As a licensed New York City tour guide, I regularly introduce visitors to the history of NYC. As most people already know, New York was the city where over 20 million people first stepped foot in to the United States between 1855-1954.
I am also a huge football/soccer fan. That’s what led me to explore the idea of combining a history tour of New York immigrants and the impact that these newcomers had on the growth of soccer in New York. I was surprised by the amount of history there is for the sport of soccer in New York.
Part of the reason that immigrants came to New York was for the opportunity to work and provide for their families. Manhattan’s Lower East Side was a major center of garment manufacturing. Even bigger was the Harrison/Kearny area of northern New Jersey. It was one of the earliest centers for the sport in 19th century America.
Immigrant communities were drawn to this rapidly growing industrial region for job opportunities. These workers brought with them their love for soccer as well. Teams were formed by the various textile and garment plants scattered throughout the area and across the river from New York.
Amateur teams were springing up in other industrial regions such as New England and Philadelphia. This led to the organization of the American Football Association in 1884.
In 1885 the American Football Challenge Cup was established with thirteen teams involved; including New York Thistles, New York FC, Paterson FC, O. N. T. of Kearny, and teams from Newark, Connecticut and Fall River, Massachusetts.
This was the first non-league organizing body for the sport in the United States. It lasted until 1925 as soccer continued to grow throughout the country and competing organizations sprang up.
O. N. T. (short for Our New Thread defeated New York FC to win the first title in April 1885.