The early days of soccer in America

ABOVE: Artistic rendition of an Oneida FC game played at Boston Common

Originally it was thought that soccer first came to America though Ellis Island in the 1860s. However research in 2013 revealed that Irish, English, Scottish, Italian and German immigrants entering through the Port of New Orleans were the first to bring the sport to America, and it was there where many of the first games took place. 

In 1862 Oneida Football Club was was established in Boston as the first association football club in the United States.  In the early days, game rules varied by region, and the “Boston Game” allowed players to both kick the ball along the ground as well as pick it up and run with it.

In and effort to standardize the rules, the American Football Association was established in 1884. Early leagues in America mostly used the name “football” however in the in the late 1910s confusion between the terms “American football” and “association football” eventually led to more widespread use of the term “soccer”, derived from the British slang term for “association”.

In 1913 the AFA and the American Amateur Football Association applied for membership in FIFA, with the AAFA eventually being recognized as the United States Football Association, now known as the United States Soccer Federation.

The 1920s saw the rise of the American Soccer League, which was considered the second-most popular sports league in the U.S., only behind Major League Baseball. However the onset of the Great Depression ultimately led to the demise of the ASL in 1933. Despite this setback, the United States did compete in the first two FIFA World Cups, however the game failed to gain in popularity in the U.S. until the emergence of the NASL in 1968. 

Much has been written and debated about the subject and this just skims the surface of the story. We’re just happy that the game did finally take off in the States and will continue to grow for decades to come.

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