Many college programs have had dominant championship runs.

UCLA men’s basketball program won seven straight NCAA championships from 1967-73 and captured 10 titles in 12 years altogether. USC baseball won the College World Series five straight times between 1970 and 1974, and North Carolina women’s soccer reeled in 16 national championships in 18 seasons from 1982 to 1997.

But long before any of those impressive accomplishments, there was Saint Louis University men’s soccer, winners of 10 national championships between 1959 and 1974, and owners of three runner-up finishes. The Billikens finished either first or second 13 times in 16 years, and that’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Saint Louis University Men’s Soccer Era of 1959-1974 with the Class of 2023.

Talk about dominant.

“Those teams really set the tone in college soccer all across the country,” current St. Louis Director of Athletics Chris May said. “The competitiveness and the level by which they played set the tone for college soccer and where it is today.”

The numbers during those 16 seasons are simply mind-blowing:

  • 10 national championships (1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973)
  • 3 runner-up finishes (1961, 1971, 1974)
  • 27 All-Americans
  • 5 Hermann Award winners
  • 2 perfect seasons (1965, 1969)
  • A record of 205-22-11, a .905 winning percentage

It all started in 1959, when head coach Bob Guelker, who started the program the year before with a $200 budget, led the Billikens to an 11-1-0 record and a 5-2 victory over Bridgeport in the NCAA championship match. Guelker remained in charge at St. Louis through the 1966 season. Guelker went on to become the athletic director and head coach at nearby SIU-Edwardsville, where he won two more national championships before his death in 1986.

Harry Keough took over for Guelker prior to the 1967 season kept the program moving forward. Keough guided the Billikens to a co-championship in ’67, playing to a scoreless draw with Michigan State. After the Billikens bowed out of the NCAA tournament in the second round of his sophomore campaign, Keough won his first outright national championship in 1969, completing a perfect 13-0-0 season with a 4-0 drubbing of San Francisco in the title game.

Keough and the Billikens capped their championship spree with three consecutive title game shutouts against UCLA (1970, 1972, 1973).

Keough remained as SLU head coach until his retirement in 1982. He later served as an assistant coach for Washington University’s women’s program.

“The success that those teams have had, and their continued support of the program leaves a lasting legacy on our team and the program,” current SLU men’s soccer head coach Kevin Kalish said. “From our perspective we can’t thank them enough. What those teams achieved is unique. It’s one of the most remarkable achievements in all of college athletics. That legacy continues to live on to this day.”

Several players from the era went on to have impressive post-collegiate soccer careers. Players like Al Trost, Pat McBride, Carl Gentile, and Joe Clarke went on to have lengthy stints in the North American Soccer League. Each also spent time playing with the U.S. national team.

Former Billiken Pat Leahy found his way professionally as kicker for the NFL’s New York Jets from 1974 to 1992, finishing his career as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. And Mike Shanahan (MSHOF Class of 1997), who played on the national championship teams in 1959 and 1960, later went on to become part owner of the St. Louis Blues, helping rescue them from possible relocation in 1986.

Keough (1992), Leahy (2007), McBride (1996), and Trost (2009) are all enshrined in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. Keough, McBride and Trost are also members of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

St. Louis U is still a soccer powerhouse, some 50 years after their last national championship. The Billikens are the NCAA’s all-time leader in national titles and have made a record 50 NCAA Tournament appearances. Only Indiana (42) has reached the Round of 16 more regularly than the Billikens (36).

“We couldn’t be prouder of this era,” May said. “This era means a lot to St. Louis U and we’re so thankful to have the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame honoring our former student-athletes.”