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.
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.