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Yankee Stadium Soccer: Real Football In The Bronx Since 1931

Soccer has a long history at Baseball Favorite Stadium. It all started in 1931. The Yankee Stadium soccer venue has a long, storied history at “The House That Ruth Built,” going back some 92 years to 1931.

The old Yankee Stadium, across the street from the current one, had its soccer debut in 1931. Along the way, the stadium, which was renovated between 1973 and 1975, has played host to many other significant events, including Notre Dame football (the “Win one for the Gipper” game was at the Stadium), boxing (Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, among others, fought there) and soccer.

There has been plenty of Yankee Stadium soccer, from early-day tours of great foreign teams to the mastery of Pele.

Let us review the greatest soccer moments in Yankee Stadium.

Spain beat Ireland at Yankee stadium soccer venue

June 28, 1931

Touring Glasgow, Celtic defeated the American Soccer League’s New York Yankees. Charles Napier scored twice for the visitors, while Alexander and Robert Thompson each had a goal.

Bert Patenaude had the lone goal for the Americans. The game was the fourth in New York on that trip for Celtic, who already had pocketed wins over the New York Giants (3-2) at the Polo Grounds and the Brooklyn Wanderers (5-0) at Ebbets Field, as well as a 1-1 tie with the Hakoah All-Stars at the Polo Grounds.

September 16, 1934

A team of Jewish All-Stars defeated an Irish All-star team 3-0.

September 27, 1936

Macabees of Palestine defeated a New York selection 6-0. The Palestinians got two goals each from Imri Mausner, Illiya Westerman, and Nathan Panz, taking a quick 4-0 lead in less than ten minutes. A crowd of 30,000 turned out for the fundraiser to aid Polish Jews and the Macabee Telaviv Sports Organization.

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November 8, 1936

An all-star team from the American Soccer League defeated Macabees of Palestine 4-1 in the last game of Macabees’ 11-game American tour. Frank Moniz of the Scottish American Club of Newark scored twice in the game, which was played in front of 20,000.

May 4, 1947

The Hapoel soccer club of Palestine began their American tour with a 2-0 win over a United States selection. Hapoel’s 19-year-old goalkeeper Yaakov Chodorov made 27 saves. A crowd of 43,177 was on hand on a dreary wet day. Promoters had sold more than 61,000 tickets before the Yankee Stadium soccer match.

June 14, 1953

Liverpool’s 30-game winning streak, which spanned three different North American tours, ended at Yankee Stadium with a 1-1 draw against Grasshoppers of Switzerland. Billy Liddell gave Liverpool a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute, but the Swiss side equalized on a second-half goal by Hans Grutter.

Tottenham Hotspur routed Manchester United

June 15, 1952

Tottenham Hotspur routed Manchester United 7-1 in front of 24,582 fans. Spurs forward Len Duquemin scored four goals to exact revenge after United had dethroned the London club as English champions. Alf Ramsey, who went on to coach England to its World Cup title in 1966, was the right-back for Tottenham Hotspur.

October 12, 1952

The first of the American Soccer League doubleheaders is held at the Stadium. The Philadelphia Americans defeated the New York Americans 4-3, and the Brookhattan Galicia defeated Brooklyn Hispano 7-3. A crowd of 5,737 was on hand.

November 9, 1952

Pete McNab of Hispano scored three goals in a 4-1 win over Kearny Scots in the last American Soccer League doubleheader series at the stadium. Brookhattan defeated Hakoa 1-0 in the nightcap.

June 8, 1953

In their first rematch since the United States’ historic 1-0 win at the 1950 World Cup, Yankee Stadium soccer fans saw England avenge a 6-3 win over the Americans. The match played in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, drew 7, 271 after it was moved from Sunday afternoon to Monday night because of wet field conditions. According to the FA, this was the first time England played a game under lights. Tom Finney scored twice and set up three other goals for the English. Otto Decker scored twice for the Americans, whose lineup included two players who had played in that World Cup shocker (Walter Bahr, Harry Keough).

