American Soccer League (1921–33)
The American Soccer League has been a name used by four different professional soccer sports leagues in the United States. The first American Soccer League was established in 1921 by the merger of teams from the National Association Football League and the Southern New England Soccer League. For several years The ASL's popularity rivaled the popularity of the National Football League. Disputes with the United States Football Association and FIFA, and the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 led to the league's collapse in spring 1933.
The original American Soccer League, operating between 1921 and 1933, was the first significant, viable, professional soccer league in the United States. The league operated primarily in the Northeastern United States, mainly in the New York metropolitan area and Pennsylvania. The ASL was created by the merger of several teams from the National Association Football League (NAFBL) and Southern New England Soccer League in 1921. The move came from a growing disenchantment with the mismanagement of the NAFBL as well as the desire by the United States Football Association (USFA) to create a unified first division league. The ASL's first secretary was Thomas Cahill, who had founded the United States Football Association and who had been the first head coach of the U.S. national team.
By 1924, the combination of excellent pay and a high level of play drew talented overseas players, especially from Scotland and England, with 50 European internationals good enough to play for their national teams playing in the ASL. This led to a significant amount of resentment in Europe and threats of sanctions from FIFA, including the possible expulsion of the USFA. At the Sixteenth Annual Congress of FIFA on June 4, 1927, the USFA and the other national associations came to an agreement regarding player transfers which defused the situation. The ASL then ran afoul of the USFA when team owners complained that USFA's requirement that ASL teams play in the National Challenge Cup created an unnecessary financial burden. At the time the Challenge Cup ran during the ASL season forcing the ASL teams to travel long distances by train or bus to play cup games, then return to the Northeast to play league games. Therefore, the ASL boycotted the 1924 National Challenge Cup. They reentered the competition the next year after the USFA reduced its take of the gate receipts from 33.3% to 15%.
However, resentment continued to simmer between the league and governing body. Matters came to a head in 1928, when the ASL decided to again boycott the Challenge Cup. When three ASL clubs, most prominently Bethlehem Steel, defied the league and entered the cup anyway, the ASL suspended them. In response, the USFA and FIFA declared the ASL an "outlaw league". This sparked the "Soccer War". The ASL team owners defied USFA and FIFA, relying on the league's reputation to continue to draw players. At first it seemed as if the ASL might win; however, USFA then helped bankroll the creation of a new league, the Eastern Professional Soccer League (ESL), to rival the ASL. The three ex-ASL teams joined with several teams from the Southern New York Soccer Association (SNYSA) to form the ESL. This led to the SNYSA, under the leadership of Nat Agar, owner of the ASL Brooklyn Wanderers, to leave USFA and ally with the ASL. Despite the alliance between the ASL and SNYSA, the creation of a competing league caused severe financial strains on the ASL. The league finally broke and came into compliance with USFA and FIFA. In the fall of the 1929/30 season, the ESL and ASL merged to form the Atlantic Coast League which began a 1930 spring-fall season. After the summer break, the league was renamed the American Soccer League and the league finished the fall half of the 1930 season with a different name than it began the spring half.
However, the Soccer Wars had permanently crippled the ASL and it collapsed at the end of the 1933 spring season. Ironically, while USFA and FIFA "won" the wars and established their pre-eminence over the ASL, the spectacle of a U.S. athletic association conspiring with a European organization to undermine a U.S. athletic league alienated many U.S. sports fans by creating an image of soccer as a sport controlled by foreigners. These fans turned their backs on soccer, relegating the sport to the position of a minor league, ethnic-based sport for decades to come.
|Year||Winner (number of titles)||Runners-up||Top Scorer|
|1921–22||Philadelphia F.C. (1)||New York F.C.||Harold Brittan|
|1922–23||J. & P. Coats F.C. (1)||Bethlehem Steel F.C.||Daniel McNiven|
|1923–24||Fall River Marksmen (1)||Bethlehem Steel||Archie Stark|
|1924–25||Fall River Marksmen (2)||Bethlehem Steel||Archie Stark|
|1925–26||Fall River Marksmen (3)||New Bedford Whalers||Andy Stevens|
|1926–27||Bethlehem Steel (1)||Boston||Davey Brown|
|1927–28||Boston (1)||New Bedford Whalers||Andy Stevens|
|1928–29||Fall River Marksmen (4)||Brooklyn Wanderers||Werner Nilsen|
|1929||Fall River Marksmen (5)||Providence Gold Bugs||Bill Paterson|
|1930||Fall River Marksmen (6)||New Bedford Whalers||Jerry Best|
|1931||New York Giants (1)||New Bedford Whalers||Bob McIntyre|
|1932||New Bedford Whalers (1)||Hakoah All-Stars|
Complete team list
– existed before joining ASL. – continued after ASL. – existed before ASL and after ASL.
