Written by David Litterer
The Soccer War was a momentous event in the annals of US Soccer History, one which not only served as a decisive battle for power between the United States Football Association and the American Soccer League, but also led to the end of the first golden era of American Soccer. The dispute centered over the objections of the American Soccer League to the playing of US Open Cup (National Challenge Cup) games during the league season. The League claimed this disrupted the schedule and caused confusion among its fans, as well as creating an arduous playing schedule for the players. Although the immediate issue was participation of ASL teams in the Open Cup, the real underlying struggle was centered around who would be the controlling organization of soccer in the United States.
The League and the association had come to loggerheads before, when the ASL pulled its teams from the Cup in 1924-25, an action which led to its suspension by the USF. There was also lingering resentment over the fracas that ensued over the ASL's signing in 1927 of a number of European players by offering them more lucrative contracts than their European counterparts were able to afford. This nearly led to the suspension of the USFA by FIFA, but the Association was able to forestall expulsion by agreeing to a number of sanctions and limitations. A number of ASL teams chafed under the new limitations and sought to free themselves from USFA control.
This time however, when the League refused to allow its teams to enter the Cup competition, three teams, Bethlehem Steel, Newark Skeeters and the New York Giants defied the league and entered anyway. This led to their suspension by the League and they were also fined $1,000 each. The teams then appealed to the USFA who gave a stern warning to Bill Cunningham, ASL president. When he took no action, the ASL was suspended by the USFA.
The ASL, unfazed, began the 1928-29 season as an outlaw league, minus the three suspended teams. The USFA then played a major role in the formation of the new Eastern Soccer League, which took in the three renegade ASL teams and several teams from the Southern New York Soccer Association. The New Bedford Whalers of the ASL joined the league for a time as well. This action led to two rival leagues competing in the 1928-28 season, and also caused a rift between the SNYSA and the USFA, with the SNYSA allying itself with the ASL. Both the ASL and SNYSA applied for FIFA membership but were turned down. This led to a grim and contentious season with financial losses mounting on all sides.
The ASL, now minus the Newark Skeeters, New York Giants and Bethlehem Steel, began its season amid the turmoil of the soccer war. As in the previous season, the season was divided into two halves. This season marked the rise of the Fall River marksmen who won both halves of the season, rendering a postseason championship series unnecessary. The defections were felt most clearly with the loss of Bethlehem Steel, which took Tom Gillespie and Archie Stark, two of the league's most prolific scorers with them. However, this was offset somewhat with the arrival of Janos Nehadoma, of the Brooklyn Wanderers, who tied for the scoring lead with the rising Werner Nilsen (Boston Wonder Workers), both netting 43 goals. Nilsen had his best year in the league, coming off of a tour of Scandinavia with the Viking club. Meanwhile, Johnny Nelson had one of his best seasons, as he moved between three teams, scoring 39 goals.
The Boston Wonder workers slumped badly, finishing sixth during the first half of the season, and bringing up the rear in the second. Even Billy Gonsalves only managed 10 goals. To flesh out the schedule, the ASL added Philadelphia FC, who, only being able to play a partial schedule, also finished near the bottom. J&P Coates, which had run into financial trouble, came under new management, and was renamed the Pawtucket Rangers. This team would gain some distinction in coming years and saw marked improvement in the 2nd half. A franchise in Jersey City played briefly in the 2nd half but folded quickly.
Turmoil continued as the New Bedford Whalers bolted during the 2nd half to join the Eastern Soccer League. Although the league dispensed with a championship series, the American Cup was revived one last time, with the Providence Gold Bugs defeating the New York National 2-2 and 4-2. The cup was not revived however, given the new alliance between the ASL and the NYSA which provided another outlet for teams from these two leagues for post-season competition. The Lewis Cup was still played however, with the New York Nationals sweeping the New Bedford Whalers, 2-3, 2-1, 4-2
The ASL commenced its second season in the Fall of 1929 as an outlaw league. This truncated season saw continued dominance by the Fall River Marksmen (who won the league title), and the Providence Gold Bugs. The New Bedford Whalers rejoined the league, along with a new club, Brooklyn Hakoah, comprised of some of the players from the old Hakoah Vienna team, which had stayed in the US after their highly successful American tour. The Boston Wonder Workers enjoyed a major renaissance, partly thanks to the scoring prowess of Werner Nilsen and Dave McEachran. The top scorers in the league were familiar faces, most particularly Billy Paterson of Providence, Johnny Nelson of the New York Nationals, and Bert Patenaude of Fall River.
