A source of pride to soccer fans are the local club heroes chosen to represent their respective countries in international competition, including regional qualifying tournaments, the Olympics, friendly matches, and the World Cup. Since the earliest years of professional soccer in the Bay Area with the North American Soccer League (NASL), through the triumphs of professional women’s soccer and the success of Major League Soccer (MLS), over 100 men and women have represented their countries as well as our local teams. The following exhibit is a selection of items from The San José Soccer Legacy Collection recognizing many of these players.
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, 2000 objects, 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 José and Santa Clara.
The North American Soccer League (NASL) was launched in 1967 with the Oakland Clippers-a team that existed through the 1968 season. The San Jose Earthquakes followed in 1974 and survived until 1988 through the upheaval of several leagues including the NASL that ceased operations in 1984. Those early NASL years were characterized by foreign players coming to the United States to complete their careers with many of them playing for the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT).
Finding Their Way
During the late 1980s and early 90s, players in the Bay Area played on semi-professional teams such as the San Jose Oaks and the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks.
Despite the lack of professional leagues in America, growing pools of talented players were available for the United States National Teams. The U. S. Men's National Team qualified for the World Cup—the first time in 40 years in 1990. The U. S. Women's National Team won the first ever Women’s World Cup in 1991 with several players who would go onto play in the Women’s United Soccer Association—the first professional league for women. The United States hosted the World Cup in 1994; six matches were played at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto.
Major League Soccer
With the success of the 1994 World Cup driving enthusiasm, Major League Soccer (MLS) was founded in 1996. The San Jose Clash hosted and won the first ever MLS match on April 6, 1996 at Spartan Stadium at San José State University on a goal from USA International Eric Wynalda. Wynalda also served on the USMNT during the 1998 World Cup in France as did future Earthquakes defender Jeff Agoos.
In 1999, the United States hosted the Women’s World Cup featuring four matches at San José State University's Spartan Stadium and a semi-final at Stanford Stadium. Sold-out attendance at venues nation-wide and the dramatic, ecstatic win by the U. S. Women's National Team drove momentum for the country’s first professional women’s league, founded in 2000. International stars from the 1999 tournament joined teams throughout the new WUSA league, including the Bay Area CyberRays. The CyberRays won the league’s first championship in 2001 -- The Founder’s Cup. The WUSA was ultimately unsustainable; it folded at the end of the 2003 season.
Meanwhile in Major League Soccer, the Clash renamed themselves San Jose Earthquakes in 2000. Between 2000 and 2005, the Quakes won two MLS Championships and one Supporter’s Shield. The Quakes roster during this period was loaded with international stars or stars-to-be.
World Cup Hopes
Although the U. S. Men's National Team suffered a poor 1998 World Cup, the pool of available quality players grew as the popularity of the sport increased in America. In 2002, the World Cup was hosted jointly by Korea and Japan. The Americans reached the quarterfinals before losing to Germany. In 2006, at the Germany World Cup, the USMNT failed to get out of their group, but that disappointment drove the team to winning the 2007 Gold Cup and making it to the Finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa. In 2010, at the World Cup hosted by South Africa, the Americans won their group but were not able to progress beyond that victory.
Women Never Give Up
Despite the lack of a professional league, women’s soccer still thrived in international, youth, and collegiate competition with record numbers of NCAA scholarships offered to young players. Another league, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), commenced play in 2009 with FC Gold Pride based in Santa Clara, attracting several of the world’s best female players to the team’s roster. FC Gold Pride won the WPS championship in 2010 but was forced to cease operations for financial reasons before the 2011 season. In 2013, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) started playing. Although there is no team currently located in the Bay Area, several players from clubs and colleges in the Bay Area continue to play in the NWSL and for the USWNT.
Give the People What They Want
After the San Jose Earthquakes were moved to Houston in 2006, soccer-inspired community activism took hold. The organization Soccer Silicon Valley (SSV) formed to find a way to bring a Major League Soccer team back to San José. Very quickly, the owners of the Oakland Athletics Major League Baseball team, Lew Wolff and John Fisher, bought the Earthquakes franchise with plans to build a new stadium, and the team returned in 2009.
SSV continued to work towards helping the Quakes secure a stadium location next to the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport. Groups like SSV’s Soccer Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SSVCF) and the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI) continue to cultivate a positive, charitable relationship with the soccer-loving community.
While the new stadium is being built, the Quakes have played at Buck Shaw Stadium at Santa Clara University. As in the NASL days, the team’s roster has featured several international players who have made appearances for their national teams. During the 2014 FIFA Brazil World Cup, Quakes fans have two stars to support: defender Victor “Muma” Bernárdez for Honduras and forward Chris “Wondo” Wondolowski for the USA and both for San José!
Curator — Katrina Anderson, Collections and Exhibitions Volunteer, History San José
Online Exhibit Creator — Catherine Mills, Project Archivist, History San José