History of Soccer in New York City/Northern New Jersey

The Early Years | The Original American Soccer League | The Lean Years | The Era of Growth | The Cosmos Era
The Lean Years – Again | Revival and World Cup | The Era of the MLS and Women’s Soccer

The Harrison/Kearny – West Hudson region of northern New Jersey is one of the earliest strongholds of soccer in 19th century America. Soccer first came to the region, as it did to many other cities, with the waves of European immigrants who flocked to the major industrial cities, bringing their love of the game with them. Before long, the New York/Northern New Jersey region was the largest soccer hotbed in the country. It was at the epicenter of soccer activity during the years of the original American Soccer League in the 20’s, and its successor in the 30’s through 50’s. In the 70s and 80s, soccer returned to the forefront as Pele and the Cosmos led the North American Soccer League during the soccer boom of that era. Since then, New York has been the site of numerous significant international matches as well as a venue during World Cup 1994, and remains one of the largest arenas of amateur soccer competition, and professional soccer at all divisional levels.

The Early Years

The first games of what may have been soccer were played primarily by schoolboys in upper-class private schools in the northeastern US. Although it is debatable whether those games were soccer as we know it, there is no question about the 1869 match between Rutgers and Princeton played at New Brunswick, NJ. That match, often called the first American soccer game, is also considered the first American Football game, but had major differences between modern soccer and football. There were 25 men to a side, the teams changed ends after each goal, and the first team to score 6 goals won the game. But it was a start. Soon soccer was being played by a number of colleges throughout the northeastern US with evolving rules. The phenomenon was short lived, as the colleges had all dropped soccer in favor of the rugby-form of the game by 1876 (That game would eventually evolve into modern gridiron football).

After abandonment by the colleges, soccer continued to be played in the immigrant communities coalescing in rapidly industrializing areas of the northeastern United States. One such area was the West Hudson region of northeastern New Jersey, comprising the towns of Harrison and Kearny, and located just across from New York City. The Clark Thread Company of Paisley, Scotland, which had moved part of their manufacturing to Newark in the 1860s, expanded their operations across the river to Kearny. Many workers immigrated from Scotland to work in the textile, thread and linoleum plants, and bringing their love of the game with them. Meanwhile, the silk mills in Paterson, NJ, 10 miles to the northwest, were attracting an increasing number of immigrants to their plant. Through the 1870s, soccer teams were springing up in these communities, and eventually in adjacent towns, and across the river in New York.

With the increasing growth of amateur soccer, both in this region, and also in New England, Philadelphia and other areas, it was inevitable that further organization would be needed. It came with the organization of the American Football Association in 1884, which represented a number of leagues throughout the Northeast, primarily from the New York City/Northeastern New Jersey region. Among the league’s first acts was to standardize the rules, and introduce some changes such as penalty kicks, adding nets to goals, allowing immediate free kicks without waiting for appeal, and (!) prohibiting officials from betting on games.

The other major act was the creation of the American Football Challenge Cup. The Cup was first contested in 1885, with thirteen teams taking part, among them, the Kearny Rangers, New York Thistles, New York FC, Paterson FC, O. N. T. of Kearny, and five teams from Newark (Domestics, Riversides, Thistles, Almas, Tiffany Rovers). Ansonia FC from Connecticut and the East Ends and Rovers of Fall River, Mass. filled out the list. O. N. T. (which stood for “Our New Thread”, the Clark Company’s latest product) defeated New York FC for their first cup title on April 25, 1885.

As a result of their 1885 victory, O. N. T. was invited to make a tour of Canada later in the year, earning a 9-1-1 record against Toronto, Dundas, Galt and Berlin Rangers (the current Canadian champion). Later in the year, a Canadian all-star team toured the New York/NJ region, and their tour culminated in a match against a select side of top American players, becoming the first international match (albeit not a “full” international) played by the United States. The match was held on November 22, 1885 at Clark Field in Kearny, NJ, before 2,000 fans with Canada winning 1-0. O. N. T. repeated as American Cup champion in 1886 and 1887, both times beating the Kearny Rangers. In late 1886, a Canadian select team again toured the US, and had a rematch against an American side at Clark Field, which again was well represented by O. N. T. players. This time, the Americans were victorious, beating Canada 3-2, with goals by J. Chapman (Kearny Rangers), John Gray (Newark Almas) and J. McGurck (O. N. T.)

As the years wore on, O.N.T. was overshadowed by other clubs, including the Newark Caledonian, Kearny Rovers, New York Almas, New York Thistle, Brooklyn Longfellows and Paterson True Blues, all of whom made the finals of the American Cup, but the New England teams from Fall River and Pawtucket began to dominate, winning all of the cups from 1888-1894.

In 1894, the first professional soccer league in the US was founded – the American League of Professional Football, with the region represented by the New York Giants. The teams were all managed by existing National League baseball clubs, but poor organizational decisions (like playing most games during the workweek) doomed the league to quick extinction (it only lasted three weeks). The next year, the National Association of Football Clubs was formed. One of its founding clubs, Kearny Scots, would go on (along with its successor namesake) to have a long and illustrious history in American soccer throughout the 20th century). The league was represented on the other side of the Hudson River by New Rochelle and the Brooklyn Wanderers. They were soon joined by the Paterson True Blues who won the 1896 American Cup, and were runner-up in ’97, and Kearny Arlington who won in 1898. Soccer suffered a setback in 1899 as the American Cup was suspended, along with the NAFBL. Only a handful of teams remained in New York City, playing ad-hoc friendlies.

Soccer revived in a major way in 1906 following the 1905 national tour of the Pilgrims all-star team from England, which had excited fans throughout the country by providing them with a first look at the top-quality soccer being played on the other side of the Atlantic. In short order, the American Cup was revived, along with the NAFBL, and order was brought to the east of the Hudson with the establishment of the New York State Football Association, who eventually launched the New York Amateur league, and a state Cup competition. West Hudson A. A. began a mini-dynasty, winning the American Cup in 1906, 1908 and 1912, along with NAFBL titles in 1906-07, 1909-10, 1911-12 and 1912-13. They also took part in the one season of the short-lived Eastern Soccer League, finishing third. The New York State Amateur League often saw Clan MacDonald, Clan McDuff, Brooklyn Celtic and Hollywood Inn battling for league title. Meanwhile these circuits were joined in 1912 by the Field Club Soccer League and Metropolitan & District Amateur Foot Ball League in New York and the St. George Soccer Football League in New Jersey, but the NYSAL and NAFBL often predominated at the higher levels. Brooklyn Celtic, of the NYSAL frequently had successful runs in the New York State Cup.

