Soccer America celebrates its 50th anniversary

Like so many Americans, Clay Berling became hooked on soccer following the introduction of the pro game.

He knew nothing about soccer when the Oakland Clippers arrived in 1967 but discovered he could bring his entire family -- wife Ruth and six children -- to watch soccer for less than $10 at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Clippers played in the National Professional Soccer League in 1967, North American Soccer League in 1968 and as the California Clippers in 1969, folding following a short independent season in Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco.

Berling wanted others to enjoy soccer like he had, so he got involved in Cal-North, the state association, and in 1971 started a weekly soccer magazine, Soccer West.

In 1972, Soccer West became Soccer America, which grew to 23 full-time employees in the 1990s. Clay's daughter Lynn Berling-Manuel served as editor-in-chief and publisher. Another daughter, Janet Ceja-Orozco, headed SA's fulfillment department. Their mother, Ruth Berling, was Clay's partner in the venture and worked in the production department until her death in 1991.

On Thursday, Soccer America celebrates its 50th birthday. It has three full-time employees, Paul Kennedy, Mike Woitalla and Doug Murdock, all based in the East Bay. Soccer America's publisher since 2007 is Ken Fadner, the founder and publisher of MediaPost, whose staff provides support (digital, art, fulfillment and accounting).

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Soccer West, April 8, 1971. In the early days, Clay Berling laid out the magazine (initial cost: $4.50 for 26 issues) wherever he could find space, on the kitchen table of his home in Albany, California, on the desk of his State Farm Insurance office, and in a Sunday school room rented from the United Methodist Church in Albany.

The first issue consisted of eight pages. Most of the coverage, but not all, centered around soccer in Northern California. It included a preview of the 1971 NASL season, a report on New York's German-American League and the city's new team, the Cosmos, and a summary of the first CIF high school championship in San Diego.

Names mentioned in the issue included six future National Soccer Hall of Famers: Lamar HuntClive ToyeRon NewmanHarry SaundersHerbert Heilpern and Berling himself.

Clay wrote his first Direct Kick column, starting out, "Let's not kid ourselves. Soccer is hardly a household word in the United States at this time."

Soccer America alone didn't change that, but it provided inspiration for others that they weren't alone in providing opportunities for boys and girls and men and women across the country.

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Soccer AmericaMarch 7, 1972. Berling's Direct Kick introduced a name change: "Soccer West has stuck out its hand of friendship to others and now carries the name Soccer America."

He wrote that Soccer West "certainly has a nice ring to it" but it "also carried with it the chains of regionalism.

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Soccer AmericaApril 3, 1973. SA published its first Soccer Summer Camps special edition. It would become an annual special issue, with Joe Garcia's camp cartoon drawing on the cover.

SA's camp issue helped set off the soccer camp boom, connecting aspiring campers and their parents with camp operators around the country.

Camps in the first eight-page section included the pioneering All-American Soccer Camp (operated by Walter ChyzowychEugene Chyzowych and Leonard Lucenko with staff directors Lincoln PhillipsJoe Machnik and Willy Roy) and All-Star Soccer School (Hubert Vogelsinger).

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Soccer AmericaNov. 13, 1973. The winner of the "first color cover award" was Don Echevarria, who started shooting soccer when the Oakland Clippers came to the East Bay. They were the same team that drew Clay Berling to soccer.

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Soccer America, April 30, 1981. To celebrate Soccer America's 10th anniversary, SA featured "Listomania" with soccer notables offering their personal top 10 lists. They included:

-- Lynn Berling-Manuel's "10 soccer facts and happenings that have made me sit up and take notice" (No. 1: "Team Hawaii moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a step-up");
-- Tulsa Roughnecks GM Noel Lemon's "10 favorite things in life" (SA made the list);
-- Giorgio Chinaglia's 10 most memorable goals of his career;
-- Hartwick College SID Edward Clough's 10 former Hartwick players or coaches in pro soccer; and
-- SA columnist Ray Ratto (yes, he used to cover soccer) with his 10 best NASL franchises.

