Written by David Litterer
The United States had recently entered World War I, and the soccer world felt the effects as increasing numbers of players joined the armed forces to wage battle in Europe. Soccer was not as hard-hit as some other sports, but all leagues felt the impact; in fact the Cechie team of Chicago lost every member of its roster to enlistment. The United States Soccer Football Association issued a call to its member associations for teams to resist the temptation to strengthen their teams at the expense of others -- when wealthy, but decimated teams eye the poorer but complete teams, their wallets and checkbooks should remain pocketed in the name of fair play. A welcome consequence of the war situation was a willingness of the USFA's own warring factions to bury the hatchet and work together in relative harmony during those trying times. Many soccer organizations launched fundraising campaigns and benefit matches to raise money to provide support for US soldiers through, among other means, the provision of soccer equipment and gear to enhance their recreational opportunities. One such project was the Soccer Football Chain Letter Fund launched by Thomas Cahill and the USFA.
Other welcome events included record attendance figures in some late-round games of the National Challenge Cup that were well promoted. One of the major topics of discussion was the pros and cons of substitutes. At the time the laws did not specifically allow nor outlaw substitutes per se, but the consensus was that eventually they would become a reality. For the 1917-18 year, the USFA reported receipts of $6,318.64 and disbursements of $3,034.39, giving the USFA a net worth of $2,784.25 in cash and one $500.00 Liberty Bond.
The NAFBL made a major move, expanding across state lines into Pennsylvania, adding the powerhouse Bethlehem Steel, and Disston A. A. of Tacony. It was expected that Bethlehem would run away with the league championship, but the scrappy Paterson F. C. held Bethlehem to a draw. Having lost their stride, Bethlehem recovered, having a great season. But Paterson, fired up by their upset continued to romp through the season garnering 12 wins against a sole loss, carrying a narrow lead into the last weekend. Bethlehem's last chance to achieve a tie was broken when New York F. C. forfeited to Paterson, giving them the league title by 2 points. West Hudson was a distant third, followed by Kearney Scots. Disston finished a disappointing 5th and withdrew from the league, along with West Hudson, Kearney and Jersey. The league made overtures to several of the football teams run by several of the major shipbuilding firms on the east coast to replenish their ranks.
Final League Standings, 1917-1918 Before the season, Bethlehem Steel, Paterson and Tacony were added. GP W L T Pts Paterson F.C. 14 12 1 1 25 Bethlehem Steel F.C. 14 11 2 1 23 West Hudson A.A. 14 7 6 1 15 Kearny Scots 14 6 6 2 14 Tacony (PA) Disston A.A. 14 5 7 2 12 Bayonne Babcock & Wilcox 14 4 7 3 11 New York F.C. 14 4 7 3 11 Jersey A.C. 14 0 13 1 1 After the season, West Hudson, Kearny, Tacony, and Jersey withdrew.
The New York State Association Football league had a reasonably successful season considering the severity of the wartime conditions. The season ended on a sour note however. Clan McDuff and Bridgeport City ended tied in the standings. A tie game was ordered to be played at Clan McDuff's field. Bridgeport City refused to travel however, so the league title was awarded to Clan McDuff. I. R. T. F. C. defeated Clan McDuff to take the Sultana Cup.
Final League Standings, 1917-1918 GP W L T Pts Clan McDuff F. C. 16 14 2 0 28 Bridgeport City F. C. 16 14 2 0 28 I. R. T. F. C. 16 13 3 0 24 Overseas Wanderers 16 7 9 0 14 Yonkers Caledonians 16 5 11 0 10 Continentals 16 3 13 0 6 Fulton A. C. 16 1 14 1 2 Greenpoint F. C. 16 0 15 1 1 McDonald F. C. 0 0 0 0 0 La Sultana Cup: I. R. T. F. C. defeated Clan McDuff F. C. 2-1. Southern New York Association Cup: I. R. T. F. C. defeated New York F. C. 2-0.