April 29, 1956

The Israel Olympic Team defeated the American Soccer League All-Stars 2-1 as part of a Salute to Israel program. A crowd of 42,455, one of the largest to ever see a soccer game in the United States up to that time, was on hand.

yankee stadium soccer maps

Yankee Stadium Soccer Matches In The 1960s

The 1960s were the busiest for soccer at Yankee Stadium, starting with several appearances by Pele and his Brazilian club Santos and ending with the ballpark being shared by two clubs in rival North American leagues.

With constraints put on them by the Yankees, the New York Skyliners and the Generals often played on successive nights while the baseball team was on a road trip. The Skyliners, operated by Madison Square Garden, were actually Cerro of Montevideo, Uruguay, while the Generals, owned by a local group of investors, were an assemblage of players, several of whom had played in local leagues.

The Skyliners opened the season drawing better crowds, with fans coming not only to see the South Americans but their opposition in the United Soccer Association, which imported teams from around the world. But as the season wore on, both teams, and indeed both leagues, saw attendance wane, leading to the eventual merger of the leagues and the formation of the North American Soccer League in 1968.

With the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field gone, Yankee Stadium became the focal point for foreign clubs making stops in the United States. Benfica, Inter Milan, Racing, and Juventus all made appearances in the Bronx.

Still, Pele was the leading attraction, with Yankee Stadium soccer crowds upwards of 35,000 turning out to see the Black Pearl whenever he came through the Big Apple.

Some highlights of the 1960s:

June 5, 1966

Pele scored once, set up another goal, and had two more called back for offside as Santos thrashed Inter Milan 4-1. Despite being repeatedly fouled, Pele showed his magic to the crowd of 41, 598 in the second half, getting the ball in front of the goal, dribbling past a defender, and blasting a shot past the Inter goalkeeper.

April 22, 1967

The New York Generals played their first-ever game in the National Professional Soccer League, the forerunner to the North American Soccer League. In front of a crowd of 7,213, the Generals beat the Chicago Spurs 2-1. Luis Cesar Menotti, then a 26-year-old, scored the first goal for the Generals. He coached Argentina to their World Cup title in 1978.

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May 21, 1967

Michael Ash scored two goals as the Generals snapped a five-game losing skid with a 2-2 tie against the Atlanta Chiefs. But the big story this day was a national telecast by CBS, complete with commercials during the run of the play. Referee Eddie Pearson signaled stoppages in play for fouls and injuries with a red flag so that commercials could be inserted into the telecast.

May 27, 1967

Menotti scored two goals in the Generals’ 3-0 win over the California Clippers.

May 28, 1967

The United Soccer League debuted at Yankee Stadium with the New York Skyliners (Cerro of Montevideo) playing Toronto (Hibernians of Edinburgh) to a 1-1 tie in front of an announced crowd of 21,871.

June 15, 1967

St. Louis Stars goalkeeper Miguel de Lima made 12 second-half saves to stop a swarming Generals attack in a 2-1 St. Louis win. De Lima later served as an assistant coach with the Cosmos.

June 16, 1967

Emotions ran high in the game between the Skyliners and the Chicago Mustangs (Cagliari of Italy). After one of the Italian players was knocked down late in the game, a mob of about 40 Yankee Stadium soccer fans rushed the field and chased and attacked referee Leo Goldstein, who needed to be rescued by the police.

NASL soccer at yankee stadium

July 4, 1967

Perhaps epitomizing how hard it was to draw fans, the Generals planned to give away shirts to the first 5,000 youngsters attending their game with the Los Angeles Toros (a 2-1 win). Unfortunately, plenty of shirts were left over, as only 3,492 attended the game.

July 6, 1967

A crowd of 7,102 was on hand to see what was essentially the USA’s South American derby, a 2-2 draw between the Houston Stars (Bangu of Brazil) and the Skyliners. It was the Skyliners’ final game.

August 26, 1967

Sandro Mazzola scored the only goal as Inter Milan defeated Pele’s Santos in front of 37,063. Pele did not play the second half of the game after being injured late in the first half.

October 15, 1967

The Israeli National team defeated an American Soccer League all-star team 3-1 in front of 22, 232. Two members of the Israeli team, Mordechai Shpigler and Roby Young, later played for the Cosmos.