- The club was suspended on September 27, 1929 after 6 games for refusing to abide by the ASL's requirement not to take part in the National Challenge Cup.
- The club played the first game of the 1933 season before franchise change.
- The club moved mid-season after six games.
- Played first game as Hungaria F.C.. The club moved to Newark mid-season for final five games.
- Team folded after losing first five games of season.
- Abandoned franchise purchased by owner of Paterson F.C.
- Before the 1931 season, Sam Mark purchased the New York S.C. franchise. He merged the clubs and renamed the merged club the New York Yankees.
- During the break between the first and second half of the 1931 season, the club folded and the New York Yankees obtained the club's assets.
- Nat Agar owned both the Brooklyn and Hakoah clubs at the time of the merger. He merged the Brooklyn club into the All-Stars and that club entered the new league.
- Withdrew in late October after 11 games in order to even number of clubs in league due to the forfeiture of Philadelphia F.C.
- The club is renamed near the end of the season after a change in ownership.
- The club joined for the second half of the season but folded after seven games.
- The club was suspended on September 27, 1929 after 7 games for refusing to abide by the ASL's requirement not to take part in the National Challenge Cup.
- Began season as Bridgeport F.C. and moved to Newark mid-season for final five games.
- The club left the league in mid-March and joined the Eastern Soccer League. The club rejoined the ASL soon after the end of the season.
- In April, after 11 games, the club merged with Fall River F.C. and continued under the latter's name.
- The club withdrew just before the beginning of the 1932 season. At the beginning of the second half, the club formed the National Soccer League with other New York area clubs. After two games, the new league folded and the club rejoined the ASL a few weeks into the second half.
- Formally called New York S.C. in 1922/23-1923/24.
- The club was suspended on September 27, 1929 after 8 games for refusing to abide by the ASL's requirement not to take part in the National Challenge Cup.
- The club renamed itself New York S.C. before the second half.
- The club withdrew just before the beginning of the 1932 season. At the beginning of the second half, the club formed the National Soccer League with other New York area clubs. Just before that season started, Charles Stoneham sold the club to Dan Bremen of the Indiana Flooring Company. Bremen changed the name of the club back to New York Nationals. After two games, the new league folded.
- The club renamed itself New York Giants before the second half after the New York Giants became New York S.C.
- Before the 1931 season, Sam Mark, owner of the Fall River Marksmen, purchased the franchise. He merged the clubs and renamed the merged club the New York Yankees.
- During the break between the first and second half of the 1931 season, the New York Yankees obtained the club's assets of Fall River F.C. The club then moved to New Bedford.
- Also called Philadelphia Celtic in 1927/28.
- In late September 1927, after three games, the ASL took over management of the club and ordered the owner, Fred Maginnis to find a buyer within a month. On October 18, after seven more games, the ASL revoked the franchise, dissolved the club and made all its players free agents.
- After the suspension of Bethlehem, Newark and New York Giants on September 27, 1928, the ASL formed this club to bring the league up to eight teams.
- The club moved mid-season after Bridgeport had played six games.
- The club was successor to Bohemian Queens after the latter played their first game of the season.
- The club folded the first week of April 1926 after playing 29 games.
- In late December 1926, the club folded. Sam Fletcher, manager of Providence F.C., bought the franchise, including players, uniforms and all other assets.
- "The Secret History of American Soccer", Slate.com, Brian Phillips, June 9, 2010.
- U.S. Soccer History – 1921
- Jose, Colin (1998). American Soccer League, 1921–1931. The Scarecrow Press. (ISBN 0-8108-3429-4).
- U.S. Soccer History – 1929
- The Globe-Times – Bethlehem; Saturday, December 29, 1928
- The Globe-Times – Bethlehem; Saturday, January 26, 1929
- October 26, 1928 Bethlehem Globe
- SPEEDY COLLAPSE OF OUTLAW LOOP FORECAST
- The Ethnic Period: 1933–1960
- Encyclopedia of Ethnicity and Sports in the United States