By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, soccer was making substantial strides in recovering from the doldrums of the 1890’s. The 1905 tour by the Pilgrims of England (an all-star squad of players from throughout the English Leagues) had electrified audiences throughout the country during their nationwide tour, and exposed many US followers to their first true taste of top-flight soccer, and were an inspiration to the players. A true renaissance was taking place in the major metropolitan areas of the northeast, Midwest and west coast, with numerous beings springing up, and established leagues finding renewed vigor. Many were centered around clubs catering to the various ethnic groups that made up an ever-increasing portion of the working class communities in those cities. Soccer was becoming re-established among colleges and high schools. State Associations were now established among many states across the country. With the improving caliber of play and the increased enthusiasm showed by players and fans alike, Soccer was beginning a comeback at the amateur level.
Most of the remaining older soccer leagues were growing as well and those that failed were soon replaced by newer circuits. In 1905-06, only a handful of clubs fielded soccer teams in New York City, playing friendlies on an ad-hoc basis. By 1909, no less than four leagues in the NY/NJ metropolitan area were active, including dozens of teams with Saturday and Sunday fixtures, and two state cup competitions. The story was similar in New England, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco and Los Angeles. St. Louis boasted 12 leagues this year, and Philadelphia had nearly half that number. Best of all, the semi-pro National Association Football League of Northeastern new Jersey had been re-established in 1906, and was continuing to flourish. Even though its geographical scope was no larger than that of other local amateur leagues, it’s strive towards semi-professionalism marked an early attempt to ramp the game up to the next organizational level. The NAFBL’s success led the next season to the first 20th century attempt at a professional regional league, as the Eastern Soccer League launched in the fall, breaking beyond metropolitan boundaries to include teams from New England and the New York region (See details about this in the 1910 review).
At the top, the American Football Association had been revived in 1906, along with the American Cup, which once again provided a stage on which teams could compete for a so-called national championship. Although the American Cup never extended beyond the northeastern part of the country, it was a first step towards establishing a true national championship competition.
National Association Football League
The NAFBL emerged as a smaller, but stronger league this season. New York Clan MacDonalds, and Yonkers Hollywood had left to return to the resurgent New York based amateur leagues. Newcomers West Hudson and East Newark Clark A.A. surprised the field by finishing atop the standings and being declared league champions. In fact, they trounced the veteran clubs. Paterson True Blues remained the strongest of the veteran sides, while defending champion Newark F. C. fell to 4th place, tied with the struggling Kearny Scots.
Final NAFBL League Standings, 1908-09 GP W L T Pts East Newark Clark A.A. 10 9 1 0 18 West Hudson A.A. 10 9 1 0 18 Paterson True Blues 10 4 5 1 9 Newark F.C. 9 2 6 1 5 Kearny Scots 9 1 5 3 5 Paterson Rangers 9 1 7 1 3 East Newark Clark A.A. and West Hudson A.A. were declared league co-champions. After the season, East Newark Clark A.A. withdrew.
New York State Foot Ball Association
The NYSFBA held Saturday and Sunday leagues, with some teams playing in both leagues. The winners of each league played off to determine the overall league champion. The Amateur Cup, donated several years prior to the formation of the League by devoted fans was competed for by four teams. The big event to conclude the season was the New York State Football Association Cup. Brooklyn F. C. was the workhorse team of the region, having played a total of 40 games, winning 32 against 2 draws and 6 losses. Their trek illustrated the itinerary common to many clubs – a mix of league matches, friendlies, and participation in regional cup competitions as well as the American Cup. This was a fruitful season for the squad as they managed to capture three trophies for the year (see below).
Final New York Amateur League Standings, 1908-09 Saturday League GP W L T GF GA Pts Hollywood Inn F. C.* 12 11 1 0 16 5 20 Brooklyn F. C. 11 7 4 1 20 12 13 Caledonians 11 4 7 0 21 18 8 Cameron F. C. 12 1 10 1 5 27 3 Sunday League GP W L T GF GA Pts Clan MacDonald* 20 17 1 2 53 11 34 Arcadia Thistles 20 11 4 5 35 25 27 Columbia Oval 20 10 4 6 39 17 26 Camerons 19 9 4 6 33 20 24 Critchley 18 8 6 4 37 30 20 Clan MacKenzie 19 7 6 6 37 37 20 Highbridge* 20 7 8 5 32 39 17 Hibernians 19 6 11 2 28 30 14 Bronx United* 19 5 12 2 29 44 10 Astoria 20 4 14 2 14 58 10 Portchester 20 2 16 2 10 36 6 * – deducted 2 points for playing ineligible players League championship: Hollywood Inn defeated Clan MacDonald Clan MacDonald Cup: Paterson Rangers McCarren Cup: Brooklyn Foot Ball Club New York Amateur Cup: Brooklyn Foot Ball Club defeated Staten Island for the win. New York State Association Cup: Brooklyn Foot Ball Club defeated Hollywood Inn.
