I'd like to hand the microphone over to B&RU Contributing Editor and resident archivist Benuski, who has applied scientific rigor to a question that has plagued pundits since, well, now: What would happen if Bethlehem Steel, the most successful club in U.S. Open Cup history - a tournament, I should remind you, that D.C. United just won for the third time - got pulled into the present to face the heretofore trophiless Philadelphia Union.
Could Bethlehem Steel beat today's Philadelphia Union?
Despite this being a day in which Black and Red United is taking over The Brotherly Game and is supposed to ridicule and mock, I am here instead to praise Pennsylvania soccer. While D.C. United is down in the dumps this year, at least the halcyon days for our regional soccer culture are a mere 15 years ago instead of 100 years ago. So this leads me to an obvious question: could the dapper gents of Bethlehem Steel FC actually beat today's Philadelphia Union if flown forward in in time in some sort of TARDIS?
Location: Bethlehem was once rated in the top 100 of the Best Places to Live in the United States. Chester's crime problems led to a state of emergency being declared while the PPL Park was being opened. Advantage: Bethlehem Steel
Uniforms: The Bethlehem Steel uniforms are a classic, with the black shirt and white shorts, so much so that the Union rolled out a throwback jersey in honor of the team. In the game itself, the Union's players would likely become confused and keep passing to Bethlehem Steel's players. Advantage: Bethlehem Steel
Big Game Experience: As we all know, the Philadelphia Union have the same number of trophies as the New York Red Bulls (hence our ability to take over the site for the day). Bethlehem Steel, on the other hand, have 9 league championships, 5 National Challenge Cups (US Open Cup), 6 American Cups (predecessor to the US Open Cup), and 1 Lewis Cup. With such a warehouse full of trophies, I doubt that Bethlehem Steel would be troubled by a game against a trophyless pretender.Advantage: Bethlehem Steel
Formation and rules: To offset the obvious physical advantages that the Union, or any modern team, would have, the game would be played under the rules of Bethlehem Steel's time. The biggest change would therefore be that the offside rule would be changed from second to last opponent to third to last opponent. In addition, Bethlehem Steel would likely be playing a 2-3-5 formation, as it was all the rage at the time. Do you really think that John Hackworth could teach the Union a WM or WW formation quickly to counter a formation that not even these players' grandparents have ever seen? Advantage: Bethlehem Steel
Best ever player: The best ever player for Bethlehem Steel was Archie Stark, who scored 240 goals in 221 caps for the team. The best ever Union player is.... Sebastian LeToux? Brian Carroll? Lionard Pajoy? Advantage: Bethlehem Steel in a walk
Best manager: Even though he never coached the team, former Bethlehem player Alex Massie played for two years as a young player in the Lehigh Valley before eventually spending 5 years playing for Aston Villa and then 5 years managing Aston Villa. If he'd played for the U, Peter Nowak would have crushed his spirit, and he would have had to turn to a life in the steel mill. Advantage: Bethlehem Steel
As you can see from these undeniable and irrefutable points, Bethlehem Steel would likely beat today's Union. Since that is the case, why even bother competing ever again? (Except in any and all games against the New York Red Bulls, because that's something all of us can agree upon.)