soccer

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.


Youth soccer leagues are on the rise throughout the NYC area

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One of the reasons that soccer is gaining a foothold in the United States is the fact that kids of all ages are participating in the sport. The stereotype of the “Soccer Mom” is real and almost every town in the Metropolitan tri-state area (New York City, Northern New Jersey, Long Island, Southern Connecticut, Westchester and Rockland Counties) has some sort of youth league.

NYCFC joined Major League Soccer in 2015 and immediately reached out to the neighboring communities to set up youth affiliates. They are:

  • Downtown United Soccer Club in Manhattan

  • Manhattan Soccer Club

  • Metropolitan Oval Academy in Queens and Brooklyn

  • New York Soccer Club in Westchester County

  • TSF Academy in New Jersey

  • World Class FC in Rockland County

  • SUSA FC in Long Island

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NYCFC explains their affiliation with these youth organizations as the following:

The New York City FC Youth Affiliate Program is designed to provide soccer technical support and assistance to a select group of clubs from the New York Metropolitan Area. The affiliation with New York City FC offers a clear pathway for the local youth soccer community to reach the highest level of competition, providing each access to the invaluable resources and expertise of Major League Soccer's 20th team.

The fact that kids now have the opportunity to be inspired by professional players in their own city is invaluable for the continued growth of the game. It’s definitely having an impact here in New York.

What is the Nation's League and does anyone really care?

Team Gibraltar

Team Gibraltar

I am a huge fan of international soccer and always look forward to the World Cup, the European Championships, CONCACAF Cup and the African Cup of Nations. However, this farce that is called the Nations League has me wondering when is enough enough.

I looked up an explanation of the UEFA Nations League competition and here is what it said,

A new national team competition that replaces friendlies with competitive matches, allowing nations to play against equally ranked teams. The four group winners of the top-ranked League A qualify for the UEFA Nations League finals in June 2019. For the remaining sides, there is promotion and relegation to play for, not to mention a potential route to UEFA EURO 2020.

Okay so there are four different “leagues” based on the success or lack of success of the 55 UEFA recognized European football associations. Yet only the top 12 teams get to compete for the trophy? I understand that the thought of San Marino facing France in a championship match would be hysterical, but on the other hand it would be pretty cool.

The top two “leagues” contain the usual suspects such as England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Croatia, etc. The more interesting groups are the two lower leagues. Here’s a look at the mighty nations battling it out here: Faroe Islands, Cyprus, San Marino, Andorra, Malta and perhaps my favorite, Gibraltar. Gibraltar has a national team? Isn’t it a rock that is a territory of Britain? I would love to be able to watch Gibraltar take on the Faroe Islands.

San Marino Stadium

This tournament has promotion and relegation like the national leagues do, but I think they should hand out trophies for the four groups not just the top one. When else would some of these tiny nations ever get a chance for glory?

I’m not sold on this competition. It seems extraneous. However, the one nation that deserves a trophy just for showing up is League D’s San Marino. The lowest ranked team in Europe, San Marino finished bottom of the table with zero points, zero goals and a -16 goal differential. Check out the crowd during the national anthem above.

What do you think of UEFA’s new tournament?

To those who say soccer is boring and NFL is real football, read this!

The sport of soccer continues to grow in popularity here in the states, but for years I’ve had to defend my love of the sport to those that deemed it “boring”.

I used to work at the country’s number one rated sports radio station here in New York and would be mocked and ignored by the station’s “personalities” that believed they knew what the sports fan wanted to see and hear about…and according to these “experts” it wasn’t soccer.

My vindication keeps growing as the the European and world leagues now get plenty of air time on television, draw in crowds at bars and MLS continues to expand. The league started in 1996 with ten teams and is now finishing its 23rd season with 23 teams. While the level of play is not up there with the best leagues in Europe, you cannot deny that MLS is making major inroads on the US sports landscape.

At the same time interest in the World Cup and leagues like La Liga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga and Serie A continues to grow. Ronaldo and Messi are household names to young sports fans.

I’m a bit of an NFL football fan. My team is the hapless New York Jets. However, I found my interest declining as I watched more and more of the “real” football…a.k.a. soccer. The action in soccer doesn’t stop for time outs and commercials like other sports. The clock keeps running. The athletes on the pitch are in top shape and run for close to 90 minutes.

Many non fans complain that there isn’t enough scoring. However, I don’t think they realize that defense is a part of the game to be admired and that a hard fought 0-0 game can actually be quite exciting (if you understand the game). Compare that to American football.

My favorite source to prove my point is this 2010 article from the Wall Street Journal. The study revealed that an average NFL game contained just 11 minutes of actual action. In other words, a game that is comprised of 60 minutes on the clock and takes over three hours to broadcast consists of JUST 11 MINUTES OF ACTION. Fans that say American football is more exciting than soccer should consider the following from this study:

  • They are actually watching one hour of commercials

  • As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps.

  • 56% of the broadcast is showing replays.

  • NFL football is the rare time based sport where it's common for the clock to run for long periods of time while nothing is happening.

  • Once again NFL fans see just 11 minutes of action per game.

Of course to each their own, but my message to those quick to dismiss soccer as boring, is don’t knock it unless you try it…and maybe fans can use all those commercial times outs during NFL games to tune in to see some real football.

Wow, what a goal, what a match

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It’s pretty obvious that I am an Arsenal fan. Over the years there have been so many amazing goals that it would be nearly impossible to figure out a top 10 or even a top 20. Regardless, there was a goal this weekend in Arsenal’s 1-5 romp at Fulham that was unlike any I’ve ever seen before.

I’ll set the scene first. In the 67th minute of the second half, Arsenal had a dominating 1-3 lead. Aaron Ramsey was introduced as a sub for Alex Iwobi. 39 seconds later, Arsenal had its 4th goal of the match.

The match commentators explained it best when they said, “that was a goal the Harlem Globetrotters would be proud of.”

Ramsey started the run which included 15 touches. Some of them were perfectly passed headers, passes and the actual goal itself was a deftly touched back heel by Ramsey himself. This one will be on highlight reels for years to come. See for yourself:

That goal was just a part of what was an amazing team performance. Two goals apiece from the striking partnership that is Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sandwiched the Ramsey goal. In the end it was Arsenal’s ninth win in a row in all competitions. Not bad for a club the media and pundits were saying are “in crisis” at the beginning of the new season.