The Bethlehem Steel soccer team won a lot of cups and a lot of league championships, but there is something else that could stand as the greatest legacy of one of the greatest American soccer teams of all time. Here are the details of that something else:
On Jan. 25, 1914, Bethlehem Steel lost, 1-0, to Brooklyn Field Club at Marquette Oval in Brooklyn, in a third-round game of the National Challenge Cup, the championship tournament of the new U.S. Football Association. The Steelworkers didn't lose again until March 16, 1915, more than a year later, when Brooklyn Celtic beat them, 2-1, in a semifinal of the American Football Association Cup on that same field in Brooklyn. In between those two losses, Bethlehem had a 41-game undefeated streak, winning 35 of those and tying six.
After the defeat on March 16, 1915, Bethlehem won 16 games in row before suffering another loss, this time to Disston of Philadelphia, 2-1, in a league game in Philadelphia on Nov. 20, 1915 (Bethlehem was playing in the American League of Philadelphia that season).
After the loss to Disston, Bethlehem set out on another long undefeated streak, matching the earlier one at 41 games and again lasting more than a year. This one ended on Dec. 24, 1916, when Bethlehem Steel lost to a St. Louis All-Star team, 3-1, at Robison Field in St. Louis. This time, Bethlehem Steel won 38 games and tied three in between the two defeats.
From the first game of that first long undefeated streak until the last game of the second one, Bethlehem Steel played exactly 100 games, winning 89, tying nine and losing only two. (During that stretch, it also won three games by forfeit.) In those 100 games, the Steelworkers scored 412 goals and yielded 63.
Note that with both of those streaks, the defeats that came before and after them all took place on the road. Although Bethlehem Steel usually drew poorly at home, it certainly played well there. Bethlehem Steel opened a new stadium, Steel Field, with a 7-0 win over West Hudson of New Jersey on Sept. 23, 1916. It wasn't beaten at Steel Field until Jan. 1, 1921, 56 games later, when it suffered a 1-0 loss to Robins Dry Dock of Brooklyn. And at the time that Steel Field opened, Bethlehem Steel already was on quite a home unbeaten streak, one that stretched back to Sept. 27, 1913. By the time that streak ended in 1921, it encompassed more than 100 games.
The Bethlehem Steel soccer team played from 1907 to 1930. During the last decade of that, it faded somewhat from its pre-1920 dominance, being overtaken by the Fall River Marksmen and perhaps a few other teams as the best in American soccer. However, for the Steelworkers to have matched their great record of those pre-1920 years, which included four National Challenge Cup titles, five AFA Cup titles, a string of championships in various leagues and those two long undefeated streaks, might have been too much to expect anyway.