New England Region
The New England Region showed a resurgence in their competition, although the leagues were not quite up to the level of their heyday in the 1890s. But some teams, most notably the Fall River Rovers and Howard and Bulloughs of the New England League proved to be among the strongest in the country. The Fall River Rovers easily won the League title, easily surpassing Howard & Bulloughs 25 points to 17 in the final table. J & P Coates and Fore River brought up the rear, tied at 12, Coates having been docked 4 points for forfeiting an engagement with Fore River. Methuen easily won the title in the Lawrence, Lowell & District League. Methuen issued a challenge to the Boston Rovers who had won the Boston & District league title (more than doubling the point total of runners-up Boston American and Brockton in the process), to a playoff to determine the New England champion. The two teams met in Lawrence, but the game had to be abandoned with a standing tie score due to a terrific storm that drenched the proceedings. The Boston & District League touted the fact that their got through their entire season without a single protest, and with administrative expenses only constituting 25 per cent of the money paid by clubs as their entrance fees.
St. Louis Soccer League
The St. Louis Soccer League and Association Soccer League merged this year, retaining the “St. Louis” name. St. Leo’s (founded by William Klosterman in 1902) repeated their Association League triumph of last year, winning the St. Louis League title easily, with St. Teresa’s (founded 1907) far back in second place. St. Louis continued to be one of the premier soccer hot beds of the country boasting a dozen leagues, many of them having sprung up the past couple of seasons. The rise in interest could be directly tied to the visit by the English Pilgrims team during their tour in 1905, which had electrified the populace. Since then, the appetite for soccer seemed to be insatiable, and unlike in other major soccer centers of the country, a substantial number of participants were Americans, rather than members of immigrant communities. This year there were no less than a dozen leagues operating in the city. Although the leagues would soon consolidate to just 2 or 3, the St. Louis Soccer League would remain for decades as one of the top circuits in the country, competing at the semi-pro level and sending numerous teams to the finals of national tournaments.
St. Leo’s had just established themselves as the premier regional soccer team of the era, although they had started with modest beginnings in 1902. When they made the transition to the St. Louis League, by then the most prominent circuit in the city, they staked their claim to supremacy through a convincing win in the 1908-09 season, and would go on to establish the first true club dynasty in American Soccer, winning league championships every year through 1915. Final SLSL League Standings, 1909-1909 Before the season, West Ends were added. GP W L T GF GA Pts St. Leo’s 18 12 2 4 39 14 28 St. Teresa’s 18 7 4 7 23 20 21 West Ends 18 4 7 7 12 17 15 Thistles 18 1 11 6 8 31 8 Champion: St. Leo’s After the season, West Ends and Thistles withdrew. St. Louis Association Foot Ball League: New Tariffs (12-7-1-4-18) St. Louis Amateur League: Hibernians (15-11-4-0-22) Cardonlet Soccer League: St. Mary & Josephs (15-7-4-4-18 Sodality League: St. Augustines (10-7-0-3-17) South Side League: Kinlochs (5-3-0-0-10) Handlan Park League: St. Malachy’s Empire Park League: St. Roses (9-4-0-5-13) (The Other) South Side League: St. Agnes Saturday Afternoon League:Keen Kutters
Other Amateur Leagues & Cups
New York State Association Cup: Brooklyn Foot Ball Club defeated Hollywood Inn.
Football Association of Pennsylvania: (founded 1900) League title: Hibernians (23-20-1-2-91-24-42)
Football League of the Associated Cricket Clubs of Philadelphia: (founded 1902). Merion F. C. (8-6-2-0-24-11-12)
Pennsylvania Amateur League: (organized 1906). Cardington F. C. (13-10-1-2-48-12-22)
Sons of St. George Association Foot Ball League (Philadelphia): (founded 1907). Victoria (16-15-1-0-53-11-30)
Philadelphia & Suburban League (Allan A. Kerr Cup):(founded 1908). Cambria (14-9-2-3-24-11-21)
Detroit and District Association Foot Ball league: (founded 1904). All-Scots (10-8-2-0-10).
Mononghahela Valley League (Pittsburgh): Braddock (14-11-2-1-48-15-23)
Central Association Football League (Pittsburgh Region): Sturgeon (8-4-2-2-10)
Bowler Cup (Cleveland Region: Lorains
Cleveland Soccer Foot Ball League: Lorains
Peter J. Peel Cup (Chicago): Campbell Rovers
Association Foot Ball League of Chicago: Woodlawns (fall season and Spalding Cup)
Chicago League of Association Foot Ball (Jackson Cup): Hibernians
Chicago Saturday League: Cliftonville
Daynes Challenge Cup (Utah): Eureka.
Northwest Senior League: Tacoma.
California Association Senior Challenge Cup: Albion Rovers
California Foot Ball League (San Francisco):Vampires
Western League (California): Golden West
“Pacific Coast Championship”: All California defeated Southern California 6-0, 3-0
The US National Team
There was no US National Team during this era.
Fifteen teams participated in the competition this year; many were given a bye to the second round. Those who survived to the third round were almost evenly divided between New York, New Jersey and New England. New Jersey partisans had much to celebrate in this round: Clark A. A. defeated Clan MacDonald of Brooklyn 1-0, and Jersey A. C. defeated the Camerons of New York 2-0 after two previous matches ended in 1-1 draws. Rovers of Fall River did manage to trounce Newark F. C. 6-1, and initially Howard & Bulloughs defeated Paterson True Blues 1-0, but the match was ordered replayed due to Howard & Bulloughs fielding an ineligible man; True Blues won the rematch 2-0.
