Overview: The American Soccer League, 1921-1934

This article will provide a summary of the structure of the initial seasons of the original American Soccer League. While the impetus for the piece is to provide more clarity on the general lack of information about the early 1930s, earlier seasons will also be covered to provide a complete overview and context.

The ASL began implementing the traditional fall to spring football schedule used worldwide with the league championship going to the winner of the regular season based on points — two points for a win and 1 point for a draw. It is also important to note that, while schedules would be drawn up at the beginning of the season, it was the norm at the time that not all teams would necessarily complete their scheduled number of games, especially if those games had no bearing on the standings.

1921-22 season

The inaugural 1921-22 season began in mid-September and included a roster of eight clubs: Falco AA FC of Holyoke, Mass.; Fall River United AA FC of Fall River, Mass.; Harrison SC of Harrison, NJ; J. & P. Coats AA FC of Pawtucket, RI; Celtic FC of Jersey City, NJ; New York, FC; Philadelphia FC; and Todd Shipyards FC of Brooklyn, NY. The organizers scheduled a 28-game season with each team playing each other four times — two home and two away games. Celtic FC withdrew in early December after only playing five matches and those games were removed from the standings. This meant the schedule became a 24-game season for the remaining clubs. League play ended in early May of 1922, and ,with 38 points, Philadelphia took the inaugural championship over second-place New York FC which ended with 33 points.

Philadelphia FC. Brooklyn Standard Union, October 23, 1921.
1922-23 season

Only three clubs returned from the prior season: J. & P. Coats; Harrison; and the, slightly renamed, New York SC Five teams were admitted to replace the five that had left: Bethlehem Steel FC of Bethlehem, Pa.; Brooklyn Wanderers FC; Fall River FC; Philadelphia SFC.; and Paterson FC of Paterson, NJ. The league again scheduled a 28-game season which began in early October and ran to the first Sunday of June. Brooklyn Wanderers, which had been playing in the New Jersey State League, was a late addition joining the ASL a month into the season. J. & P. Coats won the 1922-23 season by two points over second-place Bethlehem Steel.

Fall River Evening News, September 11, 1922.
1923-24 season

All eight clubs returned for the 1923-24 season, although there were two important ownership changes. The Paterson franchise was sold and moved to New York as the renamed National Giants FC. Also, the Harrison SC franchise was sold and moved to become the Newark SC. Fall River, often nicknamed the Marksmen, took their first ASL championship by four points over second-place Bethlehem Steel.

Boston Globe, May 3, 1922.
1924-25 season

New York SC dropped out a month before the 1924-25 season opened and was replaced by another New York team, Indiana Flooring Company FC The National Giants seized upon this opportunity and, just as the season started, renamed themselves the New York Giants FC. The league also expanded to 12 teams by admitting Boston SFC., Fleisher Yarn FC of Philadelphia, New Bedford FC, and Providence SFC. The league kept the schedule of each club playing four times against the others which meant a 44-game schedule for each team.

The time necessary to play all these matches added one additional wrinkle in the season. The US Football Association denied a request by the ASL to free up match days by allowing their clubs opening round byes in the National Challenge Cup (now called the US Open Cup). This denial led the ASL clubs to withdraw from the NCC along with the St. Louis Professional League. Those two leagues agreed to engage in a professional soccer championship between their respective championships. But because the schedules of the two leagues did not line up, the ASL formed a league cup to determine which of its clubs would face the winner of the St. Louis league. The inaugural American Soccer League Challenge Competition Cup was won by Boston over Fall River in late March. H. Edgar Lewis, a vice president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and leader of the football club, donated a trophy for the cup competition. Over time the cup competition would take on the name of the Lewis Cup itself. In April, Boston beat Ben Millers of St. Louis in a three-game series to take the national professional championship along with the nickname of the Wonder Workers. Fall River again took the regular season ASL championship over second-place Bethlehem Steel.

1925-26 season

Prior to the 1925-26 ASL season, Fleisher Yarn merged with the Philadelphia franchise under the Philadelphia FC name. Shawsheen SC of Andover, Mass. acquired the franchise vacated due to the merger and joined as the league’s twelfth member. Having received an exemption from the qualifying stages of the NCC, the ASL returned to that competition. While the ASL Cup continued as an annual competition, the national professional championship did not. In addition, due to possible issues created by teams not completing their schedules, the league began officially crowning its champion based on winning percentage rather than cumulative points. Unless the percentage difference is otherwise meaningful, this article will talk about point differences between clubs when highlighting their different positions because it is relatively easier to understand.

Shawsheen folded in early April and the 13 games remaining on its schedule were counted as forfeit wins for the other clubs scheduled to play them. Philadelphia also had trouble finishing its schedule and had to forfeit a handful of games at the end of the season. New Bedford beat the New York Giants in the two-leg ASL Cup final while Fall River easily took its third straight championship by 11 points over second-place New Bedford.