Clark Thread Co’s team was now known as Clark A. A. and made its presence known after the soccer revival, defeating the Kearny Scots for the 1907 American Cup, and losing to Paterson True Blues in 1909. Paterson would go on to take the cup in 1913, while the Kearny Scots began their resurgence, returning to the finals of the American Cup in 1907, 1914 and 1915, taking the title in 1914. Paterson A. C., Jersey A. C. and Bayonne Babcock & Wilcox were frequent contenders for the NAFBL title throughout the teens, with Paterson and Bayonne making the finals only to fall to Bethlehem Steel. Soccer eventually returned to the college ranks, with Columbia representing the region in the Intercollegiate Amateur Football League, the first college conference.

The NY State Association was behind the first attempt to create a truly national soccer organization, founding the American Amateur Football Association in 1911, one that unlike the AFA, was not directly linked to the International Board headed by the English Football Association. The AAFA set to work standardizing rules and soon had a number of affiliates, including some from far beyond the territory of the AFA. They also established the AAFA Cup, the predecessor of the U. S. Open Cup. New York teams did well in the AAFA Cup, with Brooklyn Celtic defeating Newark FC 3-0 in the 1912 final, and Yonkers FC defeating Yonkers Hollywood Inn 3-0 in 1913. The AAFA and AFA made competing sanctioning applications to FIFA, which put their decision on hold while advising the organizations to work out their differences. Reconciliation efforts were fruitless, but after several key organizations switched their allegiance to the AAFA in 1913, representatives of the AAFA’s 7 state associations gathered and formally established the United States Football Association which received recognition from FIFA. They soon gained the allegiance of the majority of remaining state associations, and the AFA. They also formalized alliances with the Amateur Athletic Union and Olympic Committee, and took the Dewar AAFA trophy as the reward for their new tournament, the National Challenge Cup.

The establishment of the National Challenge Cup (Later the US Open Cup) in 1914 was a major development, and the NY/NJ region dominated the first edition, with Brooklyn Field Club defeating Brooklyn Celtic in the final. Brooklyn Celtic and Paterson F. C. made the finals in 1915 and 1919 respectively. Two more Brooklyn teams made the finals shortly thereafter, with Robins Dry Dock taking the title in 1921 and Todd Shipyards falling short by a goal to Scullins Steel of St. Louis in 1922. For the most part however, the competition was dominated by the dynastic Bethlehem Steel and clubs from New England. New York based teams continued to do well in the American Cup however, although four consecutive contenders fell to the Bethlehem Steel juggernaut from 1916-1919; those being Kearny, West Hudson, Babson & Wilcox and Paterson respectively.

Organized soccer was hard hit by the United States entry into World War I in 1917, and the NAFBL, despite the addition of powerhouse Bethlehem Steel, never really recovered, although Robins Dry Dock achieved some distinction by winning the American Cup in 1919 and 1920. The Celtics and New York Field Club both played the All-Scots of Scotland during their tour in the summer of 1921, both suffering close losses. Frustrated by the deterioration of the league, and spurred by a desire to establish soccer on a more professional level, several key teams from the NAFBL and Southern New England Soccer League formed the American Soccer League, leading to the other leagues’ demises. Unlike the ill-fated ALPF and Eastern League of years past, the ASL had strong ownership, and teams ranging from the Boston region through new York, New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. Finally, the United States had a fully professional soccer league, one which would take the sport to new heights over the next decade.

The Original American Soccer League

There was a major resurgence of soccer in the New York City/New Jersey region with the advent of the American Soccer League in 1921, the first fully professional soccer league in the United States. The ASL was formed on July 7, 1921 at the Astor Hotel with eight clubs, including the New York Football Club, Jersey City Celtics, Todd Shipyards of Brooklyn, Harrison Soccer Club, as well as Bethlehem Steel (playing as Philadelphia Field Club), and three teams from New England. With the renown of these teams and strong financial backing, the league was an immediate success, drawing greater crowds than any previous circuits.

As the years progressed and the league grew in popularity it was able to offer comfortable salaries for its top players and soon the ASL was importing top players from Europe, particularly from Scotland, and to a lesser extent, from England and Ireland. This led to complaints from European leagues and accusations of poaching. Game attendance averaged around 6,000 for games in the New York region and 8,000 to 10,000 for major games in New England. The league prospered nonetheless, although for some time, the greatest success was realized by the New England-based teams and Bethlehem Steel. New York Field Club finished second in the inaugural 1921-22 season, and third in 1923-24. The Paterson Silk Sox joined the league in 1923, but only lasted one season, exiting along with Harrison. Indiana Flooring (based in New York City) joined in 1924, finishing in the middle of the pack, and the Newark Skeeters joined in 1925, but were perennial cellar-dwellers. The year 1925 also saw a significant international match at Ebbets field when the US national team trounced Canada 6-1 with Bethlehem Steel great Archie Stark scoring 4 goals.

A significant event in September 1922 was the tour of the English Dick, Kerr Ladies through the United States, probably the first appearance of women’s soccer in the country. They played men’s teams, some of whom took it easy on them, but their level of skill and perseverance was impressive and they kept the score close in most cases, losing to Paterson FC and Centro-Hispano before pulling off a surprising 8-4 victory over New York Field Club.

One of the most successful players of the ASL (and the league’s all-time top goalscorer) was Archie Stark, who had played for seven seasons in the NAFBL with the Kearney Scots, Babcock & Wilcox, Erie AA and Paterson F. C. before joining the New York Field Club. In their third season, he led the league with 21 goals, but the team withdrew from the league; he signed with Bethlehem Steel and went on to break the all-time Division 1 single season club scoring record with 67 goals (a world record that holds to this day – Brazil’s league system was not recognized at the Division 1 level until near the end of Pele’s career). Other players of note included Davey Brown who was the league’s 3rd all-time goalscorer with 193 in his ten years, many with the New York Giants, and Johnny Nelson, the league’s 2nd all-time goalscorer who spent many of his early years with the Brooklyn Wanderers and later with the New York Nationals and the Giants, finishing with 201 goals. In late 1924, the Brooklyn Wanderers drew 1-1 with the visiting Corinthians all-star squad, on tour from England, and they managed a draw with the touring Sparta FC of Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1926.

In an effort to expand the soccer horizons, several ASL teams joined with four Canadian teams to form the International League which played a brief season at the conclusion of their respective league seasons. Brooklyn Wanderers were the only New York-based team to take part but they won the ISL season title before losing to Toronto Ulster in the Nathan Strauss Cup. The league itself was not successful, and though they fielded an all-star side against Sparta Prague in a post-season friendly, they lost 4-0 and the league quickly folded.

