The History Of Erzgebirge Soccer
The Vereinigung Erzgebirge, commonly referred to as the “VE Club” by friends and members, is both a social and soccer club located in beautiful Warminster Township in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The club, which was founded by immigrants from the Erzgebirge region of eastern Germany in 1931, is now home to many of their descendants and generations of club members. We pride ourselves on our sense of community, family, and friendship. With 68 immaculate acres of grounds, we have a clubhouse, Ratskeller bar, outdoor patio, canteen, picnic grove, Olympic-sized swimming pool, several soccer fields and other amenities for our members and their guests.
With the founding of the club by German immigrants, soccer was naturally a part of their European tradition. The club’s early bylaws provided for a sports program and has been supported by the club’s executive board since the club’s beginning. A men’s soccer team was formed in the early 1930s with our first game being played against Saxonia SC of Paterson, NJ. The team entered the North Philadelphia League, and later the E.D.U. Memorial League, in which we won the 1941/1942 season. In 1946 we joined the Philadelphia Soccer League and won the 1947/1948 and 1948/1949 Second Division championship. In 1950 the team was promoted to the First Division of this league. 1952 saw the team win the championship of the Palmer Cup and were runners up in that same cup in 1953. The Palmer Cup was the most prestigious cup competition at that time in the Philadelphia area.
In the 1940s and 1950s club membership increased and the number of teams increased as well with the addition of a youth “Junior” team and an adult Third Division team. By 1954 a youth “Midget” team was organized. An important step in 1959 was the founding of the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania. This league became the most prestigious amateur league in the Mid-Atlantic States. VE was a charter member of this organization, whose founders included club members Hans Kompauer, Alfred Hahn, and George Heinzelmann. During the 1950s and 1960s our Majors were coached by Eugene Binkele and he was instrumental in guiding the program during that phase. During the early 1960s such soccer legends as Walter Bahr and Alex Ely played for the club. Both men are now enshrined in the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame. As a footnote, the club’s Eugene Binkele Award was named after this gentleman and is awarded to the individual who contributes the most to the VE Soccer program. In 1967 the club funded the addition of floodlights to our upper field so that our teams could play and train at night.
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a growth in soccer in the United States. VE supported five youth teams (Juniors, Midgets, Pee Wees, and two Novice teams) all of which competed in the locally based Inter County Soccer League. At that time, we had several Junior and Novice teams win their respective championships. During the mid-1970s, VE was one of the first clubs in the Philadelphia area to begin fielding female teams. The first female team at VE was coached by Walt Clauss and Marge Mahoney.
A great accomplishment was achieved when our Majors claimed the 1969/1970 USL Major Division title. This trophy was won by our club for the first time. Coached by Karl Zimmermann, this group of players was comprised of local talent as well as German immigrants. Our Reserve Division team was also successful at that time winning the USL title in the 1969/1970 season and repeating that feat in the 1970/1971 season.
By the early 1980s our youth program doubled in size from five teams to ten teams which included both boys’ and girls’ participating; at that time all teams completed in the Inter County Soccer League. The expansion of teams necessitated the clearing of land and the establishment of our woods field. All the work was done by volunteers and was under the direction of Sports Committee Chairman Ralph Hoffman. This age ushered in many years of teams winning their respective league titles and we had several teams winning Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association state cup championships, including our U14 boys and U16 girls in 1984. Many VE youth teams were successful at that time traveling and competing in tournaments throughout the eastern part of the United States and Canada. The Majors also continued to play at the highest amateur level and during the mid-1980s they won several Eastern Pennsylvania Soccer Association cup championships. Several former NASL and MISL players represented VE on the field during those years. In the summer of 1984, VE hosted the Bundesliga’s 1.FC Kaiserslautern’s amateur team. Both our Majors and Reserves played this talented team under the lights in mid-week games with the results in the favor of our guests from the Pfalz.
Since 1984 Tom Kehan has guided our “Mighty Mites” program. This program is an introduction to our youngest players from 4 to 8 years old until the kids move onto travel competition. This forms the basics of the game and teaches good sportsmanship. We are very proud that many of our adult players began their careers on a Friday night playing Mighty Mites; in fact in 2004 Sean Peckham was the first VE player selected to represent the United States as he was chosen to play for the United States U14 National Team. He got his start at Mighty Mites.
In the early 1990s our late Sports Chairman Tony Koller complied a list of the top youth players we produced from the early 1970s through the late 1990s. Most of these guys went on to play college soccer and spent many years playing Major division soccer.