1926-27 season

For the 1926-27 season the ASL received permission from the USFA for a number of rule changes. These include the ability to sub in two players prior to the last 15 minutes of the game and, similar to the National Hockey League, allowed referees to put off any player for breach of rules for a given period. The Springfield SC of Springfield, Mass. was admitted to replace Shawsheen SC. But, similarly to the latter club, Springfield dropped out of the ASL at the end of December. The remaining 17 games on Springfield’s schedule were declared forfeit wins for the clubs scheduled to play them. Bethlehem Steel ended the season as champions on a nine point margin over second-place Boston. But the latter club won their second ASL Cup easily beating the Brooklyn Wanderers in the two-leg final.

The Morning Call (Allentown), November 20, 1926.
1927-28 season

Hartford SC was brought in to replace Springfield SC for the 1927-28 season. Also in the offseason, Indiana Flooring was bought by Charles Stoneham, owner of the New York Giants baseball club. But, because the Giants name was already taken in the league, Stoneham decided to rename his soccer club the New York Nationals. The major change for the ASL that year was to split the season into two halves with the top two teams from each half meeting in a round-robin tournament to determine the league champions. Each half would involve a 30-game schedule.

Less than two weeks into the season, the league took over the Philadelphia FC franchise, nicknamed the Celtics because of the large contingent of Irish players on the roster, due to that club’s financial troubles and gave the owner a deadline to find new ownership. The deadline passed and the franchise was revoked in mid-October after only playing 10 games. In order to even out the schedule, the league also came to an agreement with the struggling Hartford club to drop out after only 11 games. The matches for those two clubs were kept in the standings and the schedule revised.

Boston won the first half of the 1927-28 schedule but second place ended in a tie between Bethlehem Steel and New Bedford. The league ordered a playoff for second place. The match took place four weeks into the second half and was won by New Bedford. The time necessary to complete the second half meant a slightly smaller 27-game schedule but Newark SC was only able to complete 17 games partially due to numerous postponements and trouble finding grounds to play. Ultimately New Bedford won the second half with Fall River FC taking second place. Because New Bedford had already qualified for the playoffs in the first half, the third-place New York Nationals made the cut.

Daily News (New York), January 2, 1927.

While the initial rules would have meant that New Bedford, Fall River, Boston and New York Nationals would make the year-end playoffs, another rule was passed that the team which had the best average for both halves would be the one in the playoff. Bethlehem was found to have the best average rather than the Nationals but the league decided not to throw out the Nationals so the playoffs ended up including all five clubs.

Bethlehem Steel and the Nationals met in a two-leg first round for a spot in the semifinals. Bethlehem advanced 6-1 on aggregate to face Boston in one semifinal match with Fall River and New Bedford playing in the other. New Bedford advanced to the final 3-2 on aggregate but the other semifinal was much more problematic.

Boston won the first match 3-1 while Bethlehem Steel won the second 4-0 and should have advanced 5-3 on aggregate goals. But, the ASL declared the second leg void because Bethlehem used a Brooklyn Wanderers player, Steve Smith, in goal. As such, the first leg was ruled to be the deciding game and Boston advanced. On June 16, 1928, Boston beat New Bedford 4-2 in the final and took possession of the new D.W. von Bremen Cup, emblematic of the ASL championship. Bethlehem Steel had beaten Boston earlier in April in a two-leg final for the ASL Cup.

1928-29 season

The league kept the split schedule for the 1928-29 season but moved the ASL Cup to December from the spring as it had previously been played. The 10 clubs that had finished the previous season continued to the next. In mid-September, a couple of weeks into the first half season, the league decided, on an 8-2 vote, not to take part in that year’s National Challenge Cup. Three clubs, Bethlehem Steel, New York Giants, and Newark, decided to defy that ruling and entered the NCC competition. A couple of weeks later the league fined each of those clubs $1,000 and suspended their franchise privileges until they withdrew from the NCC. Days later, the USFA ruled that the ASL must rescind the action against their member clubs or face consequences.

At the end of September, a new professional soccer league was formed around the core of the three suspended ASL clubs and, a few days later, the USFA announced a blanket suspension of the ASL and all seven of its remaining clubs from sanctioned soccer in the country. The ASL ignored the suspension and continued to play as an outlaw league.

Earlier in September, prior to the suspension of the three clubs, the ASL had approved a new Philadelphia franchise to begin play in the second half. But, because of the loss of the three clubs and it’s designation of an outlaw league, the ASL fast-tracked the new Philadelphia franchise financed by the league itself to begin play during the first half with a roster built from players transferred from other ASL clubs. In late December, the league also admitted McLeod Council FC of Jersey City to join beginning in the second half under the name Jersey City FC.

Fall River won the first half by a point over the Brooklyn Wanderers. And, after each team won one game, the New York Nationals took the ASL cup in a third match over New Bedford. The nine-team ASL quickly dropped back down to eight when the new Jersey City franchise dropped out after only seven games in early February.

The new professional league formed under permission granted by the National Commission of the USFA and was named the Eastern Soccer League. Along with former ASL members, Bethlehem Steel, the New York Giants and Newark, the league also included Centennial SC from Philadelphia, Hispano FC from Brooklyn, New York Celtic from Astoria, IRT. Rangers from New York, and the Bronx-based Hakoah All-Stars, a club made up from a core of players from the SC Hakoah Wien club that toured the US a few years previously.

