Written by Steve Holroyd, with supplemental materials by David Litterer
After only three seasons, the American Soccer League had established itself as a legitimate contender in the American sports sweepstakes, often outdrawing the National Football League. Crowds of 8,000 to 10,000 were not uncommon, moving league Vice President Thomas Cahill to proclaim that "soccer is making great progress and in the not too distant future will rank second only to baseball as the leading pro game."
As a result of this success, the league increased its size by half, adding some of the countryís most powerful clubs. Joining the loop were New Bedford Whalers, two time champions of the old Southern New England Soccer League; interestingly, the club was now owned by two former officers of the old, powerful Fall River Rovers club, indicating the level of interest for the game in that city. Also coming on board was Fleisher Yarn of Philadelphia, the winners of the American Cup in 1923 and the first National Amateur Cup in 1924. Two other New England clubs, Providence Clamdiggers and Boston Wonder Workers, joined the circuit, giving the league a total of five teams from the area. Finally, Indiana Flooring of New York, who had been playing in various state leagues, took over the old New York F.C. franchise. Ernest Viberg, a former trainer who acted as an interpreter during Bethlehem Steelís 1919 tour of Sweden, took control of the franchise.
As the leagueís size and attendance increased, so did the quality of player enticed to come to America. The new clubs, in particular, were not afraid to spend money to become competitive as quickly as possible.
In the vanguard of this spending frenzy was the Boston club. The Wonder Workers, owned by A.G. Wood, promptly made a splash by signing Glasgow Rangers veteran and Scottish international Tommy Muirhead away from Scotlandís Ibrox club to serve as player-manager. Then, using Muirhead as a contact, Wood stunned the soccer world by signing former Scottish international Alex McNab away from Morton. McNab was signed for $25 a week to play soccer and work at the Wonder Works factory. These arrangements were not uncommon in American soccer, and had been used by Bethlehem Steel-not surprisingly, another club with corporate financing and factory jobs to offer-for years. Boston caused further controversy by signing Johnny Ballantyne from Patrick Thistle, even though he had already signed a contract with the Scottish club. The "Woodsies," as they were often called, did not limit their raids to Scottish clubs, however: Mickey Hamill, lured by Fall River from Englandís Manchester City, jumped to Boston prior to the season, notwithstanding his having already played two exhibition matches with the Marksmen.
Providence, another expansion club, chose to spend its money within the country, signing fullback Sam Fletcher from Newark to serve as player/manager. Fletcher, one of the pre-war Bethlehem Steel stars, had played with a number of top Canadian clubs before coming to the U.S. in 1914. A popular figure, Providence was often called the "Fletchermen" in his honor. Providence also acquired wing forward Tommy Florie prior to the season. Born in Harrison, New Jersey, Florie had played three games with the hometown ASL club in 1922 before earning stardom in local semipro leagues. During his second tour of duty in the ASL, Florie would develop as one of the leagueís top native-born scorers.
With all of the signings by the free-spending new clubs, Fall River and Bethlehem worked hard to keep pace. While Fall River essentially stayed with the prior seasonís championship lineup, the Steelmen made a number of stunning acquisitions. Bethlehem put together one of the best midfields of the period, with its halfback line of Whitey McDonald, Bill Carnihan and Bob McGregor setting new standards for creative play. As always, money played a big role: McDonald was lured from Toronto Ulster, while McGregor had been plucked from Scottish champs Morton the year before. However, Bethlehemís most fortuitous move was the pickup of 1924 leading scorer Archie Stark in the New York F.C. fire sale. Stark-born in Scotland but raised in the U.S.-went on to have the most prolific scoring season in U.S. professional history. Feeding on the through balls of the Bethlehem midfield, and receiving great passes from the head of fellow forward Johnny Jaap, Stark scored four goals against Philadelphia in his teamís opener en route to an incredible 67 goals in 44 games. During the season, he netted eight hat tricks.
Stark also grabbed a hat trick during the leagueís inaugural Lewis Cup tournament. This tournament was devised in response to clubsí concerns about the U.S. Open Cup. In particular, the ASL teams felt put upon that they were required to participate in the Open Cup even though it required them to play matches right in the middle of their season. By staging its own tournament, the ASL hoped it could, at least, make the scheduling of matches more convenient for its clubs. Named after league co-founder Edgar Lewis, the Lewis Cup would never be a substitute for the U.S. Open Cup. However, ASL clubs continued to participate in the tourney throughout the leagueís existence. Boston emerged as the cupís first winners, defeating Fall River in the final. Boston accomplished this without the temperamental Muirhead, however, who had bolted from the Woodsies a mere 15 games into the season to return to Glasgow Rangers.