The New York National Giants were founded in 1923 by Maurice Vanderweghe, a local furrier. They were mediocre for their first few years but would come to play a major role in the league as the 1920s drew to a close. Indiana Flooring started modestly in 1924, but came to life after being purchased in 1927 by Horace Stoneham, owner of the Baseball Giants. Unable to use that name, he called his team the Nationals. They struggled their first year, being topped in the standings by the Giants and Brooklyn. However, both his team and the Giants would improve and soon come to play a major role in the upheavals that convulsed the league as the season drew to a close.

Meanwhile, a major event occurred in 1926 with the arrival of the Hakoah All-Stars, an all-Jewish team from Vienna, Austria. Hakoah was a huge sensation, particularly in their New York matches where they beat the Brooklyn Wanderers, the Lavenders and some all-star sides before traveling across the country on their way to a 7-2-2 record. Their penultimate match was held in the Polo Grounds on May 29 where they pulled out a 2-1 victory over the New York Giants before 46,000 fans, an American soccer attendance record that would remain unbroken until the Pele era of the NASL some fifty years later. Such was the impression made that Erno Schwarz, Max Gruenwald and two other players remained to play for the Giants. Hakoah returned in 1927 and repeated their success, and the touring schedule was fleshed out with a tour by Maccabi FC of Tel-Aviv, Israel which compiled a 5-4-1 record playing primarily New York-based teams. One of the most prominent teams to hit the shores of the US in 1927 was Real Madrid which drew 1-1 with Brooklyn’s Galicia. Nacional of Uruguay also had a very successful tour with a 9-3-1 record, opening and closing their tour in New York. This was followed by Glasgow Rangers in 1928 and Preston North End a year later. From this point on, foreign teams conducted successful tours through the US over the next four decades, and New York was always an important stop on their itinerary.

As the 1920s advanced, tensions grew between the ASL and the United States Soccer Federation over jurisdictional issues. The ASL had long chafed at their obligations to allow clubs to participate in the U. S. Open Cup because of the disruptions it created for their league season and the burden faced by teams trying to manage two parallel and arduous playing schedules. They had pulled their teams from the Cup in 1924-25, leading to their suspension by the USSF. The ASL relented, and was reinstated, but their increasing “poaching” of European players through offering of lucrative contracts nearly led to the suspension of the USSF by FIFA. That was forestalled by the USSF’s acceptance of some sanctions and agreeing to limitations on player signings.

The ASL was outraged by the USSF’s actions and a struggle ensued over who would control soccer activities in the US. Eventually this dispute led to the ASL withdrawing from the 1928-29 Open Cup competition, again supposedly due to schedule crowding, but this time, Bethlehem Steel, the New York Giants and the Newark Skeeters defied the league and entered the competition anyway, leading to their suspension by the ASL. The teams appealed to the USSF who sent the ASL a stern warning which was ignored, leading to the league’s suspension. The ASL defied the USSF and played as an outlaw league minus the three expelled teams. The USSF in turn, played a major role in the formation of the Eastern Soccer League, consisting of the three expelled ASL teams, along with several teams from the Southern New York Soccer Association. A number of former Vienna Hakoah players formed New York Hakoah and joined as well. This action lead to a rift between the SNYSA and USSF, with the SNYSA aligning itself with the ASL. Both the ASL and SNYSA applied for FIFA sanctioning but were turned down. Two rival leagues played in the contentious 1928-29 season, but both sides suffered extensive financial losses, and middling results on the field. At seasons end they had had enough; peace was declared with the ESL folding and ASL returning to the USSF fold, temporarily renamed the Atlantic Coast League, and things basically returned to where they were before.

Ironically, through this turmoil, New York teams won the Open Cup in 1928 and 1929, with the Nationals taking the 1928 edition (followed by the final edition of the American Cup in 1929) shortly before the war erupted, as well as the 1929 Lewis Cup, and the ESL’s New York Hakoah taking the honors in 1929. In 1930, Hakoah was the best of the New York-based teams in the Atlantic Coast League. The region saw a new team, the Newark Americans, formed from many players of the defunct Bethlehem Steel squad. Meanwhile, the New York Giants changed their name to the New York Soccer Club, which allowed Horace Stoneham to appropriate the Giants name for his Nationals. In 1931, the Fall River Marksmen, suffering from low attendance, moved to New York and merged with the New York Soccer Club, becoming the Yankees. The region did well in the 1931 spring season, with the Giants winning the league title, followed closely by the Brooklyn Wanderers and the New York Yankees. In an unusual twist, the Yankees, who had begun the U. S. Open Cup tournament as the Fall River Marksmen, retained that name through to the championship match, even though by the finals they were known in the ASL as the Yankees, and wearing Yankee uniforms!

The Giants came close to winning the Fall 1931 season, and made the semifinals of the Open Cup, but both they and the Newark Americans had left the league by fall 1932. New York Americans and Brookhattan joined the league at that point, but due to mounting financial difficulties, the ASL collapsed during their spring 1933 season, bringing to an end the first golden era of American Soccer. However, the remaining roster of teams formed the basis of the second American Soccer League, which, although operating at a more modest and regionalized scale, was the top tier of U. S. soccer for several decades to come.

The Lean Years

The first ASL had collapsed during the spring of 1933, bringing an end to a major era in the game’s history. But this was far from the end of soccer in the New York/Northern New Jersey region. Within a few months a new American Soccer League had been formed. Unlike the previous incarnation, this one operated at more of a semi-pro level, and initially was almost entirely based in the New York region (although they would eventually expand down to Philadelphia and Baltimore in the late 30’s, New England in the 1960s, and ultimately the Midwest and finally nationally in the 1970s).

The initial season of the ASL II (1933-34) included several teams that would become mainstays of the league for decades, including the re-fashioned Kearny Scots, who won four consecutive league titles from 1936-37 through 1939-40 (and the Lewis Cup in 1940 & 1948), Brooklyn Hispano, (league title in 1942-43; Lewis Cup 1946) New York Brookhattan (Lewis Cup 1942, league title 1945-46), and New York Americans (league title 1935-36, 1953-54; Lewis Cup champ 1950; runner-up 1952). They were soon joined, on a less successful basis by Brooklyn Wanderers, a veteran of the first league (who frequently finished just short of the league title), St. Mary’s Celtics of Brooklyn and Paterson FC. Although league and cup championships were dominated by Philadelphia-based teams, the New York counterparts were always competitive, but frequently falling just short of ultimate victory. This changed in the 1950s with the return of New York Hakoah, who won three straight league titles from 1957-1959, and were Lewis Cup runner-up in 1951 and 1959. The entrenched teams were challenged by newcomer Colombo, who won the league title in their inaugural season in 1960 and boasted three of the four top goal scorers, and undertook a successful tour of Italy, but inexplicably withdrew after that first season!