The ESL would play a split season similar to the ASL. The New York Celtics, a relatively new team, dropped out in mid-November after playing only eight games. Bethlehem Steel took the first half in relatively easy fashion winning 21 out of 23 games. New York’s Hungaria Sport Club replaced the New York Celtics for the second half.

In a strange turn of events, near the end of March, New Bedford withdrew from the ASL to join the ESL. But, unimpressed by the competition in the new league, the club jumped back to the ASL at the very beginning of May just after that league’s second half ended. Fall River also won the ASL’s second half and was declared champion. Like Fall River, Bethlehem Steel also won the ESL’s second half and was declared the champion of that league.

1929-30 season

The schism continued into the 1929-30 soccer season. During the summer the ASL applied for associate membership in the English Football Association and, in late July, the FA approved that application effectively giving the ASL equal status with the US Football Association from the FA’s standpoint. The ASL grew to a nine-member league by bringing in two new clubs. The first was a new team in Bridgeport, Conn. and the second was a Brooklyn-based Hakoah SFC funded by Brooklyn Wanderers’ owner Nat Agar in order to directly compete with the ESL’s Hakoah All-Stars.

Maurice Van de Weghe, owner of the New York Giants, also owned 75 percent of Hakoah All-Stars stock but was obliged to dispose of it by USFA president, Armstrong Patterson, who refused to allow two franchises to be owned by the same person. Van de Weghe agreed to relinquish his interest in the Hakoah All-Stars to Dr. Max Krauss in return for the transfer of six players to the New York Giants.

Centennial SC dropped out during the off-season and was replaced as the ESL’s eighth club by Newark’s Portuguese Sport Club. The combination of the Great Depression and the “soccer wars” were sapping the finances and fan interest in both leagues. In a major break with convention, the ASL began its schedule in early August in hopes of gaining fans before the ESL’s start in mid-September. Failing to find traction in Bridgeport, that ASL club transferred to Philadelphia only a month into the season.

As the soccer season started, discussions took place between the organizations in an attempt to find a remedy to the situation. On September 8, USFA president, Armstrong Patterson, Southern New York Football Association president, G. Randolph Manning, Fall River FC owner, Sam Mark, and Leo Bondy of Charles Stoneham’s New York Nationals and the ASL attorney, met in an all-day session at the USFA offices to broker peace between the two warring leagues. A subsequent agreement provided a temporary truce pending a final settlement or collapse of negotiations. The agreement provided that neither side could approach a player or make a move against the other side and, in the interim, both leagues would continue their separate obligations.

After weeks of negotiations, a permanent plan was agreed up during the first week of October pending signatures of club owners. The plan was for the leagues to play their scheduled games the weekend of October 12 and 13, that the teams would play exhibition games over the next two or three weeks until a new schedule is created to bring all the clubs together under the ESL, and that the ASL would dissolve. The negotiations continued longer than originally planned and the ASL and ESL continued their schedules for the weekend of October 19 and 20.

On Tuesday, October 22, the New York Nationals, Brooklyn Wanderers, Fall River, Boston, New Bedford and Providence clubs were reinstated as members of the USFA All scheduled ASL and ESL matches for the weekend of October 26 and 27 were called off with clubs permitted to arrange exhibition games. Those six teams were to join a new league called the Atlantic Coast Soccer League sanctioned by the USFA with the ESL continuing with Randolph Manning at its head. The hope was that the two leagues would be merged into one big representative body of eastern U.S. professional soccer. The presidency of the ACSL was understood to be offered to John B. Foster. The remaining three ASL teams, Philadelphia, Hakoah SFC, and Pawtucket, were not reinstated by the USFA as they were not members of the ASL at the time its membership was canceled.

Due to issues arranging a schedule of mutually satisfactory home games, the USFA confined ACSL matches to an exhibition “round robin series” while the ESL clubs continued their schedule for the weekend of November 2 and 3. Immediately after that Sunday, the ACSL’s New England teams refused to play any more round robin games. That week the new Atlantic Coast Soccer League was officially formed with eight clubs — the six previously reinstated ASL clubs, Pawtucket, which was admitted to membership on November 6, plus Bethlehem Steel joining from the ESL. The New York Giants and Hakoah All-Stars decided to stay in the ESL. The first ACSL matches were played the weekend of November 9 and 10.

After that first weekend, the Hakoah All-Stars and New York Giants received permission from the ESL to join the ACSL. The Philadelphia FC, formerly in the ASL, applied to the USFA for a franchise in the ACSL but was not admitted. There was some discussion that the remaining ESL clubs (Hispano, IRT. Rangers, Hungaria, Newark, and the Newark Portuguese) might be placed in a second ACSL division, but that never transpired and the ESL continued its schedule.

Daily News (New York), December 23, 1929.

Boston had several of its players suspended by the USFA as a result of a settlement of the soccer war. It also became public knowledge that Sam Mark, owner of the Fall River club, had previously taken control of the Boston club. The team played its first four scheduled matches then complicated circumstances involving its finances, the availability of grounds, and player contracts led to the team forfeiting its franchise at the beginning of December. The Hungaria ESL team applied for membership in the ACSL and was granted a franchise to represent Bridgeport in that league, effectively replacing Boston as the ACSL’s tenth team. The Bridgeport Hungarian team played its first ACSL match on December 28 against Brooklyn Wanderers.

