Treasure Trove Of American Soccer History
By Neil Morris
(First Of Two Parts)
More than 30 years have passed since the New York Cosmos last packed upward of 70,000 fans into Giants Stadium for soccer matches as part of the North American Soccer League.
Yes, soccer matches, featuring the legendary likes of Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, (Giorgio) Chinaglia and (Carlos) Alberto. This weekend (Aug. 17), the newly reborn Cosmos, now members of the revamped second division NASL, came to Cary to face the Carolina RailHawks.
Although Pelé, (Carlos) Alberto and the children of (Georgio) Chinaglia attended the Cosmos’ reboot earlier this month, the names currently on the back of the iconic green kits are much more obscure. But this is a team in which nostalgia, not name recognition, is the biggest attraction. It’s a revived brand in a league that itself is a revived brand.
But the history of U.S. soccer predates Pelé’s stint with the Cosmos by a century. It’s a history that is being stored right here in the Triangle. And it’s one we can’t visit.
A short drive west of WakeMed Soccer Park, where thae Cosmos and RailHawks will face off Saturday evening, there are entry points along the border of Orange County where road signs greet motorists with the county’s official slogan:
Welcome to Orange County. You’ll Be a Fan for Life.
The wordplay is an obvious allusion to nearby Chapel Hill, where fanaticism over University of North Carolina athletics is passed from generation to generation like a birthright. But 13 miles away in the village of Hillsborough, the border salutation strikes an ironic chord when it comes to a far less familiar bequest.
When the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y., closed in early 2010, its tens of thousands of trophies, photographs, guidebooks, jerseys, balls and other exhibits were crated and freighted to Hillsborough.
There, the largest collection of American soccer history sits in stasis, walled within a 3,200-square-foot warehouse beyond public view, awaiting the day when will and wealth might again combine to breathe new life into a showcase for this country’s soccer legacy.
The first known match in the U.S. using the formal London Football Association’s rules was played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, the same year America’s first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, was formed.
In the mid-1920s, the so-called golden era of American soccer, the practice of wealthy U.S. club owners poaching top foreign talent—dubbed the “American Menace” in Scotland— rankled several European football associations.
In 1930, the United States placed third in the inaugural FIFA World Cup in Uruguay.
Keepers of the Fame
The train still runs every day through Hillsborough. But it doesn’t stop anymore behind the White Furniture Company.
White Furniture’s Hillsborough facility opened in 1940, an expansion of the furniture manufacturer in nearby Mebane, N.C. When White shuttered in 1989, the dilapidated facility lay dormant for two years until it was purchased by a local company looking to expand: Sports Endeavors Inc.
Envisioned as a mail-order soccer apparel distributor by founder Mike Moylan, Sport Endeavors published its first catalog in 1984 under its trade moniker, Eurosport. Brendan Moylan, Mike’s younger brother, joined the company full time in 1989. Today, Sports Endeavors is the corporate umbrella for a dozen brands and retail websites familiar throughout the soccer and lacrosse landscape, including Eurosport, Soccer.com and WorldSoccerShop.com.
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