ASL teams were regulars on the international circuit, and over the years many of the more prominent teams made trips to Europe and Latin America, including American League All-Stars to Israel (1951, 52, 53), New York Americans (Cuba 1934, 1949; Bermuda 1951), GASL All-Stars (Germany 1930, 1950, 1960), New York Hota (Germany, 1959, 1960; Denmark 1963), New York Hungaria (Iran, Lebanon, Cyprus & Jordan, 1962), New York Hakoah (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay; 1930, Costa Rica, Cuba, 1931). The Scottish All-Stars beat the ASL Stars 4-2 in a memorable 1939 match at the Polo Grounds.

The ASL often sponsored visits by overseas teams who often made the New York region the lynchpin of their national tours. The pace of touring teams picked up substantially after World War II, with highlights including Liverpool (England, 1950, 1952, 1960), Manchester United (England, 1950, 1952, 1960), Tottenham Hotspur (England, 1952, 1957), Hamburg (Germany, 1950), A. C. Milan (Italy, 1949), Naples (Italy, 1959), Real Madrid (Spain, 1959), Chelsea (England, 1954), Celtic (Scotland, 1951, 1957), Benfica (Portugal, 1957), All-England Stars (1950, 51, 53), Munich 1860 (Germany, 1960), and Rapid Vienna (Austria, 1958, 1959, 1961). Although the US opponents usually lost, this was the best chance for their fans to see world-class soccer, and these friendlies were often considered the highlight of the season, way more interesting than league matches. Many of the more prominent visitors were matched against league-wide or city-wide all-star sides, playing in major venues such as the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, Randalls Island and Ebbetts Field.

The amateur scene experienced a resurgence during the mid-20th century. The most prominent of the amateur circuits was the German-American Soccer League (now known as the Cosmopolitan league), founded in 1922, followed by the Eastern District league (1928), the Metropolitan League (1929), the National Soccer League of New York, the New Jersey State League and Long Island Junior League. Perennial contenders from the GASL included S. C. Eintract (league title in 1943,44, 45, 46, 50; New York State Cup 1934, 45, 46, 51, 53, New York German-Hungarians (league title, 1930, 33, 34, 40, 41, 42, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 58; State Cup 1933, 36, 40, 41, 44, 52), and New York Hungaria (League titles 1956, 59, 60, 61, 62). The other leagues had their own mini-dynasties (New York Gjoa, Paterson Dovers, Swedish-Americans of the National league; Brooklyn Italians, Bronx Scots, Shamrock Rovers, Prague of the Metropolitan League; Hakoah, Maccabi and New World of the Eastern District league), but the GASL dominated competition for the State Manning Cup. The New Jersey State Cup had few dynasties, the most prominent being the Scots-Americans (Kearny Scots) who took the title in 1933, 1939 and 1940.

At the national level, New York based teams continued to have an impact. At the U. S. Open Cup, the ASL peak performers were the New York Americans (winner in 1937 & 1954, finalist in 1933), Brooklyn St. Mary’s Celtic (winner 1939, runner-up 1938), Brooklyn Hispano (winner 1943, 1944), Brookhattan (winner 1945, runner-up 1950) and New York Hakoah (runner-up 1957). The German-American League’s New York German-Hungarian won the Open Cup in 1951, and the GASL would go on to greater success in the 1960s, almost always outlasting the ASL competition (see below). The National Amateur Cup was won by teams all over the country, but New York-based accomplishments included titles by Brooklyn DSC Germans (1936), S. C. Eintracht (1944, 1945), NY German-Hungarians (1951), Patchogue (1960), and New Brunswick American-Hungarians (runner-up, 1962).

The Era of Growth

As the 1960s commenced, big changes were taking place in the United States with the growth of spectator sports as a pastime, due to increased travel and availability of television. These changes would soon affect soccer in the NY/NJ region. The ASL of 1960 still consisted primarily of ethnic-based teams, but a number of the long-standing clubs had folded or withdrawn (i.e. NY Americans, Brooklyn Hispano, Brookhattan, etc.) replaced by Falcons, Galicia, Brooklyn Italians, Colombo, and Newark Portuguese.

A major new initiative in American soccer was William Cox’s International League. Founded in 1960, the ISL was the first major attempt to establish Soccer at a top-flight level in the US since the advent of the first ASL in 1961. Not a regular league, the ISL imported foreign teams to play a brief 5-6 week schedule during their off-season. Although these clubs (including such well known names as Kilmarnock, Bayern Munich, Red Star Belgrade, Real Valladolid, Rapid Vienna, Norrkoping, West Ham United, Halsinborg, Bangu and Sampdoria) considered this more as an exhibition series best suited for training and conditioning purposes, and only included part of their first-string roster, the ISL provided the highest quality soccer available in the country, and the matches were enthusiastically received by the local fans. In its first year (1960) the games were played entirely in the New York/Jersey City region, drawing more than 150,000 fans (5,100 per game) with 25,000 watching the final at the Polo Grounds. In 1963, they drew 288,743 fans, nearly 7,000 per game.

By 1964, ISL games were also bring played in Chicago, Cleveland and Los Angeles, and later in Detroit and Boston. By this time, Cox was convinced that if an American team could become competitive in the ISL, attendance would skyrocket. After failing to entice basketball great Wilt Chamberlain to join his proposed New York Americans, Cox shelved the Americans for the 1964 season, but scored a coup with the CBS broadcast of part of the championship match. In late 1964, things got testy as the ASL, tired of its second-fiddle status to the ISL (despite having exclusive USSF sanctioning as the American professional league), joined together with the GASL to form their long-planned “super-league” – the 12-team Eastern Professional Soccer Conference. The EPSC was a failure; ASL teams didn’t draw well in GASL stadiums and vice versa and everyone was losing money; the league folded late in the season with teams returning to their respective circuits, which had continued play with teams that hadn’t joined the EPSC. BW Gottschee of the German-American League was leading when the league collapsed.

This didn’t end problems with the ISL. That circuit was doing well; despite a decline in attendance, the league had only lost $100,000 in its five years of play, and had finally launched the NY Americans, who won their division. But the USSF had long distrusted Bill Cox as an outsider, and he likewise distrusted a national body that he was determined not to take orders from. The USSF, perhaps finally responding to ASL complains about Cox importing teams, challenged the ISL’s right to do just that; the dispute eventually led to the collapse of the ISL, ending the 2nd attempt to create a fully professional American league.