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Soccer America, April 17, 1986. For its 15th anniversary, Soccer America looked 15 years ahead to 2001 and "New Soccer Horizons." The NCAA had begun sponsoring a women's soccer championship only four years earlier and the first women's national team games were only played a year before. Elizabeth House, who pioneered SA's women's coverage in the 1980s, asked coaches where would women's soccer be in 15 years. Anson Dorrance, the University of North Carolina men's and women's coach and new national team coach, predicted a big future for women's soccer. By 2001, the USA had won two women's world championships, drawing record television audiences for the second win in 1999, and the first women's pro league was launched in 2001.

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Soccer America, March 18, 1989. Soccer America sent Mike Woitalla to cover the 1989 Under-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia, where the USA finished fourth with a team coached by Bob Gansler and players such as Kasey Keller, Steve Snow, Dario Brose and Chris Henderson.

Few events Soccer America has covered drew as much attention as its coverage of the Under-20 World Cup. It underscored Soccer America's commitment to covering the growing U.S. national youth team programs and offering coverage that was unavailable elsewhere.

Keller was the winner of the Silver Ball as the tournament's second best player, but as he told The Athletic's Paul Tenorio in 2019, "No one knew about it until it came out in Soccer America a month later."

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Soccer America, Nov. 30, 1989. Probably the most famous cover was the "Yes!" issue with the photo, taken by longtime Soccer America photographer and friend Jon Van Woerden, of Bruce Murray with his arms extended to the sky after Paul Caligiuri (to his left) scored the goal that sent the USA to the 1990 World Cup, ending a 40-year drought.

On page 3, Soccer Master, the St. Louis-based soccer store, featured an ad: "40 years in the making" with an offer for a T-shirt with the SA cover (just $15 plus shipping and handling).

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FIFA Women's World Championship Official Guide, 1991. FIFA and its marketing agency, ISL, were at a loss for how to promote the first Women's World Cup -- its official name was the 1991 World Championship for Women's Football for the M&Ms Cup -- so Soccer America stepped in and published the tournament's official guide.

On the cover: U.S. captain April Heinrichs, later the U.S. national team head coach and U.S. Soccer's youth women’s national team director. The photo was taken by Dallas-based photographer Phil Stephens, who had covered the national team program since its inception and traveled to Haiti to cover the Concacaf qualifying tournament, where the USA outscored its five opponents, 49-0.

Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney and USA Today's Roscoe Nance were the only U.S. reporters to cover the inaugural Women's World Cup in China in 1991 when the USA captured the first of its four world titles.

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Soccer America, May 3, 1993. USA-Iceland, played in Costa Mesa, California, was just one of dozens of games the USA played in the build-up to the 1994 World Cup. It was also featured the first U.S. Report Card.

Player ratings with different grading systems have been a stable of soccer coverage for years. Soccer America introduced them in the United States, opting for a 1-10 grading system. Ridge Mahoney's grades for USA-Iceland included game-highs of "7" for John Doyle, Cobi Jones and Dominic Kinnear, a grade for the game itself and a grade for U.S. referee Majid Jay.

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Soccer America, June 13, 1994. The 1994 World Cup was a huge boost for Soccer America, positioned as the American authority on soccer during the six-year buildup to the finals. The 1994 World Cup preview featured young star Claudio Reyna on the cover. Fresh out of the University of Virginia, he emerged as a starter in midfield, but a pulled hamstring suffered on the eve of the tournament kept him out of the 1994 World Cup.

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Soccer America, July 27, 1994. Under the pen name of Lem, Frenchman Jacques Lemaire was one of the world's most famous soccer artists. For Soccer America, he designed goal recreations during the 1994 World Cup, including this goal by Roberto Baggio that sparked Italy's comeback against Nigeria.

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Soccer America guides, 1994-99. Readers love gifts, and as an incentive for new readers, Soccer America published soccer guides. The 72-page guides served as primers for Soccer America coverage areas, including the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, MLS, which launched in 1996, and the European leagues. The American almanacs provided annual records of the growing U.S. game at all levels, including summaries of every NCAA Division I tournament game and goal scorers from every Open Cup game.

