An Indoor Session: SASH at the 2020 USC Convention

The Society for American Soccer History held its annual open meeting at the United Soccer Coaches Convention last month in Baltimore, Maryland, and a record gathering of over 40 people enjoyed an array of presentations, all but two focused on indoor soccer.

The proceedings began with author and Society member Beau Dure discussing his new book Why the U.S. Men Will Never Win the World Cup: A Historical and Cultural Reality Check (Rowman & Littlefield, November 2019). The provocative title notwithstanding, Dure took the audience through a series of slides on his argument and evidence.

The idea of the theme of indoor soccer came from two Society directors—David Kilpatrick and Steve Holroyd—and the Charm City was a fitting host as indoor soccer has figured prominently in the local soccer landscape. The Baltimore Blast still play in the area, having just moved from the downtown arena to play this season on the campus of nearby Towson University.

Indoor soccer was the draw to the SASH meeting, but the proceedings got underway with a brief welcome and introduction by Tom McCabe, the Society’s president. Kilpatrick then took to the podium to discuss the forthcoming slate of speakers before guiding Arnie Ramirez through a wonderful “This Is Your Soccer Life” presentation. The long-time coach at Long Island University had to talk about his soccer life in ten slides, which ranged from his own youth, playing in the U.S. Army, work with Pele, college coaching, and the Puerto Rican National Team.

Soccer legend Dr. Joe Machnik took the floor next to reflect on his memories of the Major Indoor Soccer League, where he served as the director of refereeing. Machnik brought up Esme Baharmast, a World Cup official and recipient of the Werner Fricker Award, and John Kowalski, a legendary MISL coach, to also share their memories of the indoor league, which lasted from 1978 to 1992. The trio agreed that it was the league that kept soccer alive in the U.S.A. after the shuttering of the North American Soccer League in 1985.

Steve Holroyd, a labor lawyer and expert on Philadelphia soccer history, took to the podium next to discuss the City of Brotherly Love’s slow embrace of soccer played under a roof. Philadelphia figured prominently in the history of indoor soccer, however, hosting the exhibition that is largely credited for being the “big bang” for the sport as we know it today. Holroyd then took us through the winding history of the game in the city.

Tom McCabe, a professor at Rutgers-Newark, then gave a brief talk on a forgotten episode in soccer history, the first indoor games between a group of Canadians and members of a thread company team in Newark, New Jersey in early December 1885.

David Kilpatrick, the director of the Sport Management program at New York’s Mercy College, rounded out the day’s presentations with a reflection on the integral role that the indoor game has played in New York City’s soccer history. One can not do soccer history in the Big Apple, argued Kilpatrick, without considering indoor soccer, from its beginnings in 1885 through to the present day.

The record crowd milled around for twenty minutes after the final talk to swap memories of the indoor game. The Society is pleased to share these talks via its new YouTube page so make sure to subscribe to keep up-to-date on our new content.

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