As Starkís incredible season demonstrated, soccer in the 1920s was a much more open, offense-oriented game than is seen today in the 21st century. Often playing in a "pyramid" formation of five forwards, three halfbacks, and only two fullbacks, teams, scoring was more of a premium than preventing goals. Along with Stark, Andy Stevens (traded by an already-loaded Boston club to New Bedford early in the season) and Harold Brittan of Fall River eclipsed Daniel McNivenís two-year old mark of 28 goals in a season. Also placing high in the scorersí table were two native Americans: Davie Brown blossomed into a top finisher, netting 26 goals for New York giants, and Johnny Nelson, acquired by Brooklyn from Yonkers Thistle of the New York State League towards the end of the 1923-24 season, finished with 24 goals in 33 games.
Given the offensive mindset of the era, Fall Riverís continued defensive accomplishments were even more impressive. Goalkeeper Findlay Kerr and his ferocious back line followed up on their stunning 1924 performance with another brilliant year, pitching 20 shutouts and an 0.86 goals against average. Perhaps demonstrating that defense does indeed win games, Fall River stormed its way to a second consecutive title, losing only five games during the season. Of course, it helped that Fall River was also not shy about putting the ball in the net, scoring 113 goals during the year. Brittan, Tommy Croft, Harry McGowan, Bill McPherson and Dougie Campbell all scored in double digits for the Marksmen.
During the season, by virtue of its having already secured the Lewis Cup, Boston was challenged by the champions of the once-powerful St. Louis Soccer League to face off in what was dubbed the American Professional Championship (see below). Suggested by the older circuit in an attempt to regain some prestige, the first match saw the host Ben Millers club win 1-0 before 10,000 at University Field. However, Boston recovered to win both the next game 3-1 in Boston and the rubber match 3-2 in St. Louis to win the championship. Embarrassed that its claims of superiority did not stand up, the SLSL did not propose a continuation of the series.
While Boston, New Bedford, and Providence acquitted themselves well in the league, and Indiana Flooring turned in a fair season, Fleisher Yarn found the professional game not to their liking, finishing a disappointing 11-22-6. Not surprisingly, the club would withdraw from the league at the conclusion of the season.
Final League Standings, 1924-25 GP W D L GF GA PTS Fall River Marksmen 44 27 12 5 113 38 66 Bethlehem Steel 44 29 5 10 127 53 63 Brooklyn Wanderers 44 22 8 14 68 56 52 Boston Wonder Workers 41 22 7 12 75 53 51 New Bedford Whalers 41 21 7 13 69 55 49 Providence Clamdiggers 42 18 11 13 85 59 47 J & P Coats 42 19 5 18 89 76 43 New York Giants 43 16 6 21 78 84 38 Indiana Flooring (N.Y.)43 16 6 21 68 69 38 Fleisher Yarn (Phil.) 39 11 6 22 68 114 28 Newark Skeeters 39 8 3 28 39 104 19 Philadelphia Field Club42 2 6 34 27 146 8 CHAMPION: Fall River Marksmen LEWIS CUP: Boston Wonder Workers defeated Fall River Marksmen, 2-1 AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP: Boston wonder workers defeated St. Louis Ben Millers 0-1, 3-1, 3-2. Leading Scorers GP G Archie Stark (Bethlehem Steel) 44 67 Andy Stevens (Boston/New Bedford) 32 33 Harold Brittan (Fall River) 34 32 David Brown (New York) 34 26 Johnny Nelson (Brooklyn) 33 24 Herbert Carlson (Indiana Flooring) 40 24 Jerry Best (Providence) 29 20 Andy Straden (Fleisher Yarn) 34 20 Bob Drummond (J&P Coats) 42 18 Jim Purvis (Fleisher Yarn) 35 17 Tewfik Abdallah (Providence) 34 15 Tommy Fleming (Boston) 40 15 Billy Hibbert (J&P Coats) 28 14 Tommy Croft (Fall River) 30 14 Harry McGowan (Fall River) 35 14 Billy Hogg (Brooklyn) 40 14 Bill McPherson (Fall River) 38 13 Caleb Schylander (Indiana Flooring) 43 13 Billy Westwater (New Bedford) 17 12 Neil Turner (Bethlehem Steel) 23 12 Johnny Ballantyne (Boston) 40 12 Johnny Rollo (Bethlehem Steel) 30 11 Tommy Florie (Providence) 33 11 McLaughlin (Fleisher Yarn) 34 11 John Heminsley (J&P Coats/Newark) 28 10 James McGhee (Fleisher Yarn) 31 10 Dougie Campbell (Fall River) 35 10 Bob Perry (J&P Coats) 36 10 Leading Goalkeepers GP GA S GAA Findlay Kerr (42)(Fall River) 44 38 20 0.86 Dave Carson (27)/ Billy Highfield (15)(Bethlehem Steel)44 53 11 1.21 Steve Smith (Brooklyn) 44 56 17 1.27 Willie Paterson (21)/ Tommy Steel (13)(Boston) 41 53 16 1.29 Arthur Taylor (24)(New Bedford) 41 55 14 1.34 Jack Surgenor (36)(Providence) 42 59 14 1.40 Pete Renzulli (21)/ Jock Brown (21)(Indiana Flooring) 43 69 10 1.61 Tommy Schofield (18)(J&P Coats) 42 76 7 1.81 Bobby Geudert (38)(New York) 43 85 6 1.98 Jimmy Douglas (24)(Newark) 39 104 6 2.67 William Kucklick (38)(Fleisher Yarn) 39 113 5 2.90 Jumbo Chapman (7)(Philadelphia) 42 141 3 3.36
Ben Millers made a roaring comeback, taking the league title in a close race with Vesper Buick. Hoover Sweepers was replaced by Ratican's, headed by none other than legendary Harry Ratican. His ledgermain did not carry over, as the hapless club only managed two wins this season. St. Louis Soccer League teams boycotted the US Open Cup this year to take part in a "U.S. Championship" series with the ASL champ (see below). This series did not go well for St. Louis As a result, the series was not renewed for a second year.