Meanwhile, the ASL soldiered on, although the New York-based teams were becoming eclipsed as the league contracted somewhat and added teams outside of its traditional regions, most notably in New England. Roma SC won the 1966 league title, with Newark Ukrainian Sitch taking second place and Inter SC taking 4th. The German-American league continued to do itself proud in the U. S. Open Cup, with New York Ukrainian taking the 1965 edition, and New York Greek-American winning 1967 and 1968. Greek-American also became the latest GASL dynasty, winning league titles in 1964, 68, 69, and 1970.

Touring teams from overseas continued to make stops in the New York region, with visitors of note including Recife (Brazil, 1963), FC Schalke (Germany, 1963), Tottenham Hotspurs (England, 1966), Blackburn Rovers (England, 1964), All-England stars (1961, 1964), Liverpool (England, 1964), Bayern Munich (Germany, 1966), Glasgow Celtic (Scotland, 1966), Sheffield (1962), Valcenciennes (France, 1963), Hannover ’96 (Germany, 1965), Werder Bremen (Germany, 1964), AEK Athens (Greece, 1964), Palermo (Italy, 1962), Hearts of Scotland (1964), West Ham United (England, 1965), Munich 1860 (Germany, 1965), Santos (Brazil, 1965), Red Star Belgrade (Yugoslavia, 1964), Hapoel Petah-Tirva (Israel, 1961, 1965).

There were also numerous US-based teams making tours overseas (primarily to Germany) during this period including Elizabeth, Hoboken, Hota, Minerva, Newark, NY Hungaria and several league all-star sides. A memorable 1966 friendly packed Downing Stadium on August 21, matching Santos of Brazil against Benfica of Portugal, marking a match up between Pele and Eusebio, two superstars of the day. Santos won 4-0 in a well played game marred by fan violence caused by overcrowding. A few days later, Santos was matched up against Inter Milan before 41,598 at Yankee Stadium, only the fourth crowd greater than 40,000 to see a soccer game in the US, and the first in ten years. Santos pulled away from a 1-1 tie in the 2nd half to win 4-1.

The Cosmos Era

In 1966, major changes in the local soccer scene occurred. First, the ISL had collapsed due to their dispute with the USSF. The respite for the ASL was short lived however, as the USSF stripped the league of its sanctioning as the professional league. The USSF, impressed by the large television audience for the 1966 World Cup final, decided the time had come for a full-fledged professional league, and put out the call for proposals, with the ASL not in their plans. Nothing ever happens easy, and soon three high-powered investor groups had submitted their proposals. The issue was very contentious and the 1967 season began with two rival leagues, one FIFA sanctioned, one operating as outlaws. The leagues merged the following season, and the North American Soccer League was born. In 1967, New York suddenly had two fully professional teams competing with the ASL squads and the amateur leagues; the New York Skyliners of the United Soccer Association and the New York Generals of the National Professional Soccer League. The Generals played much better, with a halfway decent 11-8-23 record, but were far outdrawn attendance-wise by the struggling Skyliners (8,700 fans per game vs. 4,200). The Skyliners folded during the 1968 merger, and the Generals were gone a year later, along with most of the league.

The demise of the Generals and Skyliners coincided with a major decline in NY/NJ soccer at all levels. All of the traditional powerhouses of the ASL were gone; newer teams such as Newark Ukrainian Sitch, Inter SC, New Brunswick Hungarian Americans did not have the history or fan support. The league shed many of its New York-based teams in 1968, as it endeavored to shed its ethnic image and expand beyond the region. Even the amateur leagues were in retreat, with the recent demise of the National and Metropolitan amateur circuits. This decline also affected the traditional international tours which were just a shadow of their former selves by 1968 (and disappeared entirely by 1971). By 1970, the NASL was down to 6 teams (none in New York), and the ASL down to five (with only Newark Ukrainian Sitch representing the region), and for a time it looked as if soccer in the region would return entirely to the amateur level for the first time in fifty years.

The big turnaround began in 1971 when the NASL launched the New York Cosmos and the ASL promoted the successful New York Greeks from the GASL, and added several Midwestern teams. The Cosmos had a modest start; they drew less than 5,000 fans their first season and their performance paled in comparison to the Greeks who won the 1971 ASL title. But things improved in 1972; the Cosmos won the NASL Northern Division and the league championship, and the Greeks won their conference and came up just short in the league title match against Cincinnati. They went on to win the ASL title in 1973 and nearly repeated in 1974, while their new competition the New Jersey Brewers had middling success.

The Cosmos continued to sink (both on the field and in the stands) in 1973 and 1974, but everything was to change in 1975 with one of the most momentous events in the history of US soccer – the signing of the world’s best known player, Pele, to play for the New York Cosmos. The signing of Pele by the New York Cosmos was a news event unprecedented in US soccer history – mainstream media gave extensive coverage of the event both domestically and abroad, shining a bright light on the rapidly expanding NASL which was finally achieving its dream of being a widespread truly national league, which now had 20 teams spread from coast to coast. The reality was more modest than the news headlines would suggest. Despite the hiring of Pele, and the presence of semi-major stars such as Gordon Bradley and Werner Roth, the Cosmos were still not a very good team, finishing just below .500.

Interest in Pele did lead to a notable increase in attendance, up to 10,500 per game to Randall’s Island, and the team did respectably on its world tour following the season, where they finished 4-1-5 against some fairly good teams. But the major success story was the ASL’s newly renamed New York Apollo (formerly Greeks), who followed their 1974 Open Cup victory with a 1975 South division title, and played Boston Astros to a 1-1 draw in the league championship. The Apollo again won their division in 1976, and advanced to the Championship match where they lost to the L. A. Skyhawks 2-1. The Cosmos began to spend in earnest to assemble a powerhouse squad to back up Pele including people such as Dave Clemens from Northern Ireland and Ramon Mifflin of Peru. Their biggest deal was landing Italian scoring ace Giorgio Chinaglia, who would go on to set the all-time record for NASL goals.

Fans really began to notice at this point, and the Cosmos drew over 18,000 per game in 1976, playing at the newly renovated Yankee Stadium, coming in a strong second behind the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who beat them in the divisional championship. After another international tour, the Cosmos again went all-out to sign major international stars. Pele had been a great boon to the league and a star attraction wherever he played, but was past his prime, unhappy with the lack of a strong team to back him up, and in the last year of his contract. To rectify the situation, a number of stars were signed including Steve Hunt from England, Carlos Alberto from Brazil, and most notably Franz Beckenbauer from Germany. Unlike many of the stars, Beckenbauer was still in the prime of his career and immediately made his presence felt. The Cosmos really hit their stride in 1977.