April 21, 1968

The Generals opened their second season with a 0-0 tie with the Toronto Falcons. A crowd of 6,989 was on hand to see the game on an oddly configured field. Because the New York Yankees did want the infield damaged, the width of the soccer field was reduced to 50 yards. It had been 80 yards in 1967.

May 1, 1968

Warren Archibald, one of the NASL’s early great scorers, tallied twice in a 2-1 Generals win over the Baltimore Bays.

June 21, 1968

A crowd of 43,702 saw Pele score on a fantastic header, but teammate Toninho stole the show with three goals as Santos beat Napoli 4-2. Jose Altafini had both goals for the Italian side.

July 12, 1968

Santos made their second appearance of the year at Yankee Stadium, this time being upset by the New York Generals 5-3, only their fifth loss in 61 games to that point in 1968. Again, a crowd of 15,645 saw Pele held scoreless. Marking him was the man who would later become his coach with the Cosmos, the late Gordon Bradley.

August 21, 1968

The Generals took on another impressive opponent, this time losing 4-1 to Real Madrid.

September 1, 1968

Two of the greatest players of their era, Pele and Eusebio, met at Yankee Stadium when Santos took on Benfica. Neither player scored in the 3-3 tie, but after Pele was fouled, Brazil World Cup captain Carlos Alberto converted a penalty kick. The game was a doubleheader, with the Generals beating Detroit 4-1 in the opener. Six players on the visiting sides would later play in the NASL: Pele, Edu, Carlos Alberto, Rildo, Eusebio, and Antonio Simoes.

May 30, 1969

Barcelona defeated Juventus 3-2 in front of 20,157.

June 27, 1969

Inter Milan beat Sparta of Prague 4-0, and A.C. Milan beat Panathinaikos 4-0 on the first day of the four-team United States Cup of Champions.

June 29, 1969

A.C. Milan defeated Inter Milan 6-4 to win the United States Cup of Champions in front of 14,331 Yankee Stadium supporters

pele-cosmos-yankee-soccer-stadium

Yankee Stadium Soccer Matches In The 1970s

Pele played one season with the Cosmos at Yankee stadium and scored his most spectacular goal in what turned out to be the final soccer game at the storied ballpark.

The 1970s marked the beginning of the end of soccer at the Bronx ballpark. When the Generals folded after the 1968 season, it was two years before another North American Soccer League team called Yankee Stadium home, with the birth of the Cosmos in 1971.

The team that played that year at the stadium was a far cry from the one that took the field just five years later.

The Cosmos played one season at the old ballpark before moving to the more intimate confines of Hofstra Stadium for two years, then Downing Stadium on Randalls Island for two years.

With the signing of Pele in 1975, however, the team needed a more suitable park to play in, and the renovated Yankee Stadium fits the bill—at least for one season until the Cosmos moved to Giants Stadium in 1977.

With the stadium’s renovation came a change in how the field was laid out. Where previously it was shoehorned into the outfield, running from left to right, it was now angled with one side line up the third base/left field line, leaving parts of the infield on the field of play.

Only a handful of internationals were played at the stadium in the 70s, and although no one knew it then, the last soccer game played there was in August of 1976. Then, because of baseball conflicts, the Cosmos played their final game of the season, a playoff contest against the Washington Diplomats, at Shea Stadium.

Yankee Stadium was discussed as a potential venue for the 1994 World Cup, but ultimately Giants Stadium submitted a bid as the New York/New Jersey area host.

Some 1970s highlights:

May 5, 1971

The Cosmos made their home debut with Sigi Stritzl scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over the Washington Darts in front of 3, 476 fans.

May 21, 1971

Hearts (Scotland) defeated the Cosmos 4-2.

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June 9, 1971

Willie Mfum scored three goals to lead the Cosmos to a 4-2 win over the Rochester Lancers.

June 16, 1971

Charlie McCully, Willie Mfum, Randy Horton, and Jorge Siega scored in a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Stars.

