Standing in stark contrast to the current trend of borrowing the cache of some other established brand, the first generation of soccer club naming conventions in the U.S. was impressively earnest. To wit: fans in the early twentieth century U.S. rooted for teams called the Chicago Bricklayers, St. Louis Central Breweries F.C., New Bedford Whalers (the current mascot name of New Bedford High School), Fall River Marksmen, Ben Millers (named after the Ben Miller Hat Company, of course), Robins Dry Dock, and pertinent to this entry, Bethlehem Steel F.C. This era of straightforward name association ensured that each team had a built-in connection to its blue collar fan base, while also providing that the teams themselves stood as athletic monuments to enterprise and capital.
In 2015, a fan vote resurrected the Steel name to serve as the banner for the USL affiliate of MLS’s Philadelphia Union, and so in 2016, a professional team called Bethlehem Steel F.C will play its first game since Herbert Hoover occupied the White House. (Believe it or not, the recently reincarnated Steel is only the second-most badass-sounding team name in the Lehigh Valley. That distinction belongs to the IronPigs, the AAA farm team of Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies.) Nomenclature aside, the current iteration of Steel F.C. shares little in common with the original club. It does however provide further evidence that soccer fans in the Keystone State – who had an MLS supporters’ club before having an actual MLS team to support – take themselves and their history very seriously.
The original Bethlehem Steel Football Club was founded in 1907 and proceeded to win the U.S. Open Cup five times before dissolving in 1930. The current version, due to U.S. Soccer’s arcane eligibility rules for affiliates and the nation’s staunch hypocrisy regarding the free market principle of professional sports team relegation, will be ineligible to even play in the U.S. Open Cup. Score another one for capitalism, I guess.