While the creation of the ACSL effectively ended the ASL-ESL “soccer wars”, the financial losses of that battle plus the onset of the Great Depression meant many teams continued to struggle financially. Owned by Alexander Dow at the time of the merger, the Pawtucket club needed to be saved in December by a number of businessmen to back the team for the remainder of the season and for other clubs to give them players. The ESL continued its schedule with the Portuguese S.C. of Newark winning the title.

Things got worse as the season wound to a close in March and April. The Bridgeport club had trouble drawing fans to Newfield Park and filed to transfer the club to Philadelphia. Approval was given by Armstrong Patterson, president of the USFA, but the final decision languished with the Eastern Pennsylvania Football Association. At the end of March, the Brideport Hungarians’ franchise was transferred to a new group of owners in Newark where it played its final handful of matches as the Newark Americans.

The New York Giants owed back pay to some of its players and manager Bob Miller quit due to a dispute over money. The New Bedford team almost disbanded due to lack of fan interest but the ownership decided to play out the season.

But the biggest fallout came with the end of one of the most important US soccer clubs. The Bethlehem Steel club had always had trouble drawing crowds in Bethlehem. That issue increased as the country’s financial troubles continued. In mid-April, the club officially announced it would disband at the end of the ACSL season. Bethlehem Steel’s final game was April 27.

The next weekend, the ACSL clubs took part in the ASL Cup competition which Bethlehem Steel decided not to play. While the ASL Cup took place during May, a few ACSL matches also took place that month. But, Fall River was well already ahead on both points and winning percentage, so the games had little bearing on the standings. Fall River won the league easily taking 43 points in only 26 games with a winning percentage of .827. Hakoah was well behind in second with only 37 points in eight more games than Fall River giving them a winning percentage of .544.

Those two clubs faced off in the final of the ASL Cup. The first leg at Tiverton was postponed on May 25 so the return leg, at the Polo Grounds on May 27 before 5,000, became the de facto first leg. Fall River won the match 2-1. With Fall River due to play the first of a three-game series against visiting Scottish sides Rangers and Kilmarnock and Hakoah about to board the SS Munargo at Hoboken to sail for a South American tour, a second leg was hastily scheduled for May 28 again at the Polo Grounds. That match had to be postponed due to bad weather with the title still up in the air.

1930 fall season

In late January of 1930, league delegates voted unanimously to recommend the name of the Atlantic Coast Soccer League to the American Soccer League. USFA Armstrong Patterson ultimately approved the recommendation and the league formally returned to that name during the offseason.

The nine clubs that finished the 1929-30 season returned for the 1930-31 season and the league decided to again operate on a split season basis. The first half would run September 6 to January 1 with the second half beginning in March through probably June. A playoff would be held between the winners of the first and second halves, again using winning percentage rather than points, with no playoff if one team topped both halves.

The league wasn’t the only organization to change its name. Just before the season started, The New York Giants decided to rename itself the New York Soccer Club. With that opening, Charles Stoneham quickly renamed his club from the New York Nationals to the New York Giants.

The ASL opened its schedule on the weekend of September 6 and 7 without Fall River FC The New England club was on a tour of Europe and would not return until the end of the month. Fall River played its first league match on Sunday, October 5, then that Thursday, October 9, hosted Hakoah All-Stars in the delayed second leg for the 1930 ASL Cup. Hakoah won the match 2-1 to take the belated title. Following this final, the league cup would not be held for 10 years.

The fall half was a neck-and-neck battle between Fall River FC and New Bedford FC. On the last weekend of league matches on January 3 and 4, 1931, Fall River did just enough to edge New Bedford for the fall title. Fall River played 27 games, taking 34 points and a .630 winning percentage. While New Bedford played 30 games, took 36 points and a .600 winning percentage.

1930-31 winter break

The winter of 1930-31 was a confusing one for the structure of the ASL. Up until very late December, it was understood that the fall 1930 schedule was the first half of a traditional 1930-31 season. No mention up until that point was made that it was the end of a 1930 calendar year season. Newspaper reports during the last week of December began to mention that if Fall River beat New Bedford for the fall half that no playoff would be necessary as they would win both halves of the 1930 season. But, during the last week of December and first week of January, numerous articles continued to mention that the fall was the first half of the 1930-31 season while other articles contended it was the second half of the 1930 season.

As January wore on, it was obvious that the league itself saw Fall River as the winner of the 1930 ASL season and that the spring season would be the first half of a 1931 calendar year season with the fall season being the second half. It is not known by this author when the change in the competition structure was made and why it was made. Similarly, it confuses what exactly constituted the first half of the 1930 ASL season and what to make of the 1929-30 ACSL season and title. Should the 1929-30 ACSL season be considered the first half of the 1930 ASL season? Should it be considered its own competition? Should it be both? And, what to make of the canceled beginning of the original 1929-30 ASL season prior to the end of the “soccer wars”? Does that factor into the reimagined 1930 ASL season at all?

