Clark O.N.T. were a soccer dynasty in the late 1880's

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Ask soccer fans to name successful teams and the response will almost always include Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, etc. If you asked that question back in 1885 the answer would have been Clark O.N.T.

You’ve probably never heard of this team because they no longer exist. However, back in the late 1880’s they were a soccer dynasty.

The story of Clark O.N.T. begins in Paisley, Scotland which was the home of the Clark Thread Company. Following the Civil War, the Clark Thread Company moved part of its operations to Newark, New Jersey. Back then most soccer clubs were sponsored by companies with teams made up of their employees.

The New Jersey based Clark Thread Company named its team after its new cotton spool product by calling the club Our New Thread, or O.N.T. for short.

In 1885 the first American Football Challenge Cup (now the US Open Cup) was established. 13 teams were involved including New York Thistles, New York FC, Paterson FC, O. N. T. and teams from Connecticut and Fall River, Massachusetts.

The final was held in Newark and featured O.N.T. versus New York FC. The cost of admission was 25-cents.

O.N.T. captain and manager Harry Holden with the trophy

O.N.T. captain and manager Harry Holden with the trophy

Jack Swithenby, originally from Bolton, England gave O.N.T. a lead after 15 minutes. His side scored a second goal just before halftime.

New York got one back with ten minutes remaining on the clock. In the end, however, O.N.T. held on for a 2-1 victory.

The New York team protested the match accusing O.N.T. of fielding an ineligible player. A replay was ordered and once again O.N.T. came out on top. This time the final score was 1-0.

O.N.T. won the next two cups making them three time winners from 1895-1897.

There’s very little written about O.N.T., but O.N.T. and the American Football Challenge Cup paved the way for the growth of soccer in the New York City Metropolitan area.





      



St. Louis' long soccer history is awarded with an MLS franchise

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It was announced this week that St. Louis will be joining Major League soccer as the league’s 28th team beginning in 2022. It’s long overdue as St. Louis was one of the country’s earliest soccer hot beds.

The St. Louis Soccer League was founded over 100 years ago in 1907. It was the country's only fully professional soccer league at this time. The league lasted until 19139.

The city was also represented during the era of the North American Soccer League. The St. Louis Stars played from 1967–77, before heading west and renaming the team the California Surf.

Garcia Football Club of St. Louis 1920-21

Garcia Football Club of St. Louis 1920-21

St. Louis was also the home of two teams that were a part of the Major Indoor Soccer League. The St. Louis Steamers played from 1979-1988. In 1989 the St. Louis Storm became a part of the league. The team lasted for three years before disbanding in 1992.

During the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, five St. Louis players were a part of the team that defeated England. This included keeper Frank Borghi as well as Harry Keough, Gino Pariani, Frank (Peewee) Wallace and Charley Colombo. Team USA assistant coach William “Chubby” Lyons. also hailed from the city.

In addition, a number of St. Louis teams have won the US Open Cup or the National Challenge Cup as it was previously known. 

In May 1920, St. Louis team the Ben Millers defeated Fore River of Massachusetts. The match was attended by more than 10,000. The Ben Millers was the first team outside the East coast to win the title.

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Other Challenge Cup winners from St. Louis included:

• Scullin Steel: 1922

• Stix, Baer and Fuller: 1933, 1934

• Central Breweries: 1935

• Simpkins-Ford: 1948, 1950

• Kutis: 1957, 1986 

• Busch: 1988

To say the city is excited for the new team would be an understatement. To get an idea of what fans had to say, just check out the hashtag: #MLS4THELOU.

Soccer comes to Charlotte as Arsenal meet Fiorentina in the International Champions Cup 2019

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When I heard back in the spring that Arsenal would be coming to Charlotte for a pre-season match versus Roma, I immediately bought tickets for myself and my nephew to attend (he lives in the Charlotte area).

It’s rare to see European clubs on US soil so it’s a fantastic opportunity for American supporters to gather to see the team they support from afar live.

The last time Arsenal came to the states was in 2014 when they played a pre-season match versus the New York Red Bulls. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was playing in New York so it was a must see for fans. There were Arsenal fans all over New York and the energy and camaraderie was amazing.

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Roma had to pull out of the Charlotte match as they had to play Europa League qualifying matches. Filling in was Fiorentina; which was fine with me as I have attended a match in Florence before and root for them in Serie A.