Now calling the new Giants Stadium their home, the star-laden Cosmos really began to take off. Attendance soared and soon records were being broken. The 1926 Polo Grounds record fell in a June match against divisional rival Tampa Bay which drew 62,394 fans who were delighted with Pele’s hat trick in the 3-0 shutout. The Cosmos eventually finished a strong second place behind Ft. Lauderdale in the Eastern Division. Cosmos fever raged as the Cosmos eliminated Tampa Bay in the first round of playoffs, and reached its zenith as an all-time NASL record crowd of 77,391 saw them beat Ft. Lauderdale in the first leg of their next round. They again drew over 70,000 in their semi-final match against Rochester, and an overfilled Portland audience saw them defeat the Seattle Sounders to win Soccer Bowl ’77. The Cosmos averaged over 34,000 fans per game in a league that now boasted several teams drawing large crowds. Big-time soccer had finally arrived in the USA!

As expected, Pele retired after the 1977 season, after a special exhibition between the Cosmos and Santos, with Pele playing one half for each team. As the NASL expanded to 24 teams, the Cosmos continued their player signings, landing Vladislav Bogiecevic and American Ricky Davis. They hit the big time this season, drawing over 48,000 fans and winning both their division and the league championship. They added Andranik Eskandarian of Iran, Francisco Juninho of Brazil, and Johan Neeskins of Holland in 1979, giving their roster a true United Nations appearance. They finished 24-6 that year, winning their division and advancing to the conference final where they fell to Vancouver.

The Division 2 ASL by this time functioned to some extent as a feeder league for the NASL, and the NY/NJ teams continued to do well. The New York Apollo fell to 2nd place in 1977, while the upstart New Jersey Americans won the east title and the championship, but the Apollo returned to the top in 1979, going 18-1-5, and winning the league championship. The New Jersey Americans finished 2nd, and the expansion New York Eagles struggled to finish 6-5-13. Things flip-flopped in 1979 as the Apollo fell apart, and the Eagles scrambled to finish 2nd in the east (They lost in the first round of playoffs), while the Americans remained about .500. A third soccer league established a New York presence in 1978, and this one was indoor. The New York Arrows were a charter franchise in the Major Indoor Soccer League, and were the MISL’s first dynasty, winning the first four league titles (1978-79 through 1981-82), and boasting the first true indoor superstars, Steve Zungul and Julie Veee.

In 1980, the NASL reached its zenith – the league had no franchise shifts from the previous year, and began dispensing with aging foreign stars in favor of younger talent, including the Cosmos’s Julio Cesar Romero of Paraguay and Mexican striker Hugo Sanchez (Who would close out his long career with Major league Soccer in 1996). The Cosmos were in fine form again, winning their division with a 24-8 record and thrilling a (neutral site) Washington crowd with their Soccer Bowl 1980 victory over Ft. Lauderdale. The Cosmos again undertook multiple overseas tours in the off-season to serve as ambassadors for American soccer, dominating the competition which includes a number of major clubs. Significant victories were a 2-0 shutout of Santos, a 3-2 win over FC Cologne and a 3-2 win over Manchester City. By this time, the Cosmos had a 132-16-17 record in international exhibitions, and were a major catalyst in encouraging foreign teams to come and tour the US. The ASL’s New Jersey Americans moved to Miami and the Apollo were now known as New York United, and finished 2nd at 17-11, but the Arrows continued their successful championship ways. New York was included as a prospective franchise in a proposed 4th soccer league, the USSL, but that never launched. The year 1980 was capped by the New York Pancyprian Freedoms winning the U. S. Open Cup, and the Brooklyn Dodgers amateur club qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions Cup (They did not advance). The Freedoms would go on to win the US Open Cup in 1980, 82, 83 and 1984, becoming the most recent (to date) New York-based dynasty.

Unfortunately, 1980 was the height of the second Golden Era, and everything was downhill from there on. The powerhouse NASL teams had vastly overspent which forced the weaker teams to do likewise. Soon the league was awash in red ink, and began shedding major players, and as a result, losing fans. The league instituted limits to require a greater reliance of American players (to give them experience, albeit at a price of overall quality of play), and teams began to fold, but the financial losses continued. These woes did not immediately affect New York soccer. The Cosmos went 23-9 in 1981, and lost a shootout to Chicago in the Soccer Bowl, while NY United won their division in the ASL (and advanced to the semifinals), the Eagles finished third in the ASL East, the MISL Arrows won their third consecutive title, and the amateur Brooklyn Dodgers (a.k.a. Italians) fell in the U. S. Open Cup final.

Things got worse both for New York and the NASL in 1982. Attendance for the Cosmos fell to 28,000, although they won the league title and Soccer Bowl ’82, and Chinaglia was again scoring champ. But the Cosmos did poorly in their inaugural NASL Indoor season, and both ASL teams had folded prior to the season. The Cosmos repeated as division champs in 1983, led by league scoring champ Robert Cabanas, but they were eliminated in the first round of playoffs. The MISL Arrows fell back to earth, just breaking even at .500, losing Steve Zungul, the league’s top scorer midseason, and exiting the first round of playoffs.

By the start of 1984, the NASL was literally falling apart; only 11 teams were left to start the season. the Cosmos had lost most of their major stars and were just an also-ran this season, finishing at 13-11 and drawing 12,800 fans per game. They didn’t even make the playoffs, but had done better in the 1983-84 indoor season, making it to the championship. In 1984, the short-lived United Soccer League was launched from the remnants of the ASL which had folded the previous season. The New York Nationals represented the region, going 10-14 in their one and only season. The Arrows suffered their first losing season, and went bankrupt at season’s end.

Things certainly were looking bad for the New York teams and the pro leagues in general, but a brief respite came at the hands of the soccer competition in the 1984 Olympics which drew record crowds (The most attended sport by far in the Olympiad), capped by a record crowd of 101,799 that attended the gold medal match. Several pool-play matches were played just up the river at the U.S. Military Academy stadium. Unfortunately, this accomplishment, although it showed for the first time that Americans would turn out en masse for a major event, did little to help the sport on the professional front. The Cosmos bolted the collapsing NASL in the fall to join the Major Indoor Soccer League, but were a shell of their former selves. After the NASL officially disbanded in February 1985, the Cosmos left the MISL and started a series of outdoor exhibition games, but after their first few matches, they finally folded for good. Soccer in New York region had again hit rock bottom with no options for the local fan outside of the local amateur leagues.

