With a smile on his face, Kris Bryant whipped a throw to Anthony Rizzo and, at about 12:45 AM Thursday morning, the Chicago Cubs were the champions of baseball. If you knew nothing else about the Cubs, you knew about their insanely long losing streak. The Northsiders went 108 years in between World Series, a distance so vast that Twitter spent the entire night pointing out all of the things invented in between.
Soccer is a sport with an even longer history than baseball, and in its long history, there are a number of teams who can commiserate with this level of suffering. Throughout the world, soccer teams have spent decades without winning any honors, even though in most leagues there are multiple titles that can be won. A league cup may be as valuable as a league title, but to some both are equally elusive.
The most famous drought in soccer is arguably famous because of a book. Fever Pitch is the autobiography of Nick Hornby and his relationship with Arsenal, specifically how his life’s pitfalls parallel the clubs. The book focuses on Arsenal’s plight to win a trophy but the drought is less than two decades. Compared to the Cubs or the other clubs below, this is a pathetic drought but, because of the book and film, is the first tale of trophyless woe many American soccer fans are exposed to.
Before Leicester City, Blackburn Rovers was the model in England of how a “smaller” club could win the league. In 1995, they won the Premier League and preceded years of dominance by a handful of teams. Yet their victory that year ended a rather dreadful drought. Blackburn Rovers has the distinction of being one of three clubs that were founders of The Football League and the Premier League. In 1928, they defeated Huddersfield Town 3-1 to win the FA Cup, and that would be their last trophy until 1995. If you look at their league title drought, the time increase to 81 years.
A sadder story is that of current First Division side Sheffield United. The Blades won their first trophy in 1897/1898 and for the first few decades of organized English soccer were a powerhouse. In 1925, they won the FA Cup and since then…. nothing. This is not to say they have spent decades out of the spotlight; Sheffield United was a Premier League club as recently as the 2006-2007 season. They were also FA Cup semi-finalists as recently as 2014 and League Cup semi-finalists in 2015. For a club with a distinguished history and some name managers and players, they have seen almost 100 years without a non-promotion trophy.
But the Chicago Cubs on England must be Rochdale AFC. Founded in 1907, the club was accepted into the Football League in 1921 but has spent essentially their entire history in the lower professional leagues, winning promotion only as runners-up in the league. Their moment in the sun came in 1962, when they became the first club from the lowest professional leagues to reach the final of a major competition. The lost the League Cup final to Norwich City.
Other countries, of course, have their own sad stories of clubs that have gone decades without a trophy. In Italy, Pro Vercelli was a powerhouse for the first three decades of the 20th century, winning seven league titles. They have not won a scudetto since 1922, however, and have only hosted the trophies of winning the fourth division of Italian soccer since. The club has seen an infusion of money in recent times however and is now entrenched in Serie B.
What are some of the clubs in your favorite leagues that could rival the Cubs in futility?