1976 New York Cosmos Goalie Back Shep

July 14, 1971

The Cosmos played Appolon of Greece in a 1-1 tie, their first result against an international opponent. Jorge Siega gave the Cosmos the lead, but the Greek club equalized on a controversial penalty kick following a handball call.

July 25, 1971

Randy Horton scored both goals as the Cosmos played the Toronto Metros to a 2-2 draw.

August 2, 1971

Pele’s Santos took on Deportivo Cali at Yankee Stadium soccer venue as part of a doubleheader with the Cosmos. However, it was another future Cosmos player that provided the spark for the Brazilians. Edu set up the first goal in the 2-2 tie, then dribbled through four Cali players before bending a shot into the net.

In the opener, the Cosmos beat Rochester, 3-2, with Willie Mfum scoring the fastest goal in club history just 21 seconds into the game.

August 29, 1971

The Cosmos ended their first season at the stadium with a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Chiefs. However, when the team returned to the Yankee Stadium soccer venue, the ballyard and the team had a complete overhaul.

May 2, 1976

Pele scored the only goal in a 2-1 Cosmos loss to the Chicago Sting in the team’s home opener at the Stadium in front of 28,436—a new team record.

May 8, 1976

The Cosmos lost their second game in four days, but Pele scored for the third straight game, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Atoms.

May 17, 1976

Giorgio Chinaglia spectacularly made his Cosmos debut in front of 24,292 fans. The Italian striker scored two goals, assisted on one of Pele’s two goals, and also drew a pair of fouls that resulted in penalty kicks, both of which were converted by Keith Eddy in a 6-0 win over the Los Angeles Aztecs. Unfortunately, Chinaglia’s performance completely overshadowed the Aztecs’ George Best presence.

george best showing off his skills in front of women

May 28, 1976

England overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat Italy, 3-2, in a game that was part of the American Bicentennial Cup tournament. Francesco Graziani scored the two goals for Italy, sending the crowd of 40,650 into a frenzy. Mike Channon had two of England’s goals, while Phil Thompson had the third. Italian star Giacinto Facchetti had the equalizer because Fabio Capello fouled the goalkeeper.

June 18, 1976

The Cosmos defeated the Toronto Metros, 3-0, to move into first place.

July 2, 1976

Ramon Mifflin scored two goals after coming on as a replacement with 14 minutes left for the injured Pele as the Cosmos beat the St. Louis Stars, 3-1.

July 14, 1976

Despite having three goals called back, the Cosmos defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 5-4, the start of what became one of the North American Soccer League’s great rivalries. Pele scored twice and assisted on two others.

July 18, 1976

The Cosmos scored five goals for the second straight game, routing the Washington Diplomats 5-0. Giorgio Chinaglia scored twice, and Pele had a goal and an assist.

July 28, 1976

Chinaglia scored three goals in the Cosmos’ 4-0 win over the Dallas Tornado. Pele had two assists.

August 10, 1976

The Cosmos save the best for last with their 8-2 win over the Miami Toros. It was the last soccer game at Yankee Stadium until 2012, although no one knew it then. Chinaglia scored five goals and assisted on two others, giving him 12 points, a record that stood until the end of the NASL. Pele scored two goals, including the most spectacular of his Cosmos career, a bicycle kick.

It was in 2012 that Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain met in an international friendly at the new Yankee Stadium – which opened in 2009. Since then, the stadium has hosted several high-profile friendlies, including Real Madrid and AC Milan in 2012 and NYCFC sister club Manchester City against Chelsea in May 2013 and Liverpool in July 2014.

pele bicycle kick at yankee stadium

New Yankee Stadium Soccer Matches

Besides hosting one international friendly, the new stadium has also hosted one international match, when Spain beat Ireland 2-0 in the Bronx in June 2013. In 2019, Liverpool played a friendly with Sporting Lisbon in front of 31,112 Yankee Stadium soccer fans.

Among the most famous soccer teams that played at the old stadium were Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus, and Celtic, as well as the national teams of the USA, England, and Italy.

The new Yankee Stadium has been the MLS team New York City’s primary home stadium since 2015.

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