The Lean Years – Again

With the demise of the professional leagues and the Cosmos, there was nothing left in the New York region but the amateur leagues, led by the Cosmopolitan League (formerly the GASL), and the Eastern District league. The situation looked little better across the country, and the region has to this day (2010) not regained the dominance it held during the NASL glory years. But almost immediately the outdoor game began to rise, slowly and phoenix-like from rock bottom. Youth and college soccer were both beginning to take off and would grow by leaps and bounds over the next two decades, particularly on the women’s’ side. Soon major colleges became the powerhouses, and the NY/NJ region was well represented by many institutions such as St. John’s, Seton Hall, Stony Brook and Rutgers. Things took longer at the pro levels however. The New York Express joined the MISL in 1986, flaming out after a disastrous 3-23 season, but on a brighter note, Yonkers Polish Americans won the 1987 National Amateur Cup, and the CSL’s Greek-Americans made it to the US Open Cup final in 1989. The NESSL’s Brooklyn Italians followed suit in 1989, and won it in 1990.

Lower-level soccer leagues began sprouting up in the US in the late 1980s, and a bona-fide 2nd division circuit was launched in 1988 – the third American Soccer League. But the glory days in the NY/NJ region were over. Functional teams, let along successful ones were rare during this time. The New Jersey Eagles were represented in the ASL, winning the North Division title in 1988, but fell to last in 1989. That year, Rutgers made it to the NCAA Division 1 semi-finals, and the championship was held at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, a 1-1 battle that was called after four overtimes. The National Team returned to New York with a 3-0 win over Peru in a friendly. Although it had little impact in the region, a seminal event in 1989 was the US qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1950. This would lead to momentous changes in the game, as the USSF, which had previously been awarded the 1994 World Cup (based in part on the impressive attendance at the ’84 Olympics) began to lay the groundwork to develop the national team and for the launch of a new Division 1 professional league.

As part of their effort to be designated the new Div. 1 professional league, the ASL and Western Soccer League merged as the American Professional Soccer League, an unwieldy 20-team circuit with each league forming a conference. New Jersey again finished last in this edition, and a new club, Penn-Jersey did somewhat better, finishing third. The USA hosted Malta at Piscataway, beating them 1-0, and Rutgers returned to the NCAA Div. 1 championship, again going into FOUR overtime periods. This time however, they fell to UCLA 1-0. New York continued its ineptitude in the indoor game when the National professional Soccer league added the New York Kick for 1990-91; they went 3-37 and folded. Most of the APSL teams folded after their first season in 1990; but Penn-Jersey continued, finishing a middling 3rd in 1991 before folding. By 1993, the only soccer left was once again the amateur circuits and college teams (St. John’s came in 3rd place in the 1993 Coaches’ poll). Kearny, NJ, that early hotbed of US soccer, achieved a measure of distinction as three Kearny natives earned spots in the National Team in the buildup to the ’94 World Cup – John Harkes, Tab Ramos and Tony Meola.

Revival and World Cup

Although things looked bleak in 1992, soccer would enter a new era with the buildup to the 1994 World Cup, the rapid expansion of the Division 2/Division 3 leagues, the popularity of Giants Stadium as a national team venue, and the advent of Major League Soccer. Although New York/New Jersey did not often see great triumphs during this era, never again would the region be bereft of pro soccer.

The first major event was the launching in 1993 of Major League Soccer which would start play in 1996, and would include a team in New York. The soccer scene really came back to life during the World Cup, which was a seminal event bringing the US into worldwide prominence, as the event shattered attendance records averaging 67,000 fans per game. The US even did well, beating favored Colombia and advancing to the Round of 16 where they held #1 Brazil to a single goal as they exited with their heads held high. Several prominent matches (including a semi-final) were held at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, drawing nearly 80,000 fans per match. The Women’s National Team had their first area matches, beating New Zealand, Trinidad & Tobago and Canada at the C.W.C.’93 before modest crowds. They returned to the area in 1994 and 95 when they beat China and Australia respectively, at Rutgers Stadium.

Pro soccer made its comeback to the region when the Division 3 US Interregional Soccer League (Now the USL) expanded to the northeast, adding the New York Fever, New Jersey Imperials and North Jersey Dragons., and Sam’s Army made their New York debut at the final match of the USA Cup at Rutgers Stadium in New Brunswick as 35,126 saw the Americans battle Colombia to a 0-0 draw. Later that year, the Nats made their debut at Giants Stadium in the Parmalat Cup where they lost to Parma and Benfica. Although the Dragons and Fever did not last long, (nor did the NY/NJ Stallions added in 1996) the Imperials had a long, if rarely successful tenure. More successful was the 1995 entry, the Long Island Rough Riders, who went on to a long championship filled tenure in the 3rd division league before dropping to the amateur division. Division 2 soccer returned with the New York Centaurs of the APSL in 1995 (They flamed out), followed by the New York Fever in 1996 (They were little better.) Finally division 1 returned with the MLS and the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 1996.

The Era of the MLS and Women’s Soccer

The New York/New Jersey MetroStars were a charter franchise of Major League Soccer. The league considered adding a second team in Long Island, and although that did not happen, the league has kept an option for a Long Island franchise ever since. The region was caught up in soccer fever as teams continued to sprout up at all divisional levels, as seen by the chart below:

New York Centaurs (A-League)         1994
Jersey Dragons (USL)                 1994-1996
Long Island Rough Riders (USL)       1994-present
North Jersey Imperials (USL)         1994-1999
New York Fever (USL, A-League)       1995-1996
Long Island Lady Riders (W-League)   1995-present
New Jersey Wildcats (W-league)       1996-present
New York/New Jersey MetroStars (MLS) 1996-present*
New York Magic (W-league)            1997-present
New Jersey Stallions (USL)           1997-2004
New York Freedom (USL)               1998-2004
New Jersey lady Stallions (W-League) 1998-2004
Westchester Flames (USL)             1999-present
Staten Island Vipers (USL)           1999
Brooklyn Knights (USL)               1999-present
New Brunswick Power (W-League)       2000
New York Power (WUSA)                2001-2003
New York Vendoval (WPSL)             2003
Long Island Fury (WPSL)              2006
Long Island Academy (NPSL)           2007
New Jersey Ironmen (MISL/XSL)        2007-2008
Jersey Sky Blue (W-League)           2007-2008
New York Athletic Club (NPSL)        2008-present
Newark Ironbound Express (USL)       2008-present
New Jersey Rangers (USL)             2008-present
Sky Blue F. C. (WPS)                 2009-present
New York Red Bull (NPSL)             2009-present
Jersey Select (WPSL)                 2010-present
New Jersey Rangers (WPSL)            2010-present
Brooklyn Italians (NPSL)             2010-present
F. C. New York (NASL II)             2011-present

Note:  Some USL teams were in Division 2 or 3 leagues; most
play(ed) in the amateur-level USL-PDL league.
*-MetroStars known as New York Red Bull since 2006.