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Soccer America invitation, April 6, 1996. Soccer America is celebrating its 50th anniversary two days after MLS celebrated its 25th anniversary. For its 25th anniversary, SA hosted a post-game party following MLS's opening game between the San Jose Clash and D.C. United. The party at San Jose's Il Fornaio Restaurant was the place to be for those in town for the new league's opening.

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1996. After he stepped down as U.S. national team coach, Bora Milutinovic always kept in touch with Soccer America's staff. Whenever he was in the Bay Area for a national team game with Mexico or China, he'd call and either we'd meet him at his team hotel in Oakland or he'd come to our offices in Berkeley (here with, left to right, Duncan Irving, Paul Kennedy and Ridge Mahoney, in a photo taken by Mike Woitalla) and we'd go to lunch, drawing double-takes from our neighborhood's Mexican-American workers as we'd walk by with Bora.

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SoccerAmerica.com, Dec. 27, 1996. The oldest image of SoccerAmerica.com is this 1996 shot from the Wayback Machine. SoccerAmerica.com launched in late 1995, debuting with the Men's College Cup, from which Soccer America's reporters in Richmond called in to SoccerAmerica.com editor Pete Bailey with updates after each goal.

SoccerAmerica.com debuted with such features as SA Graffiti, American soccer's first soccer community, and Ask a Star interviews with pro players (the first interviews: Keller, Brian McBride, Giovanni Savarese, Cobi Jones, Preki, Alexi Lalas, Carla Overbeck and Earnie Stewart).

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Más Fútbol. June 1998. Soccer America has always paid special attention to and championed Latino soccer. In 1997, Soccer America launched Más Fútbol, a monthly bilingual soccer magazine, which was a free supplement to Soccer America and distributed to Latino soccer retailers and restaurants.

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Soccer America. July 24, 1999. The USA was on the SA cover after it won the 1999 Women's World Cup. What was groundbreaking was that the U.S. women were also on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek and People, the first time the same subject was on the covers of all four magazines the same week.

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2000. The only national team coach who spent a full day at the Soccer America offices was Jurgen Klinsmann. After his retirement as a player and before he became Germany's and then the USA's national team coach, Klinsmann met with Lynn Berling-Manuel to learn about digital publishing, which was still in its infancy.

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Soccer America Daily, April 16, 2001. Ken Fadner encouraged Soccer America to move into digital publishing, which he pioneered at MediaPost. The first Soccer America eletter modeled after MediaPost's family of eletters was Soccer America Daily. Soccer America Daily is today one of six paid eletters Soccer America publishes in addition to Soccer America Today, which goes to more than 100,000 readers.

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Soccer America, May 1, 2001. Soccer America debuted as an all-color, glossy magazine. The cover subject: Landon Donovan, who was playing his first season in MLS. He certainly answered the question.

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SoccerAmerica.com, June 5, 2002. The first World Cup Soccer America covered in real time was the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. It happened to coincide with the USA's best run in the modern era. It began with a 3-2 win over Portugal, fulfilling what Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner liked about soccer: "constant surprises, unpredictability, and a fascinating contrariness." After the game, SoccerAmerica.com published this interview U.S. coach Bruce Arena gave Paul Kennedy.

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Chicago Tribune, June 12, 2003. The Chicago Tribune used to run an annual feature "The 50 Best Magazines." In 2003, the Tribune ranked Cook's Illustrated No. 1 and listed many of the great magazines of the day, The New Yorker at No. 2, Sports Illustrated at No. 4, Esquire No. 11, Harper's at 31, New Republic at No. 35, to name a few. At No. 43, behind ToyFare and ahead of Field & Stream, was Soccer America.

The Tribune on Soccer America: "It's the only publication in this country providing coverage of the sport at every level, international, U.S. pro, college, high school and youth. This is the only place you can find the standings, for instance, of the Greek First Division on a regular basis. Its strength is the weakness of most other media's avoidance of soccer coverage."

On the same list, at No. 25, was Family Fun, edited by Alix Kennedy, SA editor Paul Kennedy's younger sister.

