While the sport in America has been around for a long time, there has been periods of time where the sport was not around.
In 1993 a future institution in America was born, the Richmond Kickers.
They are still around to this day and giving fans in the city a lot of great times. In fact, there are a couple links to England in the history of this great club.
When they started out in the early days, the sport went through many different leagues before they could settle on what they have now. The Kickers started out their time in the United States Interregional Soccer League (USISL), which was the old third division. They would stay in the league, not moving up or down until 1998 – there is no promotion and relegation in the States, and don’t Google that debate!. In those years they only finished lower than fourth in their second year when they finished ninth.
They really came of age in 1995. The year before they had a bad year so the club self-relegated themselves to the fourth division in the USISL Premier League. This is when they truly found some form and raced to a 15-3 record for the year. That got them into the playoffs where they beat the now defunct Cocoa Expos for the league title. This was also the same year they won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Their ride through the Open Cup saw them score twelve goals, and only letting in six. In the final which took place in El Paso, Texas on August 27 the Kickers beat the El Paso Patriots 4-2 on penalties after finishing level at 1-1. Kickers legend Robert Ukrop scored the goal, and was assisted by Englishman Leigh Cowlishaw, their future manager.
The next year they moved themselves back up to the third division and reached the championship of that level too. Unfortunately, unlike the previous year they ended up losing to the California Jaguars. Over the next nine years, the Kickers played in the second division. They earned the Commissioners Cup in 1998 and 2001, and two conference titles. They would however miss the league championship. The only time they came close in this era was when they played the Seattle Sounders in 2005, which they lost.
The club is a perennial US Open Cup competitor, most of the time they are taking out clubs in Major League Soccer (MLS). In 2007 they beat Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 in the third round. In 2008 they knocked out holders New England Revolution 3-0. Then again in 2011, they had a famous run, beating Columbus Crew, and Sporting Kansas City, before losing to the Chicago Fire.
The club has had an agreement since 2013 with MLS side DC United to be its United Soccer League (USL) Pro Affiliate. In most American sports, instead of developing the young players in house, players are farmed out to lower league players. DC United and Richmond have always had great young players come up through their ranks. This is a great way for young talent to get through to the next team. If you look at the DC United roster, there are many players who have been at Richmond. However, this is the last season of the agreement as DC has their own club coming into the USL next year.
As I said in the beginning, there are several connections to England in the club’s history. The manager of the double in 1995 was former Manchester United striker Dennis Viollet. Colin Clarke also managed Richmond and played up and down the English league system. Finally, their longest serving manager was Leigh Cowlishaw who grew up in Burton.
The Kickers played Palace on their tour of the US in 2014, they stopped in Richmond and beat the Kickers 3-0 courtesy of goals from Peter Ramage, Glenn Murray and Marouane Chamakh.