When the Soccer War concluded on October 9, the ASL regained its sanctioning by the USSF, and moved towards a merger with the EPSL. They actually continued play for a couple weeks after the settlement before abandoning the fall season with Fall River leading the league. Some ASL teams played a series of "round robin" exhibition games with EPSL teams for a couple weeks, until the league merged with the EPSL to begin a new Spring 1930 season (as the Atlantic Coast League) on November 9, 1929.
Final ASL League Standings, 1928-29 Before the season, Philadelphia was added. Providence became the Gold Bugs. Bethlehem Steel, New York Giants, and Newark withdrew to help form the EPSL II. GP W D L GF GA PTS PCT Fall River Marksmen 31 17 9 5 64 36 43 .694 Brooklyn Wanderers 31 18 6 7 79 61 42 .677 New York Nationals 29 13 8 8 70 53 34 .586 Providence Gold Bugs 24 13 5 11 53 44 31 .534 New Bedford Whalers 29 11 6 12 51 47 28 .483 Boston Wonder Workers 28 8 8 12 49 60 24 .429 Philadelphia Field Club18 3 6 9 27 40 12 .333 J & P Coats (Pawtucket)28 4 7 17 28 69 15 .268 New York Giants 8 3 2 3 15 17 8 .500 Bethlehem Steel 6 3 0 3 12 8 6 .500 Newark Skeeters 7 0 1 6 7 30 0 .000 League standings based on won/loss percentage. 2nd half Before the half, Jersey City was added. J & P Coates became Pawtucket. GP W D L GF GA PTS PCT Fall River Marksmen 22 11 6 5 38 24 28 .636 Providence Gold Bugs 22 12 3 7 46 37 27 .614 Pawtucket Rangers 25 13 2 10 42 39 28 .560 New York Nationals 21 8 7 6 68 55 23 .548 Brooklyn Wanderers 20 5 6 9 42 50 18 .536 Philadelphia Field Club18 6 3 9 36 54 15 .450 Boston Wonder Workers 25 7 4 14 45 55 18 .417 New Bedford Whalers 14 7 1 6 37 28 15 .360 Jersey City 7 2 0 5 11 23 4 .286 CHAMPION: Fall River. LEWIS CUP: New York Nationals defeated New Bedford Whalers, 2-3, 2-1, 4-2 New Bedford withdrew in mid-march to join the EPSL II. Leading Scorers GP G Werner Nilsen (Boston) 53 43 Janos Nehadoma (Brooklyn) 48 43 Johnny Nelson (NY Nationals, Fall River, J&P Coates) 43 39 Bill Paterson (Providence) 35 33 James Leonard (NY Nationals) 50 31 Sam Kennedy (Fall River, J&P Coates) 37 23 Freddie Wall (Philadelphia) 23 22 Tec White (Fall River) 49 22 Bart McGhee (NY Nationals) 30 19 Herbert Carlson (NY Nationals) 45 18 Leslie Lyell (Brooklyn) 45 17 Billy Adair (Brooklyn) 43 16 Bert Patenaude (Fall River, Philly) 28 16 David Robertson (Brooklyn) 38 15 Jerry Best (New Bedford) 30 14 Jack Green (Providence) 37 14 Jim Purvis (Philadelphia) 29 13 Bobby Curtis (Brooklyn) 41 12 Nils Nygren (Boston) 29 11 Mike McLeavy (New Bedford) 31 11 Pete Fitzpatrick (Providence) 43 11 Billy Gonsalves (Boston) 32 10 Final ASL League Standings, Fall 1929 Before the season, Brooklyn Hakoah and Bridgeport were added. Boston became the Bears. GP W D L GF GA PTS PCT Fall River Marksmen 22 15 3 4 65 40 33 .750 Providence Gold Bugs 22 14 2 6 50 