There was a pre-match fan fest where there were soccer clinics, giveaways, musical acts and even an appearance from Megan Rapinoe.

Fans gathered at downtown bars before kickoff and there was a march by Arsenal fans to the stadium.

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Then it was off to the match. It was close to 95 degrees, yet the match was scheduled to start at 6PM., It was obvious that the heat was going to factor into the game (especially for the players used to playing in the cold and rain of London).

Arsenal dominated play and a number of the young academy players were given the opportunity to show what they got. That they did. 20-year-old Eddie Nketiah and 19-year-old Joe Willock provided the goals to give Arsenal a 3-0 win.

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It was great to see my team in person, but even better was to see the enthusiasm for soccer in the Charlotte area. There were tons of families at both the fan-fest and the match and it was great to see some of the kids wearing jerseys of the World Cup winning US women’s team.

It’s a great sign that the sport is truly taking off in the states and bringing people together.

The US Women's Soccer Team wins the World Cup and gives further proof they deserve equal pay

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The US Women’s National Soccer team are repeat World Cup Champions after defeating Holland 2-0 in France. No one is really surprised by this as they are the dominant force in women’s soccer throughout the world. What is surprising is the fact that they are still fighting to get equal pay with their much less successful male counterparts.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal gives evidence that the US Women’s team is far and away more of a draw than the men’s team: U.S. Women’s Soccer Games Outearned Men’s Game.

The crowds in France and at bars all around the country were massive for the Women’s World Cup. Of course interest in the men’s World Cup is huge as well. The difference in this country is what fans’ expectations are for the US national team.

The last time the men’s national side actually caused soccer fever was back in 2014 when the team made it to the knockout rounds (they lost to Belgium 2-1). Since then it’s pretty much been mediocrity to embarrassment:

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The men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. It came down to a match versus the “mighty” nation of Trinidad and Tobago. If the US won or drew, they would make the tournament. The men lost 2-1 and they missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

In a recent friendly match with Venezuela, the US were pitiful and ended up 3-0 losers in a match they were expected to win.

The US Soccer Federation will soon be dealing with the USWNT gender discrimination lawsuit. Based on their popularity, as well as their on field success, this case is a no brainer. Let’s hope they do the right thing.

USWNT is proving a point at the Women's World Cup

The United States Women’s National Soccer team headed to France with its equal pay lawsuit still unresolved. In a nutshell the suit claims that the United States Soccer Federation is guilty of gender discrimination.

After two matches where the USWNT has dominated its opponents, it’s pretty evident that this lawsuit has merit. Women’s soccer has come a long way and the US Women are leading the way in making the sport popular at home and around the world.

It’s clear that in terms of soccer, the US women are way ahead of their male counterparts in terms of achievements. As outlined in the New York times the USWNT have accomplished a lot:

The United States women’s national team is the best in the world and has been for decades. Since the FIFA Women’s World Cup was inaugurated in 1991, the United States has won three of the seven titles, including the most recent one in 2015. Since women’s soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996, it has won four of six gold medals. The team has been ranked No.1 by FIFA for 10 of the last 11 years and has produced some of the biggest female sports stars of the last several decades, from Mia Hamm to Wambach to the current starting center forward, Alex Morgan

The Men’s national team did not qualify for the last World Cup in Russia and recently suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of Venezuela.

The point is not that the men’s team is bad, instead, it’s that the women are very good. They draw crowds to their matches, they sell tickets and they work just as hard as the men. Therefore, they deserve the same pay as their male counterparts.

The women’s team have already made it through to the knockout stages with one match to go. Whether they win this World Cup or not, they continue to make it clear that they are deserving of respect as well as equal treatment and equal pay.

What do you think?

The first American Soccer League was formed in New York City

New York City’s Brookhattan FC was formed in 1933

New York City’s Brookhattan FC was formed in 1933

A lot of people don’t realize that there is a rich history of soccer in New York and the United States that pre-dates what we have today.

Presently, Major League Soccer is in its 24th season and is in 24 different markets.

Before MLS, the North American Soccer League operated between 1968 and 1984. While the league didn’t last too long, the New York Cosmos put the sport on the map in the United States. The Cosmos gained worldwide recognition with a lineup that included Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto.

The first American Soccer League was formed by club owners in 1921 at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan

The first American Soccer League was formed by club owners in 1921 at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan

What many people don’t know is that the first American Soccer League was formed in New York City back in 1921. That May, representatives from eight of the country’s soccer teams met at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan’s to launch a new professional soccer league.

