The San Jose Earthquakes’ quest for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup continues its tour of the Bay Area with a stop at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Little might you know, the Golden Gate Park facility boasts a strong soccer heritage.
Kezar Stadium is probably best known for being the home of the San Francisco 49ers from the team’s inception in 1946 to their move to Candlestick Park in 1971. In the years after the 49ers left the neighborhood stadium, Kezar more frequently played host to endless flocks of seagulls than to banks of rabid sports fans. However, the facility did occasionally open its doors for the beautiful game.
Soon after the departure of its football tenet, Kezar Stadium welcomed the U.S. Men’s National Team. In early 1973, the Nats made their Bay Area debut when they played a friendly against Poland, but the facility didn’t prove hospitable as they suffered a disappointing 4-0 loss. The U.S. Olympic squad also played at Kezar around that time when hosting qualifying matches against Mexico in 1972 and Bermuda in 1975. As the decade came to a close in 1979, the national team again made an appearance at the stadium, but they could not overcome a seasoned Soviet Union team in a 4-1 loss.
The stadium was underutilized throughout the ‘80s, and was finally demolished in 1989 before being reconfigured to its present day state. Kezar Stadium now boasts a capacity of 10,000, and has continued to be a destination for soccer. Following the move of the original San Jose Earthquakes to Houston in 2006, professional soccer stayed in the Bay Area with the formation of the California Victory. The USL first division Victory played their inaugural season of 2007 in Kezar Stadium, but were disbanded later that year. Currently, the San Francisco Stompers of the National Premier Soccer League call Kezar home.
When the Earthquakes returned to MLS in 2008, they treated San Francisco soccer fans to a preseason match at Kezar Stadium against the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo that ended in a scoreless draw. The two sides would again meet at Kezar in the 2010 preseason, with another draw the result. In 2009, famed La Liga side and European champions FC Barcelona graced the pitch at Kezar much to the delight of local soccer supporters, even though it was only for one afternoon of training ahead of a friendly at Candlestick the next day.
Tuesday night will mark the first U.S. Open Cup match ever to be played at Kezar Stadium, and the Earthquakes are hoping to make it a memorable evening. Undefeated in their San Francisco home away from home, San Jose will want to add to the soccer lore of the old stadium, and perhaps make a little Open Cup history of their own.