34 30 .682 Boston Bears 21 12 3 6 44 22 27 .643 New York Nationals 21 10 3 8 58 53 23 .548 Pawtucket Rangers 19 8 2 9 32 41 18 .474 New Bedford Whalers 21 7 2 12 38 47 16 .381 Brooklyn Wanderers 17 5 2 10 32 47 12 .353 Brooklyn Hakoah 17 4 1 12 41 55 9 .265 Philadelphia Field Club14 2 2 10 19 41 6 .214 CHAMPION: Fall River. Philadelphia played their first 6 games as the Bridgeport Bears. The league suspended the season on 10/9/1929 when the soccer wars ended. ASL merged with the EPSL II to form the Atlantic Coast League. Philadelphia did not join the merger. Brooklyn Hakoah merged with the New York Hakoah of the EPSL II to form the Hakoah All-Stars. Leading Scorers GP G Billy Paterson (Providence) 22 27 Johnny Nelson (NY Nationals) 21 26 Bert Patenaude (Fall River) 21 25 James Leonard (NY Nationals) 18 16 Billy Gonsalves (Fall River) 22 14 Werner Nilson (Boston) 21 13 James Nahadoma (Brooklyn Wanderers/Hakoah) 18 12 Heinrich Schoenfeld (Brooklyn Hakoah)12 11 Tommy Florie (New Bedford) 21 11 Dave McEachran (Boston) 20 10 Percy Barlow (Pawtucket) 15 10
The second Eastern Soccer League was launched on October 8, 1928 at the Cornish Arms Hotel in New York City, as a result of the soccer war between the American Soccer League and the United States Football Association. The league was headed by Capt. E. W. Whitwell of New York, who was named its President. Allan Cahill was the treasurer and Joe Barriskill was the Second Vice President. The nucleus of the league was three teams which had been suspended from the ASL after they defied the league and played in the US Open Cup. These were Bethlehem Steel, Newark Skeeters and the New York Giants. They were joined by a new team, New York Hakoah, formed by the former members of Vienna Hakoah who had moved to the US after their successful tour. Several other teams joined from the Southern New York Soccer Association: New York Hungaria, New York Hispano, New York Celtics, Philadelphia Centennials, and the IRT Rangers, the team of the New York Interborough Rapid Transit System. Bethlehem Steel was the strongest of the ASL teams, finishing a respectable 2nd, with 22 points. Newark Skeeters had a disappointing season, going winless in a truncated season, while the New York Giants went a middling 6-8-2. The big surprise of the season was the newly formed New York Hakoah, which took the league championship with 28 points. IRT Rangers were the best of the SNYSA teams, finishing third. New Bedford Whalers, disenchanted with the new circuit returned to the ASL after the season.
The ASL and USSF and ESL eventually made peace, and a couple days after the final ESL game on November 4, the three major clubs rejoined the ASL (Now known as the Atlantic Coast league). The ESL, on a substantially diminished basis, played through their spring 1930 season, apparently disbanding at that point.
