Written by David Litterer
Once again, Bethlehem Steel took the league title, although they failed to make much of an impression in the National Challenge Cup. Robins Dry Dock and New York FC continued their strong performances, surging ahead of Harrison Erie who feel to fifth, behind a resurgent Kearney Federal Ship. Robins would go on to win a "double", winning both the National Challenge Cup and the American Cup (see below). Unfortunately, one of the stronger teams, Paterson FC folded early in the season; their replacement, Bunker Hill failed after a mere three games. This was the beginning of the disintegration of the league.
Late in the season, the USSFA voted to reverse a National Association League decision to award the 1919-20 season championship to Erie A.A.F.C. Bethlehem PA won the season by one point, based on wins and draws, despite Erie having played one more game. The USSFA board reversed the National League's decision, returning the league championship to Bethlehem Steel based on the final standings.
This would be the last season played by the NAFBL. Several clubs along with other parties applied to the USSFA to form a new fully professional regional league, the American Soccer League. Former USSFA president Thomas Cahill led this effort, an attempt to establish the first Division 1 soccer league in the country. His effort was perhaps inspired by George Halas and company who would launch the first official season of their National Football League within a few weeks of the debut of the ASL. The ASL would include teams from Boston to Philadelphia, and the application was approved by the USSFA. Thus, a chapter was ended in US soccer, but a new "golden era" was about to begin.
Final NAFBL League Standings, 1920-1921 1920/21 Before the season, Bayonne rejoined the league. GP W L T Pts Bethlehem Steel 12 11 0 1 23 New York F.C. 11 8 2 1 17 Brooklyn Robins Dry Dock 12 5 5 2 12 Kearny Federal Ship 10 3 4 3 9 Harrison Erie S. C. 9 3 4 2 8 Bayonne Babcock & Wilcox 12 2 9 1 5 Philadelphia Disston 9 1 6 2 4 Bunker Hill F.C. 3 0 3 0 0 Paterson F.C. withdrew early in the season and was replaced by Bunker Hill F.C.
The league race was close and exciting, with all teams remaining in the hunt right to the end of the season. Attendance was up, despite higher prices, perhaps as a result of the nip and tuck standings race. Scullin and Ben Millers fought head to head until the final day of the season when Scullin settled the league title question for good by downing Ben Millers 2-0 on April 3, 1921. Several Ben Millers players were clearly past their prime. St. Louis Screw was hampered by an ineffective attacking line, and Innisfails were running hot and cold throughout the season, alternatively performing as masters or novices. Overall, an unusually tight race among all four teams kept fan interest high and made for an exciting year. Four exhibitions were played against the visiting Erie Football Club, with the St. Louis All-Stars winning 1, drawing 2, and losing one.
Final SLSL League Standings, 1920-1921 GP W L T GF GA Pts Scullins Steel 17 9 5 3 38 31 26 Ben Millers 17 8 3 6 28 31 22 St. Louis Screw 22 6 7 9 23 23 21 Innisfails 22 6 9 7 21 25 19 Champion: Scullin Steel After the season, Innisfails withdrew.
The SNESL saw Fore River (American Cup finalist) win the regular season, followed closely by the perennially powerful Fall River Rovers and J&P Coates. After this season, the league folded with J&P Coates jumping to join the new American Soccer League. Saynes Finishing Plant belied their poor league record to won the Southern New England Times Cup.
Final SNESL League Standings, 1920-21 GP W L T PTS Fore River [Quincy] 16 11 2 3 25 Fall River Rovers 15 7 3 5 19 J&P Coats (Pawtucket) 13 7 3 3 17 Sayles Finishing Plant 14 4 9 1 9 [St. Michael's 7 1 4 2 4 disbanded; record taken over by: Sharp Mfg. Co. 10 2 5 3 7 Crompton 10 0 9 1 1
The U. S. National team was inactive this year.
Robins Dry Dock of Brooklyn won the Cup by defeating Scullin Steel of St. Louis 4-3 on April 19, 1921, at Fall River, MA, before 6,000 fans. This was their first trip to the Cup final, and a nice antidote to their disappointing 3rd place finish in the NAFBL. The match pitted a technically superior Robins squad against a youthful, gutsy and determined Scullins. Robins boasted a stellar front line headed by hall of famer Harry Ratican, They came head to head with a stubborn defense led by Tate Brady and midfielder Tommy O'Hanlon. But in the end, technical expertise won out, and Steel fell to a stellar kicking aggregation launched by the Dry Docks.
This came on the heels of Robins Dry Dock's 3-0 defeat of Tebo Yacht Basin FC 3-0 in the Eastern semi-final, and 3-0 victory over Fore River Rovers 3-0 in the Eastern 5th round (Tebo defeated Fairlawn Rovers FC 3-1 in that round). Scullins defeated Caledonian FC 2-1 in the Western semi-final. This came after an unusual three-game 5th round match-up. Scullins drew with the Chicago Bricklayers 1-1 in the first match, and defeated Bricklayers 2-1 in the tie-breaker. Chicago protested and a replay was ordered, which Scullins won 2-0. Caledonian had defeated Goodrich FC 2-1 in the other 5th round match up.
Robins Dry Dock won the American Cup by defeating Fore River FC 5-2. This came after a tough three-game semifinal in which they tied Erie A. A. twice (1-1, 4-4) before finally dispatching them 4-1 in the second replay.
All-Scots of Scotland (Sponsored by Third Lanark FC): August 10, 1921 - September 24, 1921. Results: 5 wins, 0 draws, 1 loss.
Roster: Bennett (Albion Rovers), Brown (Motherwell), Brownlie (3rd Lanark), Bulloch (Patrick Thistle), Gordon (Dunfermline), Low (Dunfermline), Maxwell (Dunfermline), McAndrew (3rd Lanark), McBain (Ayr United), McCormick (3rd Lanark), McMenemy (Partick Thistle), Orr (3rd Lanark), Rankin (Motherwell), Scott (Dumbarton), Thompson (Aberdeen), Wilson (Dunfermline)
7/10/21: Third Lanark 4, Celtics of New Jersey 2 (at Jersey City) 7/13/21: Third Lanark 8, Bethlehem Steel 1 (at Lehigh Univ.) 7/16/21: Third Lanark 3, Philadelphia Field Club 1 (at Philadelphia) 7/17/21: Third Lanark 2, New York Field Club 1 (at New York City) 7/18/21: Third Lanark 6, general Electric 3 (at Lynn, MA) 7/21/21: Third Lanark 2, Fall River F.C. 2 (at Fall River) Third Lanark also played 19 games in Canada before arriving in the United States.
Intercollegiate Association Football League champion: Princeton
Penn Intercollegiate Association Football League Champion: Swarthmore
College All Americans: G - Cooper, Princeton RF - Patton, Pennsylvania LF - Futes, Cornell RH - Muench, Haverford CH - Smart, Princeton LH - Thompson, Cornell OR - Righter, Cornell IR - Woodbridge, Princeton CF - Eli, Cornell IL - Thomas, Princeton OL - Jewett, Princeton
Connecticut has been pioneer in women's soccer, having certified the first female referee in the country (Helen Clark). By 1921 there were six female referees, who officiated the majority of the games played by the Bridgeport Public Schools soccer league. In addition, two teams, the Swedish Ladies and the High School Girls, both of Bridgeport, become affiliated with the Connecticut State Soccer Association. They met for their annual game, playing to a 1-1 draw. Meanwhile, a women's team in Hartford was applying for affiliation with the CSA.
Last update: March 4, 2005
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