The Pacheco Clásico: Fresno vs. San Francisco

Photo Credit: Stephen Mayu

One of the coolest rivalry cups in all of American soccer took place this past weekend at Negoesco Stadium in San Francisco. This was the second installment of the Pacheco Clásico, pitting teams from both the PDL and the WPSL from Fresno and San Francisco against each other to see in which city both men and women rank supreme. The Cup includes the results of all SF City FC vs. Fresno Fuego PDL matches and all of the SF NightHawks vs. Fresno Freeze WPSL Games. The two match-ups played out back-to-back on Sunday June 4th with the Freeze topping the Nighthawks before SF City returned the favor beating the Fuego.

The concept for the Cup was a collaboration between all four clubs that came to fruition last season when SF City joined the PDL. A few different names were in the mix before they settled on the Pacheco Clásico. The name comes from the Pacheco pass in California on State Route 152. The highway runs from the Santa Clara Valley to California’s Central Valley and is one of the many routes between the cities of San Francisco and Fresno. Fresno won the inaugural edition of the Cup in 2016 by wining two of the four matches and drawing one.

All four clubs each have their own interesting and diverse history. The SF Nighthawks have been around since 1995 and are one of the founding members of the women’s 2nd division league, the WPSL. This makes them the oldest of the four teams involved in this Cup. The Fresno Fuego were founded in 2003 and have been one of the top drawing clubs in the entire PDL. They are also the defending Central Pacific Conference champions. (They are now in the Southwest Conference as the conferences were realigned for this season.) SF City has been making waves since becoming  supporter-owned in 2014, though they have history dating back to 2001. They previously played in the SFSFL and the NorCal Premier League and joined the PDL in 2016. The Freeze are the youngest club of the four, founded in 2014. They are closely aligned with the Fuego as they play many home games in the same stadium. As well, their name is the opposite of their PDL counterpart.

Photo Credit: @theprojectfc

This match-up also features two of the best supporters groups in the PDL: the Fresno Fire Squad and SF City’s Northsiders. The Fire Squad was founded in 2014 when many of the City’s different soccer supporters groups from the American Outlaws to the Premier League got together to form a group to back the Fuego. The Northsiders were developed out of the Club’s supporter-owners model, and officially came together ahead of their US Open Cup match against Cal FC in 2015.

While both supporters groups are passionate about supporting their own clubs, they’ve created a friendly bond over the last few seasons. The two groups hang out pre-gaming and singing together. That bond began when one of the SF City Northsider’s founders, Pete Bogdis, was at a Fresno Fuego away game in Burlingame against the Dragons. He was amazed to see an away supporters group In the PDL, and he felt he had to meet the group. He met Andrew Ueland, one of the Fire Squad’s leaders among other members at that match, before SF City had even joined the PDL. In 2016, when SF City joined the PDL, the friendly rivalry was truly born.

Photo Credit: @theprojectfc

Last season, the Fuego traveled to the Bay Area for a double header against both Burlingame and SF City, while SF City had a home double header that weekend against Las Vegas and Fresno. At the Friday game, the Northsiders joined the Fire Squad section in Burlingame to cheer against the Dragons, while at the Saturday game that weekend, the Fire Squad joined the Northsiders’ section in San Francisco to cheer against the Las Vegas Mobsters. Then, finally on Sunday, they went against each other in what was the end of a long weekend for both groups. Fresno clinched the Inaugural Pacheco Clásico Cup that day.

The two groups greeted each other in the Negoesco parking lot on Sunday by singing at each other. The Northsiders sang, “We’re the Northside, we’re the Northside,” while the Fire Squad responded with “We’re the Fire Squad, we’re the Fire Squad.” They then more officially greeted one another, and began to hang and tailgate until they once again sang together against the unfriendly rival of both clubs, the Burlingame Dragons. Together they sang, “We hate Dragons and we hate Dragons.” Following this, they marched into Negoesco separately, and cheered on their teams from opposite corners of the stadium in what had to be one of the best home and away supporters groups together at a single match in the entire PDL.

The Freeze topped the Nighthawks by a score of 1-0 in the opening match on Sunday. This forced a must win situation for SF City in the second game of the day to extend the Cup to the final leg, as there is no return leg between the two WPSL clubs. SF City was able to take a 2-0 lead early and hang on for a 2-1 victory to force the Pacheco Clásico into its 3rd and final leg. The final game will take place at Chukchansi Park in Fresno on July 1st between the PDL clubs, with the winner taking home the trophy.


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