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2007. It isn't every day that Barcelona calls and says its president wants to meet your editorial staff. Joan Laporta (recently elected as president for a second time) came to Stanford to speak at a lecture series. Beforehand, he met with the Soccer America staff (left to right, Mike Woitalla, Paul Kennedy, Laporta, Lynn Berling-Manuel and Ridge Mahoney) at his hotel to discuss American soccer.

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2016. For years, the Soccer America booth at the United Soccer Coaches Convention was the place to gather. Attendees were attracted to the display of Soccer America covers, dating back to 1971. They'd often recall the first issue they read or the first issue in which they appeared, like Paul Caligiuri (with Mike Woitalla, Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner and Paul Kennedy).
Photo by Arnie Ramirez

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2017. No one was prouder, and deservedly so, of Soccer America than Clay Berling. Into his 80s, he greeted visitors at the Soccer America booth at the United Soccer Coaches Convention. In 1995, Berling was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame as a builder. Paul Gardner and Paul Kennedy received the Hall of Fame's Colin Jose Media Award in 2010 and 2016.

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Soccer America, Summer 2017. The final print magazine Soccer America published featured a preview of the 2017 Gold Cup. On the cover was Jordan Morris, who scored the winning goal for the USA in the final.


April, 2021. As Soccer America enters its 51st year of covering the Beautiful Game, in the post-print era it delivers coverage via its website and paid eletters: Soccer America Daily, SA Confidential, Game Report, Soccer on TV, the Youth Soccer Insider and Paul Gardner's SoccerTalk.

22 comments about "Soccer America celebrates its 50th anniversary".
  1. Santiago 1314, April 8, 2021 at 6:29 a.m.

    Enhora Buena.!!!

  2. Jill Robbins, April 8, 2021 at 7:48 a.m.

    To put it in just a few short words ... soccer changed my life and SOCCER AMERICA connected me to soccer.

  3. Richard Beal, April 8, 2021 at 8:10 a.m.

    I've been a subscriber since 1976.  I love SA.

  4. Valerie Metzler, April 8, 2021 at 8:52 a.m.

    Hearty congratulations to Soccer America.  I depend on you!

  5. frank schoon, April 8, 2021 at 9:33 a.m.

    Congratulations SOCCER AMERICA for being there to help nurture  our precious SUBCULTURE of soccer. That subculture whose sport in its early days was given no credit, NO RESPECT by those  high school ADs, by those who thought it to be a wussy sport,  by those baseball fans who thought it was boring but could watch the grass grow at a baseball game or by those American football fans who likewise thought it was boring but prefer to watch a 3hour game with a total action time of 8minutes.

    It was the result of those short soccer shorts (unlike today, unfortunately) where upon muscular legs and thighs were shown, which entertained the women. It was because of those beautiful soccer legs that the NFL and MLB decided to change their wardrobe, giving it a more sexier look with tight pants to compete with soccer.

    It was the long hair of European soccer players coming here that influenced other sports here. It was the first time when soccer came, watching great Maestros of soccer and not in other sports  that the word TECHNIQUE become part of the lexicon in discussions .

    My wish is to go back to wearing those short adidas made in the 70's, like in that picture of the 1990 World Cup with Bruce Murray, Tab Ramos, Caligiuri....BRING BACK THAT STYLE!!!! NOW!!!!!
    I don't like the length of these 'stovepipe shorts', not being able to see the legs and perhaps worry  one could tear the crotch if you raise the leg too high....I still wear the shorts that I have of the 70's and 80's and early 90's. I even had my own shorts made for I refuse to wear these long legged sartorial monstrosities.... 

    Call me old fashioned, but I do understand clothing and designing. I'll you let in on a secret, the pants made for Americans are cut wrong, it doesn't follow the waste contour of the men. The front side is higher than the backside, which suits the waste for women not men. That is why I buy my pants in Europe. And likewise, when I coach ,I employ a libero but never 2centerbacks, 2 dodos standing square with each other is not my way of playing efficient defense and Offense...

  6. Tim Schum, April 8, 2021 at 11:05 a.m.

    Congrats to all present and past SA staffers on 50 years of service to soccer.