With the exception of the MetroStars, area teams made an immediate impact in their respective leagues, with the Long Island Rough Riders winning their USL division in 1994 and the USL title in 1995. The Lady Riders took the W-League title in 1995 and 1997, and the Magic followed with a title in 1998, and earned runner-up honors the following year. The North Jersey Imperials were strong in these years, and the New York Freedom won the USL amateur title in 1999. At the amateur level, Clifton Soccer Academy United won the National Women’s Amateur Cup for three straight seasons, 1996 through 1998.

Meanwhile, success was not coming at the top level, as the MetroStars struggled through several seasons (and many players and coaches), never able to break far above .500 and often landing in the cellar. Their first decent showing was not until 2000 when they made the semi-finals; but (yet again) collapsed the following year, leading to concerns at league headquarters about the failure of success in the nation’s largest TV market; success in New York was crucial to the league’s overall success. A major highlight of the 1996 MLS season was a doubleheader which set an all-time attendance record of 78,416 at Giants Stadium, which pitted the East All-Stars against the West followed by a charity match between Brazil and the FIFA All-stars, which Brazil won 2-1.

The 1999 Women’s World Cup was a seminal event in the history of women’s soccer and some of the biggest crowds were at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford. The opening match set a new attendance record at Giants Stadium as 78,972 came out to see the US shut out Denmark 3-0 followed by Brazil trouncing Mexico 7-1. A later doubleheader did not feature the US but still drew almost 30,000 fans.

When the Women’s United Soccer Association launched in 2001, the New York Power were a charter franchise, playing all three seasons of the WUSA’s brief life, but with middling success, only making the playoffs in their final year where they were defeated in the first round. W-League area teams were perennial success stories during the regular season with several divisional titles to their credit, but always collapsed in the playoffs. On the men’s side, the region saw great success at the start of the millennium, with the NJ Stallions winning the USL Div. 3 title in 2000, Westchester taking their division in 2000, followed by the league title in 2001, and the Long Island Rough Riders following suit in 2002. But then the region entered a fallow period with several teams having folded and little success on the field, particularly from the MetroStars.

The only bright spot during this time was the revival of the old tradition of tours by major foreign teams, initially organized by Championsworld. The highlight of the first edition was Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over Juventus in July 2003 which set a new Giants Stadium record of 79,005 fans, followed by the Italian Super Cup match up between A. C. Milan (5) and Juventus (2) which drew 54,000. This was so successful that Championsworld scheduled three matches at Giants stadium in 2004. The first match saw 74,511 witnessed A. C. Milan draw 1-1 with Manchester United. Early August saw more modest crowds at the Galatasray/Porto and Liverpool/A. S. Roma matches.

Things started to turn around in 2005. The Men’s National Team won two well attended Gold Cup matches defeating Honduras and Panama to win the tournament. New teams began popping up in the USL, W-League, WPSL and NPSL, with some having immediate success on the field and collecting much silver. The New Jersey Wildcats won the W-League title in 2005 (and their division from 2005 through 2007). Meanwhile, the WPSL expanded to the Northeast in 2006 (followed by the NPSL in 2007), and the expansion Long Island Fury lived up to their name, taking the title in 2006 and 2009, while the NPSL’s Long Island Academy made it to the semis in ’07. In another first, New York Athletic Club captured the first Women’s National Amateur Cup title for an area team. The veteran USL Brooklyn Knights finally saw success, winning their division in 2008, and at the local amateur level, the New York Pancyprian Freedoms won the National Amateur Cup. That was the year Red Bull New York surprised everyone by squeaking into the playoffs despite a 10-11-9 record, and battling all the way to MLS Cup ’08 where they fell to Columbus 3-1. This qualified them for the preliminary round of the 2009-2010 CONCACAF Champions League where they fell to W. Connection (Trinidad & Tobago) 2-2 and 2-1. Unfortunately, they collapsed in the 2009 MLS campaign, falling to last place. That year saw the launch of Women’s Professional Soccer, which included the region’s Sky Blue F. C. as a charter team. The team had middling success their inaugural year, but looked promising for 2010.

On the exhibition front, Championsworld folded after the 2004 series, and for 2005 MLS arranged the “World Series of Football” which mostly pitted MLS squads against visiting foreign teams. The match at Giants Stadium was an exception; 35,000 saw A. C. Milan draw 1-1 with Chelsea. But later that year, Ecuador held two friendlies, and England drew 50,000 to their 3-2 win over Colombia. In 2006, both international friendlies and the World Series of Soccer were seasonal highlights; 79,002 came to watch F. C. Barcelona defeat Red Bull New York 4-1, and the 1-1 draw between Colombia and Ecuador was also well attended. In 2007, the only international action in the region was a lightly attended 1-1 draw between Ecuador and Ireland. Barcelona returned in 2008 and whomped Red Bull New York 6-2 before 38,000+. But the big event that year came in August as the US drew 1-1 with Argentina in a friendly attended by over 78,000. The World Football challenge was launched in 2009 but bypassed the NY/NJ region. Fans were not bereft however, as the US was pitted against Mexico in the final match of the Gold Cup before (yet another) Giants Stadium record crowd of 79,156. Primed to make amends for their heartbreaking loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final, the US fell apart, losing to the Ticos 5-0.

As the decade concluded, things looked fairly good for soccer in New York and northern New Jersey. Red Bull New York opened their new 25,000 seat soccer-specific stadium, which was a big hit with the fans, and quickly took a commanding lead of their division, playing their best ball in years. Many teams had been launched in the lower divisions in recent years, with some W-League teams proving to be perennial contenders. The newly-launched Division 2 North American League awarded a new franchise, New York F. C., to launch in 2011. The new Meadowlands Stadium promised to be an attractive venue for International matches, and was on the short list for the US World Cup 2018/2022 bid, and their was some talk of MLS exercising its option to put a new franchise in Long Island (read Queens) with many fans hoping they may purchase the rights to the Cosmos name. Overall, the future for New York soccer looked bright.