The teams included:

  • Philadelphia FC

  • New York FC

  • Todd Shipyards FC (based in Brooklyn)

  • Harrison SC (based in Kearny, New Jersey)

  • J&P Coats FC (based in Pawtucket, RI)

  • Fall River United

  • Falco FC (based in Holyoke, MA)

  • Celtic FC (based in Jersey City)

The sport was growing in the industrial Northeast due to the influx of immigrants who brought their love of soccer with them to their new home. Back then a lot of soccer clubs were sponsored by industrial companies that employed many of the players that represented their clubs. Thus teams such as Todd Shipyards, J&P Coats and later clubs like Bethlehem Steel.

Early on the league proved successful. Some teams drew crowds over 10,000 and the matches were covered by the local newspapers.

These northeast based companies were paying good wages and some of the ASL club were able to entice good players from the UK to come over to the states to work and play soccer for them. Believe it or not, the poaching of players became such a problem that fans in Scotland complained about what became known as the “American menace”.

It got so bad that in 1927 the top brass of the ASL were brought to Finland by FIFA and told to stop taking players from other countries or risk being dropped by soccer’s governing body.

The Fall River Marksmen played in the original American Soccer League

The Fall River Marksmen played in the original American Soccer League

The league was growing and doing well, but faced problems.

In 1924 the Johnson-Reed Act limited the number of immigrants that could enter the country. Then there was fighting between the ASL and the United States Football Association.

What really led to the league’s demise was the great depression. Companies could no longer afford to sponsor teams and fans didn’t have extra income to spend on tickets.

The ASL folded in 1933…but it would rise again. More on that later.


FYI UEFA...Azerbaijan is not in Europe

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Back in September I wrote an article for SB Nation entitled, Arsenal have a Qarabag problem. The story outlined how Arsenal’s Armenian player Henrikh Mkhitaryan was unable to travel with the team to a match versus Azerbaijani side Qarabag. An ongoing conflict between the neighboring nations of Armenia and Azerbaijan made it problematic for Mkhitaryan to travel to the area.

Eight months ago it wasn’t seen as that big of an issue as it was one match versus an inferior team. The Armenian did not travel with his side and Arsenal won the match easily and without incident. The only possible problem was down the road in May of 2019. That’s because the rocket scientists at UEFA had scheduled the Europa League Final for the very non European city of Baku, Azerbaijan.

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Well here it is eight months later and Arsenal are in the finals. Mkhitaryan is still Armenian and still an Arsenal player. Latest reports are that UEFA and Arsenal are discussing the issue and attempting to work out a solution.

This blog post isn’t about this particular conflict or how it should be solved. What it is about is why the hell a European championship game is being playing in a country NOT in Europe. Read the following article I found from December 2017 and you’ll see further proof why this final in Baku is a complete joke: Europe’s Map Is Redrawn As Azerbaijan Goes East.

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Here are some other reasons that holding the final in Baku is a mistake:

  • Azerbaijan is a corrupt country.

  • Both of this year’s Europa League finalists are from London. Baku is over 2500 miles away and Chelsea and Arsenal have each been given a paltry amount of tickets for their own fans. Who the hell is going to be in the stands? The atmosphere is going to be ruined by staging this match in another continent.

  • How can UEFA hold a major match in a country where some footballers are not allowed to enter and if doing so, could be in danger? Maybe next year they’ll consider Syria for the final…or Yemen. It’s ridiculous.

  • Azerbaijan has little if any football history and success.

  • Azerbaijan is in ASIA.

Thanks for listening.




MLS continues to expand and grow

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When Major League Soccer began play in 1996, the league consisted of ten teams and was met with skepticism. Now in its 23rd season, MLS is not only growing, it is flourishing.

The MLS board of governors recently voted to expand to 30 teams “in the coming years.” The league currently has 24 teams, with Miami and Nashville scheduled to join next season and Austin, Texas, in 2021. That makes MLS, which has added 17 teams since 2005, the fastest-growing league in North American professional sports.

According to Commissioner Don Garber, “We particularly, in the last 10 years, have been experiencing unprecedented growth. Expansion has been a key driver of that growth, and it really is a great measure of the enormous enthusiasm and really the commitment that our fans have in markets both new and old to support our league and our players and to see the support grow continually.”