Final SLSL League standings: GP W L T GF GA Pts Ben Millers 18 11 4 3 54 26 25 Vesper Buicks 18 10 4 4 32 25 24 Scullins Steel 18 4 7 7 25 34 15 Raticanís 18 2 12 4 19 45 8 Champion: Ben Millers St. Louis Municipal League Champion: St. Matthews Leading Scorers G Pee-Wee Fitzgerald, Ben Millers 19 "Beano" Balam, Ben Millers 15 Jimmy Dunn, Ben Millers 11 Hart, Scullins 8 Dutch Gockel, Vesper-Buick 8 R. Tracy, Vesper-Buick 7 Ed Becker, Vesper-Buick 6 Red. Diaz., Vesper-Buick 5 George Schemel, Ratican's 4 J. Burke, Scullin 4
Only two full internationals were played this year, both of them consisting of the first of what was planned as a regular USA-Canada series. The first game was a doozy. On November 28, 1925, the US beat Canada in Brooklyn, 6-1, off of four goals by Archie Stark, and two by Davey Brown. This record-breaking performance was phenomenal. The follow-up, in Montreal did not go so well, a loss to Canada in Montreal on June 27.
This one-time series was proposed by the St. Louis Soccer League as a national championship series between the champions of the St. Louis League and the American Soccer League of the east coast. The series opened April 5 at University Field in St. Louis where the St. Louis Ben Millers defeated the Boston Wonder Workers 1-0 before 10,000 fans. Jimmy Dunn scored the lone goal. Moving to Boston, on April 13, the Wonder Workers upset Ben Millers 3-1, with J. Ballentyne, Tommy Fleming and Barney Battles scoring for Boston, and Jimmy Dunn against providing the lone St. Louis goal. On April 26 in the deciding game at St. Louis, the Wonder Workers won 3-2 to win the series, with Ballentyne, Battles and Fleming again hitting the next for Boston. Jimmy Dunn and Fitzgerald did the honors for St. Louis. Perhaps embarrassed by their defeat at the hands of the underdog, the St. Louis League did not propose continuing the series.
USA National Team results, 1925 1925 Totals: 1W, 0D, 1L Nov 08 25 W 6-1 Canada 8,000 Brooklyn, NY, USA Brown (2), Stark (4) Jun 27 25 L 0-1 Canada 3,500 Montreal, Canada
Shawsheen Indians of Shawsheen, Mass. defeated Canadian Club of Chicago 3-0 in the final on April 19 at Mark's Stadium in North Tiverton, R.I. This was a relatively weakened tournament, because teams from the American Soccer League and the St. Louis Soccer League, which had dominated the tournament in recent years, both boycotted it this time in favor of a short-lived "United States championship" involving teams from those two leagues. Ironically, one of the boycotting teams was Fall River Marksmen, in whose home stadium the final was played.
Shawsheen had reached the final by beating another Massachusetts team, Abbot Worsted of Forge Village 2-1 in the semifinals, while Canadian Club eliminated Cleveland Thistle by the same score in its semifinal.
Discontent finally reached a head in 1925 between the IAFL and the independent colleges who were excluded with the league disbanding after the season, to be replaced by the more inclusive Intercollegiate Soccer Football Association.
Intercollegiate Association Football League Champion: Princeton
Penn Intercollegiate Association Football League Champion: Swarthmore
College All-Americans: G - Colebrook, Princeton RF - Milliken, Yale LF - Fisher, Princeton RH - McKinnon, Harvard CH - Zantzinger, Yale LH - McDonald, Pennsylvania OR - Baronouw, Princeton IR - Boos, Pennsylvania CF - Saunders, Haverford IL - Gentile, Pennsylvania OL - Driggs, Harvard
1925 National Amateur Cup Final: Toledo FC defeated Weehawken McLeod Council 3-1 on May 10.
Last update: October 4, 2005
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