In the semifinals, Clark A. A. defeated Rovers 2-0 and True Blues defeated Jersey A. C. 4-3. The final was played at Harrison. The teams played to a 1-1 draw, and a rematch was ordered and played at the same site. Before 10,000 spectators, True Blues defeated Clark A. A. 2-1 to take the Cup.
The Pilgrims (England): October 2, 1909 through November 16, 1909. Results: 16 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses. Goals for: 134, goals against: 12.
The Pilgrims tour of 1905 was the first by a foreign team to the United States, and it was a landmark event, exposing many US soccer patrons to their first direct taste of top-flight competition, and played a major role in generating renewed interest in the game. By the time the Pilgrims returned in 1909, new leagues and associations had sprung up in cities throughout the country. Participation and fan interest showed major strides, as did the quality of competition. The 1909 tour was an excellent follow-up, and the games were widely watched and appreciated at all venues. Like before, the Pilgrims largely plowed through their competition, even against the top clubs and the numerous all-star sides, but the key was to show the audience how beautiful soccer played at the highest level could be to watch, and the tour was a major success. The Pilgrims were not an actual club, but an all-star side created specifically for the purposes of the tour.
Roster: J. J. Bailey (Clapton F. C.), A. K. Campbell (Southampton F. C.), W. O. Cleminson (Darlington F. C.), C. Copeland (Glossop F. C.), E. J. Cotton (Nunhead F. C.), W. Davidson (Falkirk F. C.), E. J. Eastwood (Ilford and West Ham United), Thomas Fitchie (Woolwich, Arsenal and Queens Park), G. R. Hoare (Woolwich & Arsenal), M. Lemoine (Shepard’s Bush F. C.), H. C. Littleworth (Fulham F. C.), Fred H. Milne (Sheffield United F. C.), J. Brown Sim (Sheffield United & Queens Park), R. Simon (Notts County F. C.), W. Stanser (Rotherham Town F. C.). Total attendance: 40,406.
10/2/09 Pilgrims 4, All New York 0 (at Livingston, Staten Island; att: 1,200) 10/5/09 Pilgrims 13, Sons of St. George 0 (at Baltimore; att: 400) 10/7/09 Pilgrims 14, Mount Washington 0 (at Baltimore; att: 700) 10/9/09 Pilgrims 11, All Baltimore 0 (at Baltimore; att: 900) 10/10/09 Pilgrims 5, Scots-Americans 0 (at Newark; att: 4,000) 10/12/09 Pilgrims 2, Trenton 1 (at Trenton; att: 500) 10/14/09 Pilgrims 9, Cincinnati 0 (at Cincinnati; att: 1,000) 10/16/09 Pilgrims 5, Blue Bells 0 (at St. Louis; att: 1,600) 10/17/09 Pilgrims 10, St. Teresas 1 (at St. Louis; att: 2,057) 10/20/09 Pilgrims 1, Gillespie thistle 1 (at Gillespie, IL; att: 500) 10/23/09 Pilgrims 8, Hyde Park Blues 2 (at Chicago; att: 700) 10/24/09 Pilgrims 3, All Chicago 0 (at Chicago; att: 6,000) 10/26/09 Pilgrims 0, Coal City Maroons 0 (at Coal City, IL; att: 450) 10/30/09 Pilgrims 4, All Westerns 0 (at St. Louis; att: 1,200) 10/31/09 Pilgrims 12, St. Leo’s 0 (at St. Louis, MO; att: 4,300) 11/2/09 Pilgrims 3, Philadelphia Cricket Clubs Stars 0 (at Philadelphia; att: 800) 11/4/09 Pilgrims 0, Haverford 1 (at Philadelphia; att: 1,077) 11/6/09 Pilgrims 9, Pennsylvania League Stars 0 (at Philadelphia; att: 4,586) 10/10/09 Pilgrims 1, Fall River Rovers 1 (at Fall River, MA; att: 2,821) 11/13/09 Pilgrims 1, Fall River Rovers 2 (at Fall River, MA; att: 3,965) 11/14/09 Pilgrims 2, New York Amateur League 2 (at Brooklyn; att: 1,200) 11/16/09 Pilgrims 6, Crescent A. C. 1 (at Brooklyn; att: 450)
California Association Stars to Vancouver: April 3, 1909 through April 12, 1909. Results: 3 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses
4/3/09 California 2, Vancouver 2 4/4/09 California 5, Naniamo 2 4/6/09 California 3, Vancouver 1 4/9/09 California 4, British Columbia Stars 5 4/11/09 California 0, Ladysmith 2 4/12/09 California 2, Victoria 0 After the tour, California played the Southern California Stars in a hastily assembled challenge to determine the champion of the Pacific Coast. All-California won 6-0 and 3-0.
The College Game
Intercollegiate Association Football League champion: Columbia (4 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses, won league title)