FC Cincinnati is the newest club to join MLS

FC Cincinnati is the newest club to join MLS

Cities currently being considered for teams include St. Louis, Sacramento, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Detroit and Charlotte.

Some question whether the league is growing too fast? In Southern California, one of the nation’s most crowded sports markets, LAFC has sold out every home game it has played, while the Galaxy saw its own attendance jump 10% last season.,

That success isn’t shared throughout the league, however. Only eight teams showed attendance increases last season with three (Chicago Fire, New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew) experiencing double-digit declines. That led to the first league-wide attendance drop in five seasons.

FC Austin will join MLS in 2021

FC Austin will join MLS in 2021

The television numbers are better, with cable viewership increasing in each of the last six seasons and ad inventory selling out each of the last three years.

The overall numbers were modest, however, with the 2018 cable average of 276,000 ranking behind what the WNBA playoffs drew last year.

One problem the league faces is whether there are enough talented players to support its growth. The league was established, in part, to assist in the development of domestic players, but in the last five seasons the percentage of U.S.-born players on MLS rosters has declined nearly 9%, to 44.3%.

The growth of the league has been due to an increase in international signings. This has made MLS the youngest and most diverse sports league in North America. One problem in continuing to maintain this growth is the league’s current roster rules.

Inter Miami CF, partially owned by David Beckham, will begin play in 2020

Inter Miami CF, partially owned by David Beckham, will begin play in 2020

Currently each team is allotted a maximum of three designated players and eight international roster slots. If those numbers don’t increase, domestic players will have to fill the remaining roster spots. That could lead to a decline in play.

Garber disagrees, “We're in a global market. We have 30,000 registered professional soccer players to select from. Frankly, I think it's the opposite. You start thinking about the global interest in coming to our league, it's driven by the fact that there's so much opportunity, so many jobs. One of the byproducts of expansion is just opportunity.”

The problems that MLS is currently facing are good news. The league’s growth and fan interest means that MLS is experiencing success. The roster rules may need to change to accommodate this growth, but this change is a by produce of progress.

New York's first soccer specific stadium is the home of the New York Red Bulls

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When the New York/New Jersey MetroStars began play in 1996 they called Giants Stadium home. It was apparent early on that Giants Stadium was not an ideal place to watch a soccer game. The layout of the stadium and the sight lines were built for football. It also had synthetic turf instead of natural grass. To say that watching a soccer match at Giants Stadium was no ideal would be an understatement.

Giants Stadium had previously been used by the New York Cosmos of the NASL. (In fact, Pele’s played the last match of his career at the stadium in 1977.) It also played host to matches during the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women’s World Cup. It also hosted many international matches and friendlies.

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Change would come, but it would take another 20 years.

The MetroStars became the New York Red Bulls in 2006 when they were purchased by the Austrian energy drink of the same name. The team continued to play at Giants Stadium, but Red Bull had plans to build a soccer specific stadium for the team.

The wait was worth it.

Red Bull Arena officially opened in 2010 with Red Bulls facing Santos of Brazil. The stadium is in Harrison, New Jersey, not far from Newark. It seats 25,000, has 30 luxury Skyboxes and 1,000 club seats.

During the Giants Stadium era, even when there was a good crowd on hand, it looked empty in the 77,000-seat arena. There were seas of empty seats and the atmosphere was terrible.

Giants Stadium was a lousy place to see a soccer match

Giants Stadium was a lousy place to see a soccer match

Now, a match at Red Bull Arena is an amazing experience. Because of the design, the stadium is always loud, regardless if there is a full house of 25,000 on hand or a modest gathering. The sight lines were built for soccer, so every seat has a great view of the pitch.

The signature feature of the stadium is the curved roof. It’s made of Teflon and it’s translucent, so it lets some light through. It also protects the fans from the elements. If there’s rain, the field and the players will be out in the rain, but all the seats are covered.

New York Red Bulls fans fill up Red Bull Arena

New York Red Bulls fans fill up Red Bull Arena

While the stadium features an incredible fan experience, perhaps the most important feature of Red Bull Arena is the pitch. The natural grass field is what soccer was meant to be played on and the Red Bulls have one of the best fields of play in MLS.