Another situation causing confusion for the structure of the ASL during that winter was a combination of National Challenge Cup play and numerous organizational and ownership changes among a number of ASL franchises. For the First Round of the 1930-31 National Challenge Cup, the USFA agreed to allow the ASL clubs to play two round robin competitions (one for the four New York clubs and one for the four New England clubs) at the beginning of NCC play. In the fall of 1930, the ASL clubs had considered withdrawing from the cup competition due to the traditional disruption those matches had on the league schedule. As such, the USFA agreed to the round robin play held over the winter break which would determine which one New York-area club and one New England club would advance to the final rounds of the tournament. This First Round play took place during January and February of 1931.

At the same time of the ASL winter break and the NCC round robin play, ownership changes were happening to the ASL franchises themselves. Earlier, during a league meeting on December 15, 1930, a proposed merger of New York SC and the Fall River club did not take place. The intended move was denied by the Fall River organization.

But, on February 16, 1931, just a day after the final match of First Round NCC play and less than two weeks before the ASL fall season was to start, Sam Mark announced a merger of the Fall River FC and New York SC clubs. The Fall River franchise would be transferred to New York City and a team drawn from the roster of both clubs would play under the name of the New York Yankees. Mark had purchased controlling stock of the Soccer Exhibition Company of New York which owned the New York SC.

Without a team in Fall River and with the Providence club ailing financially, a few days later, Harold Brittan, former Fall River player and manager, headed a group to purchase the Providence team and move it to Fall River. The group arranged with Sam Mark for the use of Mark’s Stadium for the coming season.

Complications compounded due to the USFA National Challenge Cup rules. The old Fall River FC had entered the NCC under that name, had won the First Round ASL New England Division round robin, and then beat Galicia FC on February 23 in the NCC Quarterfinals. As such, the USFA did not allow the team now known as the New York Yankees to compete under that name. Similarly, the old Providence team was now known as Fall River FC and the USFA would not allow the ASL to have a team under that name while the old Fall River team was competing in the NCC.

A compromise was reached where Sam Mark’s team would continue NCC play under the name “Fall River FC” and would be called “New York-Fall River” in the ASL while the team was still playing in the NCC. Because of that, the team previously known as the Providence Soccer Club but transferred to Fall River would, during that time, be called “Fall River-Providence” in the ASL.

In a less confusing change, during the aforementioned December 15 meeting, the league tentatively approved a new franchise in Boston for the Boston Celtic FC. The team was granted provisional permission by the USFA to play in the ASL but was not allowed to take part in the first round NCC play due to issues around claims the Celtics had already joined the Boston and District League and questions of territorial rights with the Northern Massachusetts and New Hampshire Association. Those issues were cleared up prior to the start of the spring season and, on February 2, the Boston Celtics were granted full membership in the ASL.

In addition, in late January of 1931, Phil Krug became the sole owner of the Newark American FC after buying out his partner. Krug also gained control of Clark’s Field in East Newark as a home ground for the club.

1931 season

The ASL 1931 spring season began on February 28. The Boston Celtics struggled right out of the gate. Unable to acquire Brookline Town Field as they hoped, the club ended up at Everett High School field. The team only managed to play two matches before they reorganized as the Boston Bears. The Bears only played four more matches before being suspended by the league in early April for not complying with rules guaranteeing money for visiting teams.

New York-Fall River continued to be the class of the league and, as Fall River FC, continued their march through the National Challenge Cup. On April 5, Fall River faced Bricklayers FC of Chicago in the first leg of the Finals. The ASL club beat the Bricklayers 6-2 before 13,000 at the Polo Grounds. The teams drew 1-1 in the second leg on April 12 at Mills Stadium in Chicago before Fall River blanked Bricklayers 2-0 at Sparta Field in Chicago on April 19 to take the title.

During the NCC Finals series, the old Fall River F.C. all but officially took up the mantle of New York Yankees. With the end of the National Challenge Cup, Sam Mark’s squad officially became the New York Yankees and Harold Brittan’s team formally dropped the “Fall River-Providence” moniker to become the new Fall River FC.

The same weekend as the NCC final games, New Bedford’s owner-manager, Ike Dawson, announced the club’s sale and immediate withdrawal from the ASL. In late March, Dawson had announced he would have to disband unless attendance increased. Dawson sold the New Bedford team to Brittan’s Fall River club and merged it with that organization. The influx of players immediately helped the moribund Fall River team enabling it to go on a run ending the spring season at mid-table.

Following their NCC run, the New York Yankees faded down the stretch of the ASL spring season dropping all the way to third behind the New York Giants and Brooklyn Wanderers. The Giants ended with 22 points and a .647 winning percentage in 17 matches. The Wanderers had 20 points and a .625 winning percentage over 16 matches. And the Yankees ended with 21 points and a .618 winning percentage over 17 matches.

The Brooklyn Wanderers protested the New York Giants winning the season due to the latter having one more game scheduled than Brooklyn. The Wanderers offered to play a game against any team in the league or the Giants for the championship. But the league standings were approved as is.

The weekend following the end of the ASL season the Wanderers played a game against Celtic FC of Glasgow. Celtic blanked Brooklyn 5-0 before 10,000 at Ebbets Field on June 7, 1931. Brooklyn owner, Nat Agar, got into hot water with the USFA over the handling of that exhibition match and the national body would not allow the club to play unless financial issues were settled. In November, Agar sold his interests in the Wanderers to Fred Maginnis and a new board of directors planned to reorganize the club but the USFA did not agree to the sale keeping the team out of the fall season.

