100 Years of Beadling Soccer
Soccer teams have been kicking around the Pittsburgh area since 1894, although the first recorded Beadling began play in 1898. Many miners were immigrants from countries in Europe with a soccer tradition, so it was natural for them to organize soccer games or as they called it, "football". Many men played every day in loosely organized games.
The Pittsburgh Press League, the first formal league, nicknamed the "Miners League", was formed in 1911. Several local teams participated including Bridgeville Dunlevy, Gallatin, Curry, Heidelberg, Gratztown and Beadling. Local newspapers supported the league, giving extensive coverage and even financial support, occasionally paying players to participate.
Francis Luxbacher, father of Joe Luxbacher, the University of Pittsburgh’s head soccer coach, recalled those days in a 1984 interview, "The men who played on the Beadling team were playing for their companies and themselves, but more importantly they were playing for their fathers and their homeland." Luxbacher remembers that management fostered company teams, "If the team needed a player to fill a position, the company would hunt around the area and hire someone to fill the spot."
In 1918, Beadling won its first of many West Penn Championships and was becoming a local soccer powerhouse. The community supported the team by supplying players with money and food after the games. "The Beadling soccer program grew through the efforts of many different families," explained Luxbacher. ’"To tell you the plain honest to God truth, if it wasn’t for the women in the town, there wouldn’t have been a Beadling Soccer team, the women sold the sport to the community and to the newspapers and anyone who would stand for a minute to listen."
The Pittsburgh Press League usually had 12 teams who played each other home and away. A team carried 18 players on its roster and was allowed two substitutions during the game. The games were usually played on a Saturday afternoon. The company would have the players only work half a day and then let them go the rest of the afternoon to play a game. The toughest part about the games themselves was the condition of the field. Soccer was rough back then. Players relied on guts and stamina rather than pure technical skill. The season lasted from September into the spring with many teams playing the entire year
The Beadling tradition continued growing until the mines started to close down. Teams became detached from mining companies. The Beadling Sports Club was formed in 1937 and a clubhouse was established in the mine’s original machine shop which still exists. The playing field was adjacent to the clubhouse. Although soccer nearly died during World War II, the Beadling team recovered to win its highest honor in 1954 when the team defeated St. Louis to win the National Amateur Cup. Beadling earned runner-up honors in the 1958-59 season.
Other honors included several West Penn Championships and annual dominance in the Keystone League, which succeeded the Press League. The overall record from 1977-1983 was 136-19-17 including an impressive 90-3-7 in league play.
The youth soccer program began in the 1960’s. An Under-19 team represented Region I in the McGuire Cup Final Four in Omaha, Nebraska in 1984. The program achieved its greatest expansion in 1988 when the club took over the South United youth teams. Several local soccer associations had started this program several years before to form teams, stronger than any single township association could provide, to compete in tournaments.
The history of local government in the Pittsburgh area had resulted in many small townships, each with strong traditions and loyalty, but too small to recruit teams strong enough to hold their own in regional competition. Beadling gave the youth program added impetus by providing a high quality professional coaching staff. The program has expanded to 20 boys and girls teams ranging in age from 12 to 20.
Again, Beadling has risen to a preeminent position in Western Pennsylvania soccer. In recent seasons, Beadling has had more State Cup winners than any other Pittsburgh area club. Beadling teams won Region I honors in 1984 (U-19 Boys), 1992 (U-13 Girls, the first girls team from Western Pennsylvania ever to win Regionals), 1995 (U-13 Boys), and 1996 (U-14 Boys).
Beadling has had more than 50 State Cup winners, more than four times as many as any other club in Western Pennsylvania. Beadling teams have played coast to coast in the U.S. and in Europe, too. Beadling is now a member or the prestigious Continental Alliance of top clubs extending from Philadelphia to Minneapolis and from Denver to St. Louis.
For the next five years, and possibly longer, the Alliance Memorial Day Tournament will be held at the Family First Soccer Complex in Erie, PA. The Beadling, Alliance and Family First partnership open a second century that promises to be as vigorous and exciting as its first. Wearing a Beadling shirt, a player can be proud of the heritage and strive hard to live up to it.