In 1961 soccer was introduced to App State. During these times soccer was not something that was commonly played in the United States, let alone in High Country. There were only two soccer goals in all of Watauga county, and they were the ones on campus.
Even still, during the ‘60s, soccer was not that popular. When Vaughn Christian took over in 1971 he knew that he had a lot of work to do with his team if he wanted to make a name for the App States soccer team.
Christian reached out to his friends from his time at university, one of them being the Minister of Education from Nigeria. It was with this connection that put App State on the map. Christian would write letters constantly to players he wanted to bring to App. One was Emmanuel ‘Ike’ Udogu, he played for the Mountaineers in 1973 and 1974. During his time as a Mountaineer he became one of the top players in the country. Udogu ended up graduating from App with a degree in political science and soon becoming a professor of political science at Appalachian State.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Apps soccer program was often ranked in the NCAA top 25. They had won 10 out of 11 Southern Conference championships and had recruited Olympians to their team.
“Nov. 18, 1978 edition of the Sundown Times with the headline, ‘ASU Soccer Squar Eyes NCAA Title’, above an image of 3,500 fans on their feet at Kidd Brewer Stadium.”
Thompson Usiyan, was a Nigerian striker who still holds several NCAA records that remain unbroken. Usiyan is considered one of the greatest collegiate soccer players to ever play. Everyone in Boone, and many from outside of the county, were talking about his skill at the beautiful game. The App States program made massive headlines with Sports Illustrated, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.
“In 1975 the roster included 5 first team All-Conference selections : David Mor (an Olympian from Israel), Frank Kemo, Ronnie Groce, Mike Shepherd and Larry Panford.”
During these times the soccer team practiced and played in Kidd Brewer, sharing it with the football team. The football team at App was still good and well known and liked, but soccer was new so people gravitated towards it.
Yet, over the years, the popularity of Apps soccer team died out. In 2005 the soccer teams were asked to move to a different stadium, reserving Kidd Brewer for football, after the team had just won their third consecutive national championship. The soccer team was given the State Farm Fields, which did not have locker rooms and only seated 360 people in the bleachers.
“It’s obvious football and basketball are the priorities, and that is understandable. They help bring in the money and get publicity…”
The soccer team was asked to move again in 2008 to a new field, one made for soccer. This time they were given locker rooms – for both the mens and women’s teams- and it could hold up to 1,000 fans.
Today, when people think of App State sports, they do think of football or basketball. As of today, we no longer have a soccer team, due to it being terminated during COVID times. But there once was a time when App State was known mainly for soccer. Where we were a national powerhouse when it came to soccer.