“the best professional soccer team in America” – Clay Berling

In 1973 CLAY BERLING, the founder and Publisher of SOCCER AMERICA, the largest soccer publication in the USA, wrote in a letter to Wildcat’s owner and manager Paul Ingram, that the Connecticut Wildcats was “the best professional soccer team in America.” Between 1973 and 1974 Berling went on to publish more articles in Soccer America about the Wildcats than any other domestic or foreign team.

Although the Wildcats had 3 players playing on the USA National team and the Wildcats captain was also the USA National team captain, what Mr. Berling found most noteworthy about the Wildcats was that it was a team made up entirely of American citizens ( 80% born in the USA). This was an unheard of occurrence at a time when some other Pro teams had as few as 10% of their players having Americans citizenship.

A copy of Berling’s letter, along with press releases, player interviews, and significant memorabilia accompany a rich historical account of the Connecticut Wildcats in Ingram’s soon to be published book.  The book follows the Wildcats from formation to generating record-breaking attendance at Hartford’s Dillon Stadium, to the final dissolution of the American Soccer League and the tremendous influence the former Connecticut Wildcats players have had in helping form US Soccer as we know it today.

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“Hartford will become a Major League Sports City for the first time since 1876 next summer and the sport will be soccer”

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In an attempt to bring Connecticut some of “THE WORLDS BEST 1973 SOCCER TEAMS”, in 1973 the CT Wildcats played 5 Games besides their League Games. 1) Estudiantes of Argentina – THE 1973 FIFA WORLD CUP CLUB CHAMPS. 2) Hakoah Tel Aviv – ISRAEL’S 1973 NATIONAL CHAMPS and 1973 FIFA ASIAN CLUB CHAMPS. 3) Waterford of Ireland – THE 1973 NATIONAL CHAMPS OF IRELAND

4) Arminia  Bielefeld – A STRONG GERMAN PRO- SOCCER TEAM. 5) The 1973 USA Maccabiah Team that Represented the USA in the WORLD MACCABIAH GAMES in ISRAEL

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Nick Capurro, M.D. Chairman of the ASL about the CT Wildcats: “League’s Success Story Of The Year ”

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Pro Soccer Comes to Connecticut.

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Hartford Mayor kicks off the game; over 10,000 fans and a Fife and Drum Corp.

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MVP of the 1974 SUPER-BOWL. Why is he showing how to kick a ball in front of the Wildcats Office on Constitution Plaza? It will be in the Wildcats book.

Wildcats had a state of the Arts office on 100 Constitution Plaza. On a clear day we could see Springfield, Massachusetts from our office Window.

Soccertes, macot of the Wildcats, almost thought he was seeing double when Garo Yepremian, star soccer-style place kicker of the world champion Miami Dolphins, was standing next to Wildcat’s Vice President Bill Kiritsis.

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Pepe Pinton GM of the N.Y. Cosmos and Paul Ingram of the Wildcats; a PRO-Soccer team in New Hampshire?

After the CT Wildcats successful 1973 season, Pepe Pinton GM of the NY Cosmos and owner of “Granite All State Soccer School” as well as a Restaurant chain, and Paul Ingram of the Wildcats, contemplated  starting together a Pro soccer team in New Hampshire. Picture is of Pinton in front of one of the final stadiums in considerations;  however, they could not find an appropriate location and too much funding would have been required to invest in stadium up grades.  More in the Wildcats book.

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Hubert Vogelsinger, Ben Brewster and Paul Ingram. The beginning of the end of the Wildcats?

Lamar Hunt said about the Wildcats to Paul Ingram: “I believe you to be the youngest self made owner of a Professional Team, of all sports, in the US.”                                   Being young with less business experience might NOT have been a good thing. Perhaps it caused the beginning of the downfall of the Wildcats.

When Wildcats Super Star Ben Brewster and Hubert Vogelsinger, the new Boston NASL coach (a long time acquaintance of Ingram), came to talk with Paul Ingram about a possible move by Ben from the Wildcats to Boston, Ingram felt a dilemma. In his heart he wanted the best for Brewster, even if it meant for him to go to Boston.  Ingram admitted later, “ The decision to let Brewster go to Boston could very well have been my biggest mistake in running the Wildcats.” Part of the deal of the sale was a home game for the Wildcats against Boston, all proceeds to go to the Wildcats. This would be an historic first game of an ASL team against an NASL team with Brewster playing his first game for Boston against his old Wildcats; it had the potential for a sold out stadium.  Whether this decision to let Brewster go had very little, or a lot, to do with the downfall of the Wildcats will be in the Wildcats book.

In losing Superstar, All American, High scorer Brewster, there was the concern of becoming less competitive in pro-soccer.  To compensate for this loss, Ingram signed Louis Sebastian, a high scorer in Belgium’s highest level of pro-soccer, as well as Jan Klosek, a forward from the top Polish League in pro soccer.  This was a major change in Ingram’s “Core” principal belief; he founded the Wildcats as an “American team with American Players”. (More in the Wildcats book.)

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Colorful Game Posters were distributed in Hartford and surrounding towns. As soon a game was over, the next game’s poster went up.

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CT Wildcats Signs First Player.

After the CT Wildcats, Ron McEachen became the Head Coach of Middlebury College in Vermont, and then Head Soccer Coach of the University of Vermont. After that he joint the Coaching staff of the New England Revolution MLS Pro-Soccer Team. Presently he is the Head Soccer Coach of Skidmore College in N.Y.

Quotes of Ron McEachen about his Connecticut Wildcats Coach Rene Koremans:

“Rene was a very focused and driven young man. He was on a mission to bring soccer to a higher level in the United States and his passion was infectious to all of those around him. He assembled a group of mostly American players who might not have been the best technically, but players who could fit his system of play and were able to put the play of the team above all individual glory.”

“We were a very close knit team, both on and off the field. Rene worked us very hard and there were times that we thought we couldn’t go on any further, but indeed we broke through barriers and became better in more ways than just the physical aspects of the game . ”

“Rene made us all better with the demands he placed on us each and every training and match situation. We always went into matches knowing that we were well prepared and motivated to work and play our best for Rene and the Wildcats. He had our utmost respect for his preparation, focus, passion,  and ability as a player. I had the pleasure of playing with him in our midfield and he was a clever, athletic, quick and very hard working player from whom I learned much.”

“Rene  was my role model as a coach. I took copious notes  on his talks and training sessions and have used them throughout the years as a soccer coach here in the US. He really was the first person/coach from whom I learned every day about the game. He set the tone for my coaching philosophy and I’ m certain he did so similarly for others on the team.”

“Rene was a great influence on many people during his time in the states and I believe that everyone he touched was a better person for having spent time with him. I will be forever indebted for the lessons he taught me during our time together.”

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