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Op-Ed: Leave the legacy of Bethlehem Steel FC alone

The Philadelphia Union's USL affiliate in the Lehigh Valley will almost certainly be named Bethlehem Steel FC after the historic club that dominated American soccer in the beginning of the 20th century. But should it be?

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

I'm probably going to be in the minority on this, but I'm also probably not the only one who thinks that the Philadelphia Union should not name their USL affiliate in the Lehigh Valley "Bethlehem Steel FC." This isn't to say that I'm a huge fan of Lehigh Valley Blast - I lived through the 1990's once and that was enough for me - or any of the other names offered up. But Bethlehem Steel should be left alone.

It's unconscionable to me that one of the most revered sports clubs in American history will now be the marketing brand and feeder club for one of the worst clubs in MLS. Instead of kids learning about the club that dominated the American soccer landscape of the early 20th century, they'll know it as a farm club - complete with all of the hokey showmanship that minor league teams of all sports use to draw in spectators. While I have nothing against Cowboy Monkey Rodeo Night or Tuxedo Jersey Nights, it just seems wrong to me to use that in connection with something so revered.

Come for the monkeys riding dogs chasing sheep, stay for professional soccer!

Even in the best of circumstances without all of the dopey promotions, the new Bethlehem Steel FC will have nothing in common with their namesakes. The original team won nine league championships, five National Challenge (U.S.Open) Cups, six American Cups, and two other cups (one each Lewis Cup and Allied Amateur Cup) in their twenty-one seasons of existence. There's no realistic shot of the new BSFC dominating anything but the third division of American soccer - a far cry from the once mighty club whose five U.S. Open cups are a record only matched by one other club (Maccabi Los Angeles). There's zero chance a new Bethlehem Steel wins one U.S. Open Cup, let alone five. This neutered version will never approach that, and instead will be a sad grasp at nostalgia and history by a club that frankly doesn't deserve it.

The legacy of Bethlehem Steel deserves much better than this.