Forwards: Joe Sabol, Malcolm Macquarrie, the three Steve’s – Lawson, Feuchter, and Schaefer, Anthony Daniele, Ed Parkinson, John Sessock, Dave Steinbach, Mike Praezenika, Keith Foster, and Bret Brennan
Halfbacks: Billy Johnson, Mark Regul, David Kennedy, John Halko, Peter Zimmerman, Ralph Eisenschmidt, Eric Eisold, Dennis Mullin, Louis Daniele, Kevin Gallacher, Kevin MacKenzie, and the best halfback combination of any team – Scott Reiber, Paul Eisold, and Dave Kivlin
Fullbacks: Franny McPeak, Tom Turner, Bobby Viehweger, Karl Grabner, Tim Weglicki, Ed Maier, Walt Medl, Clint Fairweather, Mike D’Angelo, and Nick Dancer
Goalies: Phil Bareis, Dale Caya, Pete Early, Pat Kivlin, and Danny Ohmont
In 1991 the Majors won the EPSA Open Cup and advanced to the knockout round of the regional cups. They continued their successes by winning several EPSA state Amateur and Open Cup championships during this time. The core group of players were all local guys who grew up in our youth system and returned to play for the club once their college careers ended. Under coach Dennis Mullin, the Majors claimed the USL championship of the 1995/1996 season. This was the first time our Majors won that title since 1969/1970 and it was long overdue. The building of that team continued and under the leadership of head coach Mike Mancke the Majors won the USASA Region 1 Amateur championship and participated in the USASA National Final Four in Portland, Oregon. In 1996 we formed an Over 30 team which won the USL championship several times and their play culminated with winning the USASA National Championship in July 2000 by beating Data Graphics of Georgia 4-2. This was the club’s first national championship title and put our program on the national soccer map. Also, during this time frame our Reserves won several league titles in the USL and in the Ultra Division of ICSL; they even advanced to the semifinals of the 2003 EPYSA Amateur Cup losing to Phoenix Majors in overtime 2-1.
In 1999 VE’s soccer program entered a new phase with the addition of former player Rob Oldfield as the Major division coach. He was been instrumental in building on the foundations of our adult program as well as forging a unique partnership with our youth teams. Rob and his staff of qualified coaches direct our annual summer soccer camp for players from 6 to 14 years old. This is a benefit to our players to be guided by top notch talent. In 2018 Rob was introduced as our Director of Coaching and works closely with the VE Sports Board.
The love of the game and the urge to keep playing has allowed VE to field Over 30 and Over 40 teams. The Over 30s continue to play with locally, while the Over 40s won their age group in the ICSL six years running and culminating with a trip to complete against other teams in Las Vegas in 2016. We also started an Under 23 team that competes in the USL and this is a springboard for younger players to join our Majors team once their college commitments are over.
The Majors continue to compete in the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania where they have been champions 1969/1970, 1995/1996 and most recently in 2014/2015. Since the 2014/2015 title they have been runners-up three times. The team competes in the U.S. Amatuer Cup, and the Werner Fricker Open Cup as well as the new format of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup qualifying each year. In recent history, the team has won the EPSA Amatuer Cup four times, 1997, 2012, 2013, and 2014, and have reached the final two other times. The team has been the Werner Fricker Open Cup Champions in 2002, 2005, 2017, 2019 and finalist on three other occasions. In 2002, after winning Region I, they won the USASA semi-final before losing in the National Final to the AAC Eagles out of Chicago.
VE last qualified for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in 2002. To qualify that season they had to be one of the four Regional Champions. In the past few seasons they have been a little unlucky in qualifying but got it right in 2019 wth three wins over local rivals. A 4-1 win over the Ukrainian Nationals, a 2-0 win over UGH, and a 2-1 win over West Chester United. The current squad is mostly made up of local college players or guys who have returned to the Philadelphia area after college for work. Thirteen players also captained their college teams, eleven of them Division I standouts. Eight of the players grew up in the Warminster area and six of them played youth soccer at the club.
In addtion to our Majors team, we have had continued successes in the youth ranks with teams consistantly winning EPYSA State championships. Several teams have claimed the EPYSA Challenge Cup title and several more have won the EPSA President’s Cup title. Those teams advance to the USYS Regionals and have the opportunity to compete in the USYS Nationals if they advance. Our second National Champion, and our first youth National Champion, was our 2002 VE Gunners who won the U16 USYS National title in 2018 by beating a team from Nevada 2-1. Also in 2018 our U18 girls reached the Nationals as well and finished a respectable third place. Recently our 2004 boys lost in the 2019 Region 1 finals played in West Viginia. All good exposure for our youth teams at such a high level. Our youth program continues to grow and currently we have 23 youth teams competing in such leagues as ICSL, EDP, PAGS, and APL.
Finally, no history of VE Soccer would be complete without special mention of our club’s record in international competition. Perhaps no other small club in the United States has sent more teams to Europe, or hosted more teams from Europe, than VE. At various times since 1969, VE teams have visited Canada, Scotland, England, Belgium, Holland, Austria, and Germany (East, West, and unified). Furthermore, we have developed special relationships with several German clubs. The competition and experiences that our players have learned playing overseas cannot be measured. This tradition was started by Jerry Oesterreich and continues to this day since almost every summer we send teams over the Atlantic to play Fussball and enjoy the German Gemütlichkeit.
Looking ahead, VE Soccer is stronger than ever and we take pride in the achievements all the players and coaches contributed to our program over the past 85+ years. The sporting culture we represent looks forward to the challenges ahead and intends on producing top quality teams directed by non-paid, volunteer coaches who grew up within our system. These coaches decided to give back to a program that rewards hard work and dedication to the sport and teaches our players the right way to play. VE is well regarded locally, regionally, nationally, and even internationally. Our situation is unique in that we are modeled on European clubs where the youth and senior teams work together. Former USMNT player Earnie Stewart was a guest at our annual youth soccer banquet in 2017 and he mentioned that our model is something to be proud of, it is very uncommon in the United States, and he added that we are doing something right.