During the summer offseason, the ASL approved a new Boston franchise, the Boston Soccer Club. In addition, the New York Americans Soccer Club was admitted into the league. Louis Blechman was president of the organization and Erno Schwarz was signed to play and manage the new team. But, the league lost the Fall River market again as Harold Brittan’s club went under. The Fall River franchise was vacated and all the team’s players were declared free agents.

Boston Globe, September 1, 1931.

Seeing another opportunity, Sam Mark requested to move his New York Yankees club to New Bedford. Upon approval, Mark’s squad moved to New Bedford and obtained and obtained the assets of the most recent Fall River franchise which included the assets of the old New Bedford franchise that Fall River had acquired during the spring season. With Sam Mark as the new owner, Ike Dawson returned as the New Bedford president.

With an influx of talent, the New Bedford club won the fall season with 30 points and a .714 winning percentage after 21 matches. The New York Giants and Pawtucket Rangers (which had taken that nickname during the spring season) finished practically tied for second each with 26 points, a .650 winning percentage and even a +16 goal differential.

At the end of the season, the winners of each half faced each other in a two-leg total goals playoff for the season championship. On January 1, 1932, New Bedford crushed the New York Giants 8-3 at Battery Park. But, two days later, in a stunning turnaround, the Giants blanked the Whalers 6-0 before 4000 at the Polo Grounds 6-0 to win the 1931 ASL championship nine goals to eight.

1932 season

Even with the exciting finals, the ASL was in a slump due to the ongoing depression and continued fallout from the “soccer wars”. During the December meetings, the league considered splitting into Metropolitan and New England Divisions in order to cut down on travel expenses. But, the league ultimately decided not to divide the competition. Sam Mark applied for permission to transfer his franchise from New Bedford to Brooklyn. The move was approved by the ASL but rejected by the USFA In another ownership move, the National Hakoah Association took over ownership and management of the Hakoah All-Stars from Dr. Max Krause in late January, 1932.

That left the ASL with seven clubs: Boston SC, New Bedford, and Pawtucket Rangers in New England; and Hakoah All-Stars, New York Americans, New York Giants, and Newark Americans in the New York area. The league was scheduled to begin play the first weekend of March but the four New York area clubs balked at the schedule. The teams reported they were in talks to create a “Metropolitan Soccer League” with eight total teams with a schedule to begin on March 13, 1932. ASL president, Andrew Brown, ordered the four clubs to play their league games as scheduled on March 5th and 6th and refused to recognize their announcement to refuse to play as scheduled. The New York metropolitan clubs offered to withdraw due to a financial inability to continue a schedule of one game in New England each road trip. The clubs wanted to revise the weekend schedule to have two New England games each road trip.

On Saturday, March 5, Boston drew New Bedford 3-3 at Lincoln Park in Somerville, Mass. while the New York Americans traveled to Pawtucket for a 2-2 draw. The next day, the Pawtucket Rangers were scheduled to travel to New York to face the Giants, Hakoah was scheduled to host the New York Americans at Commercial Field in Brooklyn, and Newark was due to host New Bedford at Clark’s Field. All the matches were canceled due to a storm that hit the New York metro area.

Following that weekend, the Newark Americans, New York Americans, and New York Giants withdrew from the ASL leaving Hakoah as the only New York area team in the four-team league. With the situation quickly spiraling out of control, USFA president, Armstrong Patterson, stepped in and officially canceled the next Sunday match scheduled for Boston SC to visit the New York Americans. Patterson also gave permission for the three former ASL club to have exhibition games pending the settlement of the ASL’s affairs. That day Boston visited the Pawtucket Rangers at the Cycledrome for a 2-2 draw and host Hakoah beat New Bedford 2-1 at Commercial Field in the only two ASL matches. The Newark Americans did not return after the spring and transitioned into a reorganized and short-lived Newark City club managed by Bob Millar. That club only played a few exhibition games.

The ASL continued to play as a four-team league and the former ASL clubs continued to play exhibitions against each other during March and April. At the end of April, the Hakoah All-Stars had had enough and withdrew from the ASL as well. The 1932 spring season of the ASL ended after six games played by each club. New Bedford ended with eight points, Hakoah was second with seven, Boston S.C. had 6, and Pawtucket Rangers sat bottom with three points.

During the summer offseason the USFA met to make plans for reorganizing professional soccer in the East. The proposal was for the national body to take control of the professional game by creating two leagues, one in the New York metropolitan district and the other to cover New England, which would supplant the American Soccer League. The majority of current ASL clubs would be combined with a number of clubs new to the professional ranks to create the new leagues.

In response, the American Soccer League elected Nathan Agar, former owner of the Brooklyn Wanderers and still not in good standing with the USFA, as its president. The league made plans to open its season early in September with an eight-team league comprising Pawtucket, Fall River, New Bedford, and Boston in New England along with two teams each in Brooklyn and New York. Because of the election of Agar, the USFA threatened to outlaw the ASL. The league would also practically be unable to operate in the New York area due to the ongoing situation with the three former ASL teams with only a possible Brooklyn entry backed by Agar.

