A Brief Guide to Researching United States Soccer History

General Resources

A good place to start when examining any area of US soccer history is David Litterer’s American Soccer History Archive. The site has year-by-year summaries from 1909-2011 as well as a number of articles on professional leagues, some cities and other topics. It also contains information on both the US Men’s and Women’s National Teams. Another good resource, especially for individual player biographies is Wikipedia. The site also contains a wealth of information on the National Challenge Cup and the American Cup. More information including both recent and historical coverage of the U.S. Open Cup is available at www.theCup.us. The webpage of the Society for American Soccer History has links to many useful sites including some mentioned below and also contains original essays. To learn what other researchers have written on the history of American soccer you should consult this bibliography of published material. Reading these texts and scanning the notes and/or bibliographies can help you find additional resources. The site Fun While it Lasted has information on many of the country’s defunct soccer clubs. The podcast Good Seats still Available has numerous episodes discussing the history of the sport in the US. If you would like to dig a little deeper into the early era of American soccer (1904-1925) Spalding’s Soccer Football Guides are the best and most complete source. Each volume contains seasonal recaps from a variety of locations across the United States. They also detail international tours, federation business and contain a wealth of photographs.


Newspapers are often the best and sometimes the only sources of information on American soccer history. Two of the most complete and easy to use databases are the pay sites www.newspapers.com and www.geneologybank.com. Be aware that although there is some overlap in their collections, the sites do not necessarily contain the same titles. If you are unwilling or unable to use a pay site there are still ways to access materials. Public libraries often have free subscriptions to local and sometimes national papers but the historical coverage may not be comprehensive. You might also be able to get a library card at a major urban public library even if you do not live in the area. At the Boston Public Library for example you can obtain a card if you are a Massachusetts resident. Most university and college libraries will also have some newspaper database subscriptions that might include access to earlier papers. At many public universities you may obtain a library card if you have a state i.d. even if you are not a student. Both public libraries and university libraries may also have microfilm copies of newspapers that have not yet been digitized. This is especially important if the topic you are researching does not focus on a large city.

Free newspaper databases also exist online but they pose some challenges. Both the Google Newspaper Archive and Old Fulton County New York Postcards are difficult to search effectively. Once you figure out the search engine Old Fulton County New York Postcards can be enormously useful and it, despite the name, contains hundreds of papers from around the country, although its best coverage is in New York state. An alternative and easier search method for the Postcards site is available at Fulton Search. Newspapers that are still in print often provide free access to their archives although such coverage may only include recent years and they often charge for more historical searches. The Library of Congress Chronicling American Newspapers database is free and relatively easy to search but only covers material up to 1923. Other no cost resources such as the archives of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, NYS Historic Newspapers and the California Digital Newspaper Archive are excellent but mostly for those geographic areas. For a general listing of digitized news papers visit Online Historical Newspapers.


If you are searching for biographical information about a player or players one free option is www.familysearch.org. From this database you can access all sorts of information including census and immigration records. Although it is a pay site www.ancestry.com covers more ground and provides access to more digital copies. Be sure to check your public or university library as many provide onsite access to Ancestry for free if you have a library card.


The National Soccer Hall of Fame re-opened in October 2018. Although the Hall has an extensive collection of primary source material on the history of US soccer there is still no word on how researchers will be able to access material. Currently the archives are stored in a warehouse in North Carolina and can be accessed by researchers. One of the best collections of original soccer history material can be found at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). The Hap Meyer Collection, 1898-1963 is a large collection of materials, many originally from the personal archive of Thomas Cahill. The collection is also especially strong on the history of the sport in St. Louis. SIUE also holds the Garcia Soccer Collection, 1936-1980 named for Prudencio “Pete” Garcia who was active as a player, administrator and official in St. Louis between 1936-1980. The University of Massachusetts Amherst Special Collections and Archives house the research collections of three important authors of US soccer history: Roger Allaway, Colin Jose and David Wangerin.