In 1930 the Fall River Marksmen ventured overseas to Central Europe and challenged top teams from Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Hungary. While Bethlehem Steel toured Scandinavia in 1919, and a St. Louis team followed in 1920, it was more common during this era for great European clubs, and even South American clubs, to venture to the United States. During those visits by international teams, the Marksmen held their own with hard-fought wins and draws. Results include a 2-2 draw with Dick, Kerr Ladies on October 15, 1922, a 3-2 win over Sparta Prague on September 19, 1926, a 1-1 draw with the Uruguay National team on April 10, 1927, a 4-2 win over Palestra Italia on August 26, 1928, a 3-0 win over Kilmarnock on June 15, 1930, and a 5-2 win over Velez Sarsfield on February 22, 1931. The Marksmen played Glasgow Rangers three times, drawing 0-0 on June 3, 1928, losing 3-2 on May 30, 1930, then losing again 6-1 on June 22, 1930.
Despite the tough results against Rangers, the 1930 season was one of Fall River Marksmen dominance, with the team winning the coveted treble: the American Soccer League championship, the National Challenge Cup, and Lewis Cup. Team owner Sam Mark backed the organization of the Central European tour to take advantage of the attention the Marksmen received internationally with their achievement. The Marksmen’s departure to Europe overlapped with the return of the US team from the first World Cup, which meant the Marksmen were left without two key players, Billy Gonsalves and Bert Patenaude, who were with the US national team. Patenaude would enter his name in the history books by scoring the first-ever hat trick at a World Cup in the US team’s 3-0 win over Paraguay on July 17, 1930. Luckily, the Marksmen had a guest player for their European trip. Joining them was Archie Stark, who some argued should have joined Gonsalves and Patenaude in Uruguay. Stark had declined to join the US team because he had started an automotive business in Kearny, NJ, but was persuaded to join the Marksmen tour after being offered lucrative remuneration by the Marksmen management.
Mark tried his best to get Gonsalves and Patenaude to join the Central European tour, sending the national team a telegram on August 5 demanding that the duo sail for Budapest from Rio de Janeiro. But national team manager W.R. Cummings refused because of the “crippled condition” of the US squad following the July 26 semifinal against Argentina. Gonsalves, who was of Portuguese descent, also wanted to visit family in Brazil. Additionally, Gonsalves and Patenaude were needed for friendlies in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro after the World Cup. In his official report on the US team’s time in South America, Cummings made clear the importance of Gonsalves and Patenaude, writing, “I don’t know what we would have done without these two boys who played in every game on the trip.”
The rest of the Marksmen stars like Alex McNab, Bill Harper, Werner Nilsen, Bill McPherson, and James “Tec” White were primed for the European tour. The team was originally scheduled to depart from Boston on August 8 1930 on the S.S. Majestic and were not expected back until October 5. But once the tour was underway, disputes with local organizers began to arise. Traveling by train during the tour, conditions were sometimes difficult with accommodations not as promised. Disputes over the sharing of gate receipts also quickly became a problem. With the team’s energy and finances quickly declining, Mark ended the tour after only six games on September 4 before a scheduled series of matches in Rome were played. Acrimony followed, with Mark threatening Hungarian side Ferencváros with a lawsuit for not following through on the terms agreed for the tour, and Ferencváros threatening a countersuit against the Marksmen for selecting a “reserve side” and not bringing all their “star players,” as well as for the forfeited matches.
The Marksmen faced stiff competition during the matches they played in Europe — players and management alike reported after the tour that spectators at many of the games were hostile — but they did make a statement with some of their results and the team returned home with a record of two wins, three losses, and one draw. For the tour, the team wore a special kit featuring a crest similar to the one on the US national team jersey, but with wings attached to the crest.
The tour opened in Prague in front of 18,000 spectators with a 2-2 draw against Czechoslovakian side Slavia Prague on August 20, 1930. McNabb and Stark were the goal scorers. Two games followed in Vienna against SK Austria Vien. On August 23, the team lost 6-0 in front of 10,000 spectators. The next day, 6,000 were on hand to see the Marksmen win 3-1, with Stark scoring a brace and White also tallying a goal. Back in Prague on August 28, the team fell 4-0 to Slavia Prague in front of 8,000 spectators. Two days later in Bratislava, the Fall River team won 3-1 against a joint Slovan Bratislava/Rapid Trnava team; Stark, White, and McKenna were the goal scorers. In Budapest in their final match on August 31, the Marksmen lost 6-2 to Ferencváros, McNab, and Best scoring in the defeat. Footage from that match is above.
The Marksmen left Havre, France on September 5, 1930, on the SS Calgaric as third-class passengers due to the lack of funds gained in Europe. The team arrived in Montreal on September 12 and sailed back to Fall River, returning to league play on October 5, 1930.
“Marksmen to Tour Europe,” The Boston Globe, August 1, 1930. 17
“Soccer Delegates to Meet Tonight,” The Boston Globe, August 12, 1930. 12.
“Former Boston Stars Going with Marksmen,” The Boston Globe, August 6, 1930. 18.
“Marksmen Get Ready To Sail,” The Boston Globe, September 4, 1930. 22.
“Tomorrow’s Soccer,” The Boston Globe, September 5, 1930. 25.
“Fall River Soccer Team Quits Overseas Tour,” The Boston Globe, September 5, 1930. 29.
“Fall River Soccer Team Tour Fizzle” The Boston Globe, September 6, 1930. 9.
Jose, Colin. The American Soccer League 1921-1931. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998.