At the Steel Army Annual General Meeting on February 20, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds announced that the 2016 Keystone Derby Cup would be sponsored by the Pennsylvania Lottery and would exclude Bethlehem Steel FC.
The meeting was held on Saturday at Highmark Stadium and featured appearances from players and members of the Riverhounds front office.
The Keystone Derby Cup was created in 2015 as a competition held between the two USL clubs in Pennsylvania, the Harrisburg City Islanders and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Cup would be awarded to the club with the best head-to-head record over the USL regular season. The Riverhounds won the inaugural Keystone Derby with a record of 3-1.
When the Philadelphia Union announced their intention to create a club in the Lehigh Valley, supporters thought that the new club would be included in the Keystone Derby Cup. In the offseason, the Harrisburg City Islanders and Pittsburgh Riverhounds told PENN97 that there had been discussions to include Bethlehem, but one source admitted that it wasn’t a high priority for either club.
Since their creation last Fall, Bethlehem Steel FC have been barred from competing in the US Open Cup and now excluded from the Keystone Derby Cup.
The omission of Bethlehem Steel FC is a big disappointment to soccer fans who wanted to see a true competition between all of the clubs in the Keystone State. Some members of the East End Army, Bethlehem’s supporters group, were stoic when they heard the news.
“[I] think Harrisburg City Islanders and Bethlehem are going to have enough hate between the two of them without Pittsburgh. We’ll see,” said Evan Villella, a Steel FC supporter. “It’ll be fun to see how it plays out.”
Others were more frank. “That’s stupid,” said Heather Reppert.
The silver lining in the announcement is that the Keystone Derby Cup would be sponsored by the Pennsylvania Lottery. A sponsorship deal of any size can provide valuable resources for independent clubs at the USL level.
The 2016 Keystone Derby Cup will be contested between the Harrisburg City Islanders and Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The club with the best head-to-head record will be awarded the cup, with goal difference serving as a tiebreaker.
2016 Keystone Derby Cup Fixtures:
April 9, 7:00pm: HCI at PGH
July 4, 7:00pm: HCI at PGH
Aug 28, 7:00pm: PGH at HCI (FNB Park)