Soccer Legacy Collection at History San José is large and growing through the ongoing generosity of the Soccer Silicon Valley Community Foundation (http://www.ssvcf.org). The collection comprises over 300 photographs and 2000 objects, plus videos, books, and magazines about Bay Area soccer, as well as ephemera such as ticket stubs, posters, and game programs that focus on youth, collegiate, and professional soccer primarily in San Jose and Santa Clara.
Included is an extensive collection of game-worn jerseys from local soccer stars like Brandi Chastain who scored the winning penalty kick in the 1999 Women’s World Cup; Joe Cannon who played goalkeeper for Santa Clara University, the San Jose Earthquakes, and the United States Mens National Team; and Chris Dangerfield, an Englishman who played for the North American Soccer League’s Earthquakes and, as player-manager of the San Jose Oaks, won the 1992 U.S. Open Cup -— the only Bay Area team to do so. The U.S. Open Cup trophy is also in the collection along with game-worn cleats, captain’s armbands, and tifos made and displayed by supporters’ groups, including the 1906 Ultras and the Casbah.
Online Exhibits in Partnership with Google Cultural Institute
View items from the San José Soccer Legacy Collection in our online exhibits below. Click on arrows to move through the exhibit; click on any item to see further details.
You can see these exhibits in a larger format, as well as other online exhibits from History San José, at the Google Cultural Institute.