    Just a note that Clay Berling offen credited the late coach Joe Morrone with helping sustain SA during one of the operation's darkest hours. Seems that Clay was thinking of "packing it in" when a note/phone call from the then-UConn coach told Clay he was doing a great job and providing a needed service to the game of soccer. The coincidental arrival of the "pick me up" was enough encouragement that today we are celebrating 50 years of SA's continued progress. So that next to my am reading of the NYT, SA is my (and thankfully, many others) next news stop every morning.

  7. Clive Toye, April 8, 2021 at 12:51 p.m.

    What could we have done without it?!?  What a help it was to spread the word and stop people asking the quetion we were asked in the early days..."what's soccer?"  What's soccer?  Ask Soccer America.

  8. beautiful game, April 8, 2021 at 12:53 p.m.

    Congrats, and thank you to Soccer America staff and contributors for your passion in keeping Americans et al informed. You have grown like a vintage wine estate.

  9. Grant Clark, April 8, 2021 at 12:55 p.m.

    To the entire SA team past and present - Thank you for your service to the game. So many great memories.  

  10. Harry Oei, April 8, 2021 at 1:26 p.m.

    Congratulations, SA!  Here's to another 50 years!

  11. Alvaro Bettucchi, April 8, 2021 at 1:30 p.m.

    Not mentioned, but very important in Clay Berling's life, was an event that happened during the 70's. He and I had a half hour program, at 5:30pm each Sunday, on San Francisco Channel 20. It was called "Soccer Report and it followed a two hour Italian language program.  We began with the Sunday results for Italy's Serie "A". We also had results from different teams around the world, plus interviews with Pele, Chinaglia, Jonny Moore, etc, The program was a hit for soccer fans throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Great memories and it was the first step towards the beginning of the interest in soccer.

  12. John Hooper, April 8, 2021 at 2:02 p.m.

    Happy 50th Anniversary to Soccer America! In the 15 years I worked for Soccer America, I got to work with some amazing colleagues, clients, partners and lifelong friends. It was great to be part of something really special in American Soccer.  Here is to the next 50 years of Soccer America!

  13. James Madison, April 8, 2021 at 2:25 p.m.

    Congratulations.  It is a privilege to have been a subscriber from the start and even to have had a couple of by-lines in early issues.   Great publication!! I depend on it.

  14. Daniel W Sommer, April 8, 2021 at 2:30 p.m.

    Congrats to Soccer America on 50 years of great service to its readers and the game! I've been a satisfied subscriber for much of that span. I miss the print editions but timely news is more important. Thanks for keeping us informed all these years. Best wishes for the next 50 years. 

  15. Mike Pizzo, April 8, 2021 at 3:14 p.m.

    Been with you from the beginning....the best coverage of the beautiful game

  16. Billy Logan, April 8, 2021 at 4:02 p.m.

    Appreciations and Congratulations! Taking care of business! For decades!

    (humble brag :-) several photos I took were printed in SA in the black&white '70's)

  17. Hyndman Schellas, April 8, 2021 at 4:09 p.m.

    A wonderful trip down memory lane. Thanks to Clay Berling's passion for soccer, Soccer America is still our #1 soccer source for information.

  18. Wooden Ships, April 8, 2021 at 4:37 p.m.

    Bravo!! Enchore!!

  19. David Borts, April 8, 2021 at 5:03 p.m.

    Dear Soccer America a big thanks personally and on behalf of Rhode Island's thousands of players,fans,referees and soccer parents!
    Cheers!
    The Rhode Island Soccer Association!!
    "We're small but we live and breath the game"

  20. Kevin Leahy, April 8, 2021 at 7:24 p.m.

    Found you in '79 and won't let go

  21. Kevin Sims, April 8, 2021 at 7:27 p.m.

    Thanks for feeding the soccer community for 50 years! Proud to say I have been along for the whole ride.

  22. Kerry Solomon, April 8, 2021 at 9:48 p.m.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I've read every issue of Soccer America and I been a subscriber for most of those 50 years.
    congrats.  Love your magazine.  Please continue the great work for many, many more years

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