Every time the United States Men’s National Team plays to a capacity crowd on home soil you can thank Richard Groff. When the Bucks County native was president of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer in the late 1980’s he took in a national team game in St. Louis with 5,000 spectators. He turned to Sunil Gulati, now president of U.S. Soccer, and said, “We can do better than this.”
“Can you get me a game in Philadelphia? It was as simple as that,” Groff recalled Saturday at the Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup Finals in Downingtown. “They agreed to let us have a game in Philadelphia, and that game in 1989 was spectacular. We drew 40,000 people. It was different. We made a change.”
Groff’s contributions to soccer raised the level of the sport at both the state and national level. He was elected treasurer of U.S. Soccer in 1990 and later served on the Board of Directors. Throughout his career, he worked to drive the popularity of a sport he felt deserved a better.
“It all started when I ran for vice President of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer,” said Groff, who played soccer at Pennridge High School and Lafayette University, “and my whole belief was it was a great sport that could be better and make it more important.”
He certainly accomplished that. On Saturday, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer awarded the Richard Groff Cup for the first time. The cup, part of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer’s perpetual trophies which also include the Frank Olszewski Cup (U17 Boys), Charlotte Moran Cup (U17 Girls), Werner Fricker Cup (U16 Boys) and Robert Urban Cup (U16 Girls), goes to the champion of the Under-15 Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup champion. Ukrainian Nationals defeated Penn Fusion Elite, 5-4 in penalties to lift the inaugural trophy. The two teams were tied at one after extra time.
Groff, a 2014 recipient of the Werner Fricker Builder Award--U.S. Soccer's highest honor-- was on hand to present the cup named in his honor to the winning captains.
“It’s just an honor to be chosen to do this,” said Groff. “I knew all four other people (Charlotte Moran, Frank Olszewski, Robert Urban and Werner Fricker) personally. And to be in that group with them is fantastic.”
Groff’s credentials were read off prior to the Ukrainians accepting the championship trophy. He posed for a few pictures as well. Ukrainian Nationals coach Shane Rineer relished the opportunity to have his young team learn an important history lesson.
“Whenever you can honor people of the past and bring them back for these guys to know and understand the tradition of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer,” said Rineer, “and knowing that these guys weren’t even born when (Richard Groff) was (president) of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, is great for them.”