Compare Red Bull Arena to Yankee Stadium with New York City FC currently play. It’s a legendary stadium full of history. However, it is a baseball stadium and the home of the Yankees. It was never built for soccer and watching a match in the Bronx is not a great experience. NYCFC must look at Red Bull Arena with a pang of jealousy.

The Red Bulls have had more success since moving to Red Bull Arena

The Red Bulls have had more success since moving to Red Bull Arena

The only thing that needs to be worked on to truly make Red Bull Arena an amazing venue to visit is the Harrison train station. On match days it gets overly crowded and is incapable of handling a crowd. This creates a dangerous environment for fans trying to enter or exit the station. It’s especially dangerous for families with small children. The stadium has been open now for almost ten years so it’s a shame that this situation still hasn’t been addressed. Fix this and Red Bull Arena will be a great place for a soccer outing.

The rise and fall of the original North American Soccer League and the New York Cosmos

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The North American Soccer League  was the top-level professional soccer league in the United States and Canada from 1968 to 1984. It was the first soccer league to be successful on a national scale in the US. Its popularity peaked in the late 1970’s.

The league averaged over 13,000 fans per game from 1977 to 1983, and league matches were broadcast on network television from 1975 to 1980. The league's highest profile team was the New York Cosmos. The Cosmos signed a number of the world's best players including Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto. The Cosmos averaged over 28,000 fans for each season from 1977 to 1982 while they averaged more than 40,000 in three of those years.

The NASL came about as a result of the surprisingly large North American TV audience of over 1 million for the 1966 FIFA World Cup. This led American sports investors to believe there was an untapped market for the sport in the U.S. and Canada.

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The NASL began play in 1968. In the early 1970s, the league was more of a semi-pro league, with many of the players holding other jobs.

On September 3, 1973, Sports Illustrated featured a soccer player on its cover for the first time; Philadelphia Atoms goalkeeper Bob Rigby. 

The 1975 season saw the signing of internationally known players, including Portuguese star Eusébio  and Pelé.

Pelé's signing for the New York Cosmos created a media sensation and transformed the fortunes of soccer in the United States. From the moment he signed his contract Pelé's every move was followed, bringing attention and credibility to soccer in America. The New York Cosmos' home attendance tripled in just half the season Pelé was there, and on the road the Cosmos also played in front of huge crowds that came to watch Pelé play.

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Pelé's arrival resulted in greater TV exposure for the Cosmos and for the league. Ten million people tuned in to watch CBS' live broadcast of Pelé's debut match with the Cosmos on June 15, 1975 against the Dallas Tornado at Downing Stadium in New York. It was a record TV audience for soccer in the US. By 1976, NASL was being picked up by the mainstream media, with the sports pages of newspapers covering the league.

The biggest club in the league was the Cosmos, who drew more than 40,000 fans per game at their height.

Giants Stadium sold out (over 73,000) for the Cosmos’ 1978 championship win.

At the end of the 1970s, the league seemed poised for moderate success. The 1979 season had seen attendance increase by 8%. An apparent era of stability seemed to have arrived. However, at the close of the 1980 season, NASL's woes were beginning to mount. The league was feeling the effects of over-expansion, the economic recession, and disputes with the players union. In the early 1980s the U.S. economy went south with unemployment reaching 10.8% in 1982 It was the highest level since World War II. The league’s owners, who were losing money.

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One of the biggest worries for the NASL was that owners were spending sums on player salaries that could not be covered by league revenue. In 1980 NFL owners were spending on average 40% of the team's budget on player salaries. NASL owners were averaging over 70% of their budget on player salaries. The Cosmos in particular, owned by Warner Communications, were spending a ton on player salaries. Teams such as Los Angeles, Jacksonville, Portland, Toronto, and Montreal (also owned by major corporations) could keep up with the Cosmos. Owners without financial backing could not keep pace. Owners spent millions on aging stars to try to keep up with the rest of the league and lost a lot of money in doing so.

The league’s 24 teams rang up a deficit of $30 million in 1981 and five teams folded at the end of the season.

The league lasted until 1984 with only nine teams taking the field. On March 28, 1985, the NASL suspended operations.

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Although the NASL ultimately failed, it did introduce soccer to the North American sports scene on a large scale for the first time. It was a major reason soccer became one of the most popular sports among American kids. It also led to FIFA awarding the 1994 World Cup to the United States.

Lastly, the NASL provided lessons for Major League Soccer, which has adapted a philosophy of financial restraint as the league continues to grow.