Observing Los Angeles

LA's forgotten Jewish soccer dynasty


At Vice Sports, Jonathan Zeller goes deep on the story of Maccabi Los Angeles, at one time the Jewish entrant in the largely ethnic Greater Los Angeles Soccer League. Maccabi won five National Challenge Cups between 1973 and 1981 — no team won more — and by the mid-80s was finished. The tournament where Maccabi dominated is now known as the US Open Cup, and pro teams from Major League Soccer now dominate.

From the story:

In the 1976–77 season, the semi-professional Maccabis tallied 35 wins without a loss on the way to city, state and national titles. By the mid-80s, they no longer existed. Today, decades after the team's glories, players' memories aren't always in sync. One, Moshe Hoftman, laments that a pet parrot chewed up most of his notes from those days.

European immigrants, some of whom had been in concentration camps, founded the team in the 1960s. It started to win in the late '60s and '70s, when organizers lured skilled players from Israel, Mexico, Argentina and elsewhere onto the roster. Hoftman, an aspiring engineer from Israel, came on board when fullback Eli Marmur and the team's management arranged to pay his tuition to San Fernando Valley State College (and later UCLA). Benny Binshtock joined after he started working nearby for Mattel, his uncle's toy company. The German-born Braeden, who came to America to become an actor, says he originally played on the Maccabis because "they promised us some money for each game." Soon, he says, "I began to realize that I was the token German on a Jewish team."


The Maccabi team was not exclusively Jewish; major contributors included Braeden, who scored the winning semifinal goal on the way to their first US Open Cup championship, Chon Miranda of Mexico, and Tony Douglas, a native of Trinidad and Tobago.

Quasi-related: How a bunch of Hollywood Jews saved youth baseball in South Los Angeles

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