Final EPSL II Standings, 1928-1929 First Half (as of 12/28/28) GP W L D Pts. Pct. Bethlehem Steel 15 14 1 0 28 .933 New York Giants 18 11 5 2 24 .667 Hakoah All-Stars 18 10 4 4 24 .667 Newark Skeeters 14 3 6 5 11 .393 IRT. Rangers 15 5 9 1 11 .367 Philadelphia Centennials 14 3 7 5 10 .357 New York Hispano 14 2 10 2 6 .214 New York Celtics 8 0 6 2 2 .125 This was a 23 game season. Bethlehem Steel went 21 wins, 2 losses for the half. Leading Scorers: Archie Stark, Bethlehem 29 Siegfried Wortman, Hakoah 26 William Shamus O'Brien, N. Y. Giants 18 Josef Eisenhoffer, Hakoah 16 Andy Stevens, N. Y. Giants 15 Max Gruenwald, Hakoah 13 Walter Jackson, Bethlehem/Phil 13 Thomas Gillespie, Bethlehem 13 Johnny Jaap, Bethlehem 12 Willie Crilley, Hispano 12 Erno Schwarz, Hakoah 11 David Brown, N. Y. Giants 11 M. Hausler, Hakoah 11 William Findlay, N. Y. Giants 10 W. Pearce, I. R. T. Rangers 9 Alex Massie, Bethlehem 9 "Ted" Glover, N. Y. Giants 8 James Brown, Newark 8 Second Half (as of 4/29/1929; play ended 5/12) GP W L T GF GA PTS New York Hakoah 18 12 2 4 68 23 28 Bethlehem Steel 15 9 2 4 41 21 22 IRT Rangers 13 7 5 1 30 30 15 New York Hungaria 16 6 8 2 31 44 14 New York Giants 15 6 8 1 52 24 13 New Bedford Whalers 8 6 1 1 26 14 13 New York Hispano 16 4 11 1 36 49 9 Philadelphia Centennials 12 3 9 0 24 50 6 Newark Skeeters 9 0 7 2 9 30 2 New York Celtics (Disbanded after two months) CHAMPION: Bethlehem Steel. After the season, Philadelphia, New York Celtics and New Bedford withdrew. Leading Scorers: (As of April 18, 1929) Archie Stark, Bethlehem 15 Siegfried Wortmann, Hakoah 12 Josef Eisenhoffer, Hakoah 11 J. Deal, Philadelphia 11 M. Hausler, Hakoah 10 Willie Crilley, Hispano (Hun) 9 David Brown, N. Y. Giants 8 Rudolf Kuntner, Hungaria 8 J. McGincy, I. R. T. Rangers 8 Andy Stevens, N. Y. Giants 8 George Drysdale, Hungaria 7 W. Carnegie, Hispano 7 Thomas Florie, New Bedford 7 Willie Ballantyne, N. Y. Giants 6 Max Gruenwald, Hakoah 6 L. Grunfeld, Hakoah 6 William Seamus O’Brien, N. Y. Giants 6 Jimmy Howieson, New Bedford 6 1929 (fall) Before the season, New York Hungaria became Victoria Hungaria. GP W L T Pts Pct. Bethlehem Steel 14 11 2 1 23 .846 Hakoah All Stars 12 9 2 1 19 .792 New York Giants 12 8 2 2 18 .750 Newark Portuguese 12 4 4 4 12 .500 New York Hispano 10 3 5 2 8 .400 Victoria Hungaria 12 3 7 2 8 .333 Newark Skeeters 8 0 7 1 1 .063 IRT Rangers 10 0 9 1 1 .050 CHAMPION: Bethlehem Steel.After this fall season, ESL, ASL and USFA settled their Soccer War disputes, Bethlehem, New York Giants returned to the ASL. New York Hakoah also joined the ASL, which renamed itself the Atlantic Coast league for the 1929-30 season.
Tablers repeated their league championship, while Madison Kennels took second, and Ben Millers fell to third. But Madison Kennels boasted the top scorer in Dinty Moore, who landed 13 goals for the season. Madison would go on to reach the finals of the National Challenge Cup. By this time, the St. louis league had declined from its earlier prominence, having long ago lost its top players to the American Soccwer League, but it was still the premier soccer league in the midwest.
1928-29 SLSL final league standings GP W L T GF GA Pts Tablers 17 8 5 4 39 3 20 Madison Kennels 17 7 5 5 47 30 19 Ben Millers 17 5 7 5 28 41 15 Wellston’s 17 4 7 6 42 53 14 Champion: Tablers Municipal League Champion: South Side Radio Leading Scorers: G Dinty Moore, Madison 13 Joe McCarthy, Tablers 11 E. Hart, Wellston's 10 Lou Ahrens, Wellston's 10 Eddie Flavin, Madison 9 Bud Grennon, Madison 8 Tooters Rodge, Wellston's 8 Paul Budo, Ben Millers 6 Bennie Nash, Ben Millers 5 James Cronin, Tablers 5 Al McHenry, Tablers 5 Lehman, Wellston's 5 Most Valuable Players (all from Madison Kennels) Charles LaBarge (GK), Joe Hand (L.F.B.), Eddie Burke (C.H.B.), Joe McCarthy (C.F.)
