Early Minnesota Soccer History

Written by William P. Brenigan, Secretary, Minnesota Soccer Association, Inc.

The following article was originally printed in the 1917-1918 Spalding Soccer Guide, and is a nice overview of soccer in Minnesota up to that time.

Soccer football in Minnesota feels the impetus and will derive some of the benefits of being in the national organization. Today our players and spectators realize that the game will not be any more a local one, seeing we have become affiliated with the United States Football Association. Before the inception of the U.S.F.A., we knew very little about actual soccer conditions in any other city or State than our own. Located pretty far West, we were going ahead with our local boosting, without any ideal of what, if any, real benefit we were doing the game. The game in I Minnesota started, as in other States, through a number of old country boys getting together. Their inbred love of the game soon started them kicking a ball around. Later they formed Into “sides,” and from sides to teams.

The game has been played for twenty-nine years in Minnesota. The Shaw Cup which still is being played for, dates back to 1888, the Thistle F.C. being first to have its name inscribed on it. The cup the last three years has been won by the Thistle club which has been in existence ten years, but has no connection with the old Thistles who played in the city when the game was in its infancy.

Through the efforts of “Scotty” McLaren the Northwestern League was formed. I am doubtful if we ever can realize the amount of work and time that McLaren and another football worker, Alex Murray, devoted at that period of football in this city, but I can realize how much criticism they received from those who were not devoting any time to the promoting of the game.

After a few seasons the league disbanded, and on the 25th day of June, 1913, a new organization, the Minnesota Soccer Football Association, was formed and in coi-p orated. The following names will go down in history of soccer football in this State from that date : Robert Griffiths, Robert R. Jones, John Davis and Alex McFarland, all of the city of Minneapolis. They were the incorporators. The general nature of the business and purpose for which the corporation was established was to “own, maintain, control, manage and operate soccer football clubs,” and to “purchase, hold, own, use and possess t$e right and franchise in and for the State of Minnesota, for the playing of the game.” This organization was still to the fore when we became affiliated. We feel very proud in Minnesota to be members of the U.S.F.A., and realize that we will benefit by our step in governing soccer In our State and in promoting the game.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, whichever way one looks at it, in Minnesota we have not had any wealthy backing, and all the success that has beefi attained by our clubs has been due to the players and followers. We also have promoted the game in the grade schools in this city, which have a championship played off every year. In addition a number of the schools now are taking up soccer seriously as one of their physical studies. We have had a team in one State university this last three years and Coach Foster of the University of Minnesota is doing his best to promote the game throughout the colleges of the States of Minnesota and Iowa, having had his team playing Iowa’s State University.

The game is becoming more recognized on its merits. The advocates of college football at last are coming to see that soccer is a capital game to play. Also many persons are beginning to show an interest in soccer from the spectator’s standpoint.

We have played the best representative teams we could pick in the Twin. Cities, Minneapolis and St, Paul, on several occasions on Northrop Field, belonging to the State University, in response to the invitation extended by the university officials under the management of Dr. L. J. Cooke. Owing to the climatic conditions in this State we have two seasons, spring and fall. Spring series starts about April 23 and finishes about June 25. Then we have an interim, owing to hot weather, until the end of September, when we make a start for our fall series and keep “on playing until the cold weather sets in.

The championship pennant presented by Manager R. O. Johnson of Spalding’s store of this city, was won by St. Paul Football Club last spring. Thistle Club winning the Shaw Cup. Thus honors were divided between the Twin Cities.

At present we only have four teams in the league, St. Paul F.C, Albion F.C. Danish A.C and Thistle F.C. A new team will be in the game during our fall series, playing under the name of Eagles. Altogether the season was a most successful one and the series of games played created great interest among the fans.

Although the game in Minnesota is not so extensive as perhaps is desired, yet taking into consideration the class and form of the sport offered to the public, Is of a comparative high plane. The game, I think, has a firm hold here and in the near future will no doubt see an Increased popularity. Several of the clubs in the city have lost a number of their players who have enlisted, but the remaining few mean to ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning,” and I have appealed to all the followers of the game in the Twin Cities. who are interested in the game to help in all possible ways to support soccer in the present crisis here. We have lost one of the best footballers known to Minneapolis in Alex Smith, a late member of the Thistles, but now residing in Montreal, who has joined the ranks of the Sons of Scotland, “Smithie” was well liked, and a great favorite among the players of the Twin Cities, and we were sorry to see him go, but delighted to hear that he is a favorite in Montreal, having been picked to pivot the Montreal team against Toronto this season and having also the honor to score two goals out of three. In this game, Montreal defeated Toronto by three goals to one. His record in Minneapolis one season was seventeen goals out of twenty-one for his club.