Many of the SLSL's best players were abroad in the war effort, but the league held up quite well, with good attendance and spirited contests despite the loss of talent (the draft covered men aged 21-31). The Ben Millers won their third consecutive league title, edging out St. Leo’s. Leo's had gotten off to a bad start, and the Ben Millers rushed off to an apparently runaway performance. But St. Leo's, despite their extensive player losses, regrouped, and made a big rush towards the end of the season, just falling short. Innisfails finished a disappointing third; they had appeared to be the strongest team based on their strong finish the previous season. In the Municipal League, Lennox Club surprised everybody by taking the title, finishing ahead of the heavily favored Ben Miller Juniors.
Final League Standings, 1917-1918 Before the season, Scullins and St. Louis Screw were added. GP W L T GF GA Pts Ben Miller 17 9 5 3 33 26 21 St. Leo's 17 7 4 6 36 28 20 Innisfails 17 5 6 6 23 27 16 Naval Reserves 17 2 8 7 18 29 11 Champion: Ben Millers After the season, Naval Reserves withdrew. Municipal League Champion: Lennox Club
The season was called off late in the spring; many games had been cancelled due to poor weather, and many teams were away for extended periods due to their progress in the American Cup and National Challenge Cup competitions. J&P Coates won the league title.
Participating teams: Fall River Rovers Pan-American FC New Bedford FC/Whalers New Bedford Celtics Fore River Shipbuilding Company Stars (Quincy, MA) J & P Coats (Pawtucket) Crompton FC Greystone FC Lonsdale FC
Throughout the country, soccer competition was relatively sparse as many leagues and teams had suspended operations due to the war, and other league seasons were curtailed due to extensive bad weather cancellations.Southern New York State Association Cup: I. R. T. F. C. defeated New York F. C. 2-0
The U. S. National team was inactive this year.
Bethlehem Steel won their third National Challenge Cup title in a close contest against the Rovers F. C. of Fall River, MA. They clinched the cup in a replay at Harrison Field, Harrison, NJ on May 19, 1918 after the two teams battled through 120 minutes to a 2-2 draw at Pawtucket, RI. That first game was called by some contemporaries the greatest game ever played in the US because of the bitter intensity and sheer tenacity exhibited by these two sides of evenly matched players. The crowds was over 10,000 fans who had come in from all over the east. Bethlehem was more polished and had the lion's share of spectacular plays, but the Rovers had the advantage in speed and gutsy spirit. The game was a series of surges and reversals, stalemates and tenacious defense which eventually settled down to a stalemate lasting most of the 2nd half and overtime. Harry Ratican and Tommy Fleming scored for Bethlehem Steel, while M. Chadwick and J. J. Sullivan scored for the Rovers.
The replay was much more one-sided as Bethlehem Steel forced numerous corner kicks, although not scoring until Harry Ratican found the net in the 29th minute. The Rovers kept their spirits high, but ten minutes into the second period Duncan was forced to deflect a clearance on his knees, getting hit in the stomach and dazed momentarily. Pepper scored the second goal, and Ratican scored the third midway into the second half, giving Bethlehem Steel the Cup with a 3-0 victory. Bethlehem Steel had shut out Joliet F. C. 4-0 before an excited home crowd in the Western semi-final, and Fall River defeated the visiting West Hudson A. C. F. C. 3-1 in the Eastern semi-final. The National Challenge Cup competition this year was refreshingly devoid of protests.
There was some debate whether the American Association should suspend activities during the war, but in the end it was decided that they should carry on, and maintain continuity, and make efforts to support the troops at war. Twenty nine clubs entered the AFA cup competition. Bethlehem Steel won the Cup, as they did with the National Challenge Cup, defeating Babcock and Wilcox 1-0 at Pawtucket, RI. This match, the "battle between the steelworkers and the boilermakers" featured teams representing two of the largest companies sponsoring football clubs at the time. Babcock and Wilcox had the better plays, but it was Tommy Fleming's goal and that brought the cup to Bethlehem Steel. This was the fourth AFA Cup title for the steel-makers in the last five years. Bethlehem got to this point by defeating Disston A. A. 1-0 after battling them to a 2-2 draw. Babcock & Wilcox earned their final spot with a 2-0 victory over Fore River.
There were no international tours to or from the United States this year.
Very little soccer activity due to World War I. Only seven colleges fielded teams, the IAFL did not complete its season.
Intercollegiate Association Football League champion: None
Penn Intercollegiate Association Football League Champion: None
College All Americans: None selected due to the war.
Last update: March 4, 2005
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