The national team was inactive in 1929.
New York Hakoah of the Eastern Soccer League defeated Madison Kennels of St. Louis in the two-leg final of a tournament that was played during the USFA-ASL "Soccer War" and thus included no ASL teams (other than the several who dropped out of the ASL in order to play in the cup).
The finals opened on March 21 at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis with a 2-0 Hakoah win on goals by Josef Eisenhoffer and Siegfried Wortmann. A week later at Dexter Park in Brooklyn, Hakoah completed the sweep with a 3-0 win, the goals coming from Erno Schwarz, Max Gruenwald and Moritz Haeusler.
Hakoah defeated New York Giants, 1-0, in its semifinal, while Madison Kennels advanced past Chicago Sparta, 7-4. In its quarterfinal, Hakoah had beaten Newark Portuguese, 3-2.
Due to the USFA suspension of the ASL, touring teams were limited to playing opponents from the Eastern Soccer League.
Preston North End (English 2nd Division), May 18, 1929 - June 9, 1929. Record: 1 win, 2 draws, 1 loss
Roster: Ewart, Ward, Kerr, Nesbitt, Nelson, Crawford, Reid, Russell, Parry, Bargh, Harrison, Smith, Robson, Harrison.
5/18 New York Hakoah 1, Preston North End 1 (attendance 11,000, at Innisfail Park, NY) 5/19 New York Giants 1, Preston North End 1 (attendance 5,000 at Starlight Park, New York) 6/8 Bethlehem Steel 5, Preston North End 1 (attendance 5,000, at Innisfail Park, New York. Archie Stark scored three goals 6/9 Preston North End 2, Bethlehem Steel 1 (at Providence, Rhode Island)
Sabaria (Budapest, Hungary) March 16, 1929 through March 19, 1929. Record: 1 wins, 0 draws, 2 losses
Roster: Weinhardt, Nagy, Preur, Pesovnik, Vamos, Bass, Buresch, Holzhauer, Stofran, Povolny, Tarnok, Biri, Kovacs, Pesnovik, Majos, Bass, Kala, Prem, Bursch, Stofian
3/16 New York Hakoah 3, Sabaria 0 (attendance 2,500, at Starlight Park, New York) 3/17 Sabaria 6, New York Giants 4 (at Starlight Park, New York) 3/19 New York Giants 2, Sabaria 1 (attendance 3,000, at Starlight Park, New York)
Worcester, MA to England: Results: 3 wins, 0 draws, 2 losses.
Worcester 6, Worcestershire 6 (in Worcester) Worcester vs. Stourbridge (in Stourbridge) Worcester vs. Eversham (in Eversham) Worcester vs. Dudley (in Dudley) 9/18/27 Worcester 1, Kidderminster 1 (in Kidderminster)
Intercollegiate Soccer Football Association Champion: Penn State
California Intercollegiate Soccer Conference Champion: San Mateo Junior College
College All-Americans: G - McCune, Penn State RF - Johnson, Swarthmore LF - Allen, Penn State RH - Frazier, Haverford CH - Robertson, Yale LH - Shirk, Haverford OR - Lutz, Penn State IR - Bright, Williams CF - Stollmeyer, Dartmouth IL - Ashley, Yale OL - Kullman, Pennsylvania
1929 American Cup: In this brief revival, the final American Cup was taken by the Providence Goldbugs of the ASL, who beat the New York Nationals 2-2, 4-2.
1929 National Amateur Cup Final: Pittsburgh Hiedelberg defeated Newark First Germans 9-0.
Last update: February 4, 2006
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