Another soccer war was averted when, in late August, the ASL and USFA came to an agreement which allowed the ASL to continue as the East’s professional league. Hakoah All-Stars, Boston SC and the Pawtucket Rangers returned from the spring season. They were joined by three new teams. P.J. Flannery was granted a franchise for Brooklyn and he renewed the Wanderers nickname for his new squad.

Fall River and New Bedford were the other two new squads. During the summer Sam Mark continued to want to move his New Bedford team to Brooklyn but the USFA continued to decline. As such he dropped that team from the league and reorganized a team in Fall River. Tec White, a constant on Sam Mark’s teams since 1925, was placed in charge of the new Fall River team. And, while the owner, Sam Mark would only take a 15 percent cut of the gate receipts as his share. Following Sam Mark’s move back to Fall River from New Bedford, Ike Dawson, former owner of the old New Bedford team before Mark, decided to sponsor another team in that city.

While the ASL opened its fall schedule on September 18, the three former ASL New York metropolitan teams continued their move to create a new professional league. In late September, the clubs formed the National Soccer League with first games scheduled for October 2, 1932. The league included the New York Americans, the New York Giants, Newark Rangers, Bohemian Americans (formerly of the Metropolitan League), and four unnamed clubs from Brooklyn, Astoria and Westchester.

The day prior to the NSL season opener, Charles Stoneham sold the New York Giants to D.W. Bremen of the Indiana Flooring Company. Bremen returned the team to its prior name as the New York Nationals. The next day the Nationals and the New York Americans played to a 4-4 draw at Starlight Park before 1500 and the host Newark Rangers lost 3-1 to the Bohemian Americans at Clark’s Field in East Newark. The NSL played one more weekend of matches on October 9.

After that the New York Americans rejoined the ASL along with a newly-organized professional club called the New York Field Club. The New York Nationals disbanded and many of its players joined the New York Field Club. Those two teams began play on October 16. The New Bedford team disbanded after six games. The Bohemian Americans applied for admission in the ASL and were quickly admitted. The team began play on October 30 as the newly-named Bohemian Queens.

Fall River FC won the fall 1932 season with 27 points and a .711 winning percentage after 19 games. The New York Americans were second having played only 12 games and 15 points but with a .667 winning percentage. The Pawtucket Rangers were third with 25 points and a .658 winning percentage after 19 games.

New York Field Club (horizontal stripes) vs Hakoah All-Stars (vertical stripes). Daily News (New York), December 27, 1932.
1933 spring season

During the 1933-34 winter break, the ASL clubs played in the early rounds of the NCC as with the prior couple of seasons. The Hakoah All-Stars were renamed National Hakoah after their ownership group for these matches.

At the same time, the ASL struggled with how to structure the league going forward. By late March, the league came up with a plan to have separate New England and Metropolitan Divisions. The four New York area clubs returned to start Metropolitan Division play on March 19, 1933 but the matches were postponed twice due to bad weather. Through the spring season, there was little movement around ASL secretary Samual Fletcher’s efforts to organize a New England Division with  the three remaining New England clubs, Boston SC, Fall River FC, and the Pawtucket Rangers, at its core

The Metropolitan Division finally began play on April 9. National Hakoah disbanded with its players going to the four remaining Metropolitan Clubs. Herbert C. Simpson took ownership of the New York Field Club and renamed it as the Brookhattan Soccer Club. After Bohemian Queens played their first match, they were replayed by the newly-organized Prague Americans of Astoria, representing the Czechoslovak Soccer Football Club, for the remainder of the season.

The six-game spring season of the Metropolitan Division ended May 21 with Brookhattan taking first place. Brookhattan ended with nine points, just one ahead of New York Americans. Brooklyn Wanderers had seven points and the Prague Americans ended with zero.

1933-34 season

USFA president Elmer Schroeder felt the ASL was a benefit to the national body and moved to have a better relationship between it and the ASL. Schroeder understood the ASL, primarily via the National Challenge Cup, had supplied most of the income for the USFA and, as the depression continued, the amateurs would have to step up their share of the burden. Schroeder wanted the USFA to provide assistance and backing to the ASL so the league could have a hand in building the future of the sport in the US.

Helped by the USFA’s shift in policy toward the ASL, league secretary Samuel Fletcher managed to get the New England Division organized during the summer of 1933. Nine teams became members of the New England Division. Although Sam Mark’s Fall River club finally disbanded, Boston SC and the Pawtucket Rangers kept their franchises in the ASL. Those two clubs were joined by Fairlawn Rovers of Pawtucket, a new Fall River Rovers team, a new Fall River United team, New Bedford Defenders, New Bedford Tessiers, Quincy Canadians, and Thornton Victorias from Rhode Island. The league schedule called for a split season with the first half beginning in the fall and the second half starting in the spring.

The Metropolitan Division was scheduled to play its fall half with four clubs. Brooklyn FC, Brookhattan and the New York Americans (known as the Hakoah-Americans for the first few weeks of the season) returned from the spring. The Prague Americans did not return and were replaced by the Irish-American team from Kearny, NJ.

