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Richmond Kickers - A Brief History

3 July 2014

Ahead of Palace's American adventure this summer, has taken an in-depth look at our three opponents' history. You can take a look at our guides to Columbus Crew and Philadelphia Union, but this week we look at our final opponents – Richmond Kickers.

Founded in 1993, the Kickers have never been part of Major League Soccer, instead plying their trade at various levels of the American soccer pyramid. They began life in the United States Interregional Soccer League (USISL) which was at the time the third tier, and moved into their current stadium of City Stadium a year later. 

After a poor first season in their new home they dropped into the newly formed USISL Premier League after the league split, but under the management of former England and Manchester United striker Dennis Violett they would achieve a second-placed finish in the Eastern Conference in 1995, and went on the win the play-offs after defeating Cocoa Express in the championship game.

That would form part of their greatest ever season as they also secured their one and only US Open Cup that same year by beating El Paso Patriots on penalties to lift the prestigious trophy.

Despite playing in a higher league, the following season saw them once again reach the play-offs after a second-place conference finish but they would lose in the final to the California Jaguars, but another league reshuffle in 1997, the Kickers found themselves playing in the second tier in the USL A-League – the league below the MLS. 

They spent the next nine years at that level, winning the conference in 1998 and 2001 (where they also were named regular season champions after accumulating the best record across the country) and reaching the play-off final in 2002 where they were defeated by Milwaukee Rampage. In 2000 they appointed Englishman Leigh Cowlishaw as their manager, who had played for the club in their previous seven seasons, and he remains at the helm today.

Cowlishaw guided his men to the final once again in 2005 and they got even closer to winning their maiden second tier championship but lost to Seattle Sounders on penalties in the final. That would be their final season in USL Division One as they self-relegated themselves, citing potential financial problems if they'd attempted to operate in that league.

The Kickers went on to have plenty of success in the Second Division, finishing first in the regular season in the next two seasons and clinching the championship in 2006 thanks to a 2-1 win against the Charlotte Eagles in the play-off final. They would also beat the Eagles in the final three years later but have failed to scoop the top prize since, despite always reaching at the least the semi-finals.

In 2011 they had a fairytale run to the semi-finals of the US Open Cup after beating MLS sides Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City before their giant-killing exploits ended against Chicago Fire, and last season saw them once again top the conference before a semi-final play-off exit to the Charlotte Eagles.

They currently sit in second position in the USL Pro division, comfortably occupying in a play-off place but are 11 points behind leaders Orlando City.

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