The Heritage Cup is contested by teams who celebrate the history of North American soccer by taking their names from the franchises their cities held in the North American Soccer league (NASL). The NASL was the first premier soccer league of both the United States and Canada. The NASL operated from 1968 to 1984, had 24 teams at the height of the league, and boasted such greats as Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, and many more. Currently, the only two teams competing for the Heritage Cup are the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC, whose namesakes competed in the NASL from 1974 to 1983. Eligible to join the competition in future seasons are Portland and Vancouver.
San Jose Earthquakes
The name “San Jose Earthquakes” has played an unusually prominent role in soccer in Northern California, and so it is only fitting that it was chosen through a newspaper contest in the San Jose Mercury News. The San Jose Earthquakes competed in the NASL between 1974 and 1984 (after 1983 as the Golden Bay Earthquakes). After the NASL folded in 1984, the Earthquakes competed in the Western Soccer League (WSL) until 1988. After an ownership change, the team was renamed the San Francisco Black Hawks, then, briefly, the San Francisco Hawks in 1993, after which the franchise folded.
San Jose entered Major League Soccer in 1996 as the San Jose Clash. Grassroots efforts convinced the ownership to change the name of the franchise to the San Jose Earthquakes in 2000, after which the team achieved its greatest successes. The San Jose Earthquakes won the MLS Cup in 2001 and 2003, and the Supporters’ Shield in 2005. Directly after achieving the best season record in MLS, the ownership opted to move the franchise to Houston.
The name “San Jose Earthquakes” proved crucial in Soccer Silicon Valley’s success in convincing the league to keep the legacy of the team in San Jose. Though the team was moved, the trophies and records remained with the city. When a new ownership group emerged, they saw the value of the San Jose Earthquakes brand, and chose to continue the tradition. The expansion San Jose Earthquakes re-entered the MLS as the fourteenth team in 2008.
Seattle Sounders FC
The MLS franchise derives its name from the Seattle Sounders, who competed in the NASL from 1974 to 1983. The Seattle Sounders won the National Conference Championship in 1977, the Western Division Championship in 1980 and 1982, and the Europac Cup in 1982. The franchise folded one year before the league in 1983.
The second incarnation of the Seattle Sounders came in 1994 in the USL-1 (formerly the A-League). In the USL-1 the Seattle Sounders were one of the most decorated franchises. They won the League Cup four times (1995, 1996, 2005 & 2007), the Commissioner’s Cup three times (1994, 2002 & 2003), the Western Conference championship in 2004, and the Cascadia Cup twice (2006 & 2007). Already a successful franchise, the ownership decided to move to Major League Soccer, where the expansion Seattle Sounders FC became the league’s fifteenth team in 2009. During the expansion process, fans were allowed to vote on the team’s name, and the fans chose to keep the tradition of Seattle soccer intact by selecting Seattle Sounders Football Club.
The trophy for the Heritage Cup was designed by Earthquakes fan Rob Stevenson. It was cast in bronze and produced at Barnett Awards in El Dorado, CA.
This year, the cup will be contested at the San Jose home game on April 8, 2017, and the Seattle home game on July 23, 2017. The trophy will be awarded after the September 10th game by Soccer Silicon Valley and the Sounders supporters.