Both divisions of the ASL began their seasons on Sunday, September 24, 1933. The Scots-Americans of Kearny, NJ applied to be the second team from East Newark and joined the Metropolitan Division for the second Sunday of matches on October 1, 1933. The First Germans of Newark were admitted later that week and began play on October 15, 1933 in the growing and stabilizing Metropolitan Division.

A couple of days later a major shakeup in the ASL occurred. The league announced that Nat Agar would retire from the post of president on Saturday, October 21. At a meeting, the league had voted to have each Division, New England and Metropolitan, operate separately under the overall American Soccer League, Inc. organization. The ASL would continue to have its own governing board while the leagues themselves would also have their own officers. Sam Fletcher was elected president and secretary of the New England Division. William Low, of the Brookhattan club, was elected president of the Metropolitan Division while Eddie Duffy was elected secretary. It was also decided that the winners of the respective Divisions meet each other at the end of the fall and spring seasons. This never occurred because, while the New England Division continued with a split fall and spring season, the Metropolitan Division returned to a traditional non-split single table fall to spring season. All three also served as officers of ASL parent organization.

The ASL Metropolitan Division continued to grow adding the Brooklyn Celtics starting with the Sunday, October 29 match day. The Celtics were a newly organized team playing exhibition matches during September and October of 1933. Although named the same, the club was different from the Brooklyn Celtics which were playing in the Metropolitan Soccer League. Following this a dispute arose over the use of the Brooklyn Celtics name between the two clubs which was decided in favor of the ASL club by USFA president Elmer Schroeder which forced the Metropolitan Soccer League club to seek a new name.

The next club added to the growing ASL Metropolitan Division was Hispano FC The Queens-based outfit played First Germans of Newark at Union, NJ in its first ASL game. The ASL Metropolitan Team then added its ninth and final club on December 17 — First German-American SC of Philadelphia. Better known as the Philadelphia Germans or German-Americans, the club was an all-amateur team under the direction of USFA president, Elmer Schroeder.

The ASL Metropolitan Division took a winter break between Christmas Day and January 14, 1934. Some teams began National Challenge Cup play that day and other teams continued league play. One team that did not return was the Brooklyn FC. During the winter break that club and Hispano FC merged to become the Brooklyn Hispano FC. The merged club took over the Hispanos record of seven losses while the Brooklyn club’s record was dropped from the standings. Brooklyn Hispano also continued the Hispanos NCC play following Hispano FC’s first round win over Glen Cove on Sunday, January 14.

After a number of postponements due to bad weather from the end of December through the beginning of January, the ASL New England Division finished the first half of its season on Sunday, January 14. The Boston SC lost at Thornton Victorias 2-0 which gave the Fairlawn Rovers the first half title. Fairlawn Rovers ended the half with 25 points and a .781 winning percentage over 16 games while second-place Boston ended the half with 22 points and a .733 winning percentage over 15 games.

Like the ASL Metropolitan Division, National Challenge Cup play began that day and the following weekend for the ASL New England Division clubs. While the ASL Metropolitan Division would only play a handful of league games in February and March due to ongoing NCC play, the second half of the ASL New England Division schedule was put completely on hold until NCC play was finished for all its teams.

On March 24 and 25, the Pawtucket Rangers beat Brooklyn Hispano over two games to win the NCC Eastern Finals. That weekend it was also reported that both the New Bedford Defenders and New Bedford Tessiers had withdrawn from the ASL New England Division.

The second half of the 1933-34 ASL New England Division was scheduled to start the weekend of April 7 and 8 but was postponed one week. The Pawtucket Rangers had lost the first game of the National Challenge Cup Grand Final to Stix, Baer & Fuller of St. Louis, but won the second game on Sunday, April 8 before 8000 at Coats Field to force a third match.

The ASL New England Division started the second half of its season on the weekend of April 14 and 15. After a delay of one day due to rain, the Pawtucket Rangers lost the third match of the NCC Grand Final 5-0 to Stix, Baer & Fuller on Monday, April 15.

The Pawtucket Rangers returned to league play on the weekend of April 21 and 22. But, soon after reports began to surface that Fall River Rovers might drop out of the league. The ASL New England Division held a meeting that Wednesday. Following the meeting, president Samuel Fletcher announced that the spring schedule would be canceled due to a conflict with the beginning baseball season caused by the late start due to ongoing National Challenge Cup play. Many soccer players had left their clubs to join baseball teams and many soccer clubs could not secure grounds due to the baseball season beginning. Fairlawn Rovers were declared champions of the league.

The ASL Metropolitan Division ran through May 1934 and ended in a fight for first between the  Irish-Americans and the New York Americans. A final match held at Starlight Park on May 27 between the clubs ended with the Irish-Americans champions of the 1933-34 season.


  1. Arthur DeRostaing

    Dr. Caesar DeRostaing played in the ASL in mid-1930s for the NY Americans & St Mary Celtics. Please any related documents

  2. Pingback: US Soccer history - 150 years and counting - Big Sport News

  3. Pingback: US Soccer history - 150 years and counting - World Soccer Talk

  4. Pingback: US Soccer history: 150 years and counting - World Soccer Talk - USnews10

  5. Pingback: US Soccer history: 150 years and counting - News in Worlds

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.