The Year in American Soccer – 1923

American Soccer League

Prior to the 1922/23 season, Holyoke (MA) Falcos and Todd Shipyards of Brooklyn withdrew from the ASL, but were replaced by two strong clubs, Paterson (NJ) Silk Sox and Brooklyn Wanderers. Also, with Bethlehem Steel playing under its own name, the league expanded into Philadelphia. As a result of these changes, the ASL started its second season as it had its first, with 8 teams. However, the league expanded its schedule to 28 games. Although only three teams actually played the full slate of games, this was mainly due to adverse weather conditions, rather than economic instability. On the contrary, the league did very well at the gate, and there was a favorable treasurer’s report at the end of the season.

The most significant change for the league actually occurred at the end of the 1921-22 season, however. Just prior to the end of the schedule, Fall River native Sam Mark purchased the floundering hometown franchise. Mark-an experienced sportsman who was very successful in promoting professional basketball in Massachusetts-immediately set about to make his team the best in the league at every level. One of his first moves was to build a stadium in North Tiverton, Rhode Island; just over the Massachusetts state line, Mark was able to thereby avoid his home state’s restrictive Sunday “blue” laws.

Having built a top-quality field, Mark then set about putting top-notch players on it. Sparing no expense, he signed away three players from Scotland. Fullback Tommy Martin and winger Tec White were grabbed from Motherwell, while fullback Charlie McGill was signed from Third Lanark. Closer to home, Mark spirited feared scorer Harold Brittan from Bethlehem Steel. These players would form the nucleus of a club that would go on to become the most dominant professional team in American history. In its owner’s honor, the club was nicknamed the Marksmen.

Prior to the season, Bethlehem Steel beefed up its championship side with a flurry of purchases. A raid of Scottish sides brought on a crew of talented players, including fullback Jimmy Young, of Dundee United; center half Tommy McFarlane and center forward Daniel McNivin, both from Patrick Thistle; Robert Terris, of Falkirk; center half Tommy Raeside, of Dumbarton; inside forward John Rattray, of Raith; and winger Malcolm Goldie, from Clydebank. McNivin showed immediate dividends for Bethlehem, averaging over a goal per game in scoring 28 to lead the league.

However, Bethlehem was not able to buy a second straight title. J&P Coats-led by former Steeler Tommy Fleming-rebounded from a miserable debut to edge the defending champions for the title, 44 points to 42. Fall River, vastly improved, also rebounded from a poor first season, finishing in third.

Another talented American keeper, Jimmy Douglas, made his debut with Harrison. Paterson’s Pete Renzulli, acquired prior to the season from the defunct Todd Shipyards club, salvaged the Silk Sox’ mediocre league season by pitching two shutouts en route to the U.S. Open Cup title.

Another league notable was Brooklyn’s Nathan Agar. Agar was a true “renaissance man” for the Wanderers; besides owning and managing the club, Agar also found time to grab a goal during one of his seven appearances as a wing forward. Agar would later be a major factor in attracting foreign teams to the United States to play ASL clubs.

One interesting tour had already taken place, however. In the fall of 1922, Dick, Kerr Ladies, the world-famous English women’s team, visited the U.S. expecting to play other ladies’ clubs. Instead, the visitors found themselves facing off against four ASL clubs. The first match was played on September 24 against Paterson, with the Silk Sox winning 6-3 before a crowd of 5,000. Dick, Kerr Ladies went 1-1-2 on the tour, drawing J&P Coats and Fall River, 4-4 and 3-3, and routing New York Field Club, 8-4. The scores were deceptive, however; reports of the matches indicate that, while Dick, Kerr played well, the men took it easy on them.

                 Final League Standings, 1922-23

                       GP   W   D   L  GF  GA  PTS
J & P Coats (Pawtucket)28  21   2   5  68  30   44
Bethlehem Steel        28  18   6   4  56  26   42
Fall River Marksmen    28  15   5   8  53  36   35
New York Field Club    23  10   4   9  53  42   24
Paterson Silk Sox      20   9   4   7  38  31   22
Brooklyn Wanderers     25   5   5  15  24  52   15
Harrison Field Club    21   4   2  17  26  56   10
Philadelphia Field Club25   3   2  20  24  72    8

CHAMPION:  J&P Coats (Pawtucket)

Leading Scorers                     GP    G
Daniel McNiven (Bethlehem Steel)    22   28
Tommy Fleming (J&P Coats)           26   22
Harold Brittan (Fall River)         23   19
Frank McKenna (Paterson)            14   14
William Shepard (J&P Coats)         18   13
Johnny Reid (Fall River)            26   13
Bart McGhee (New York)              21   11
Archie Stark (New York)             23   11
Tommy Duggan (Paterson)             19    9
Percy Andrews (Philadelphia)        24    9
William Neilson (J&P Coats)         16    7
Edward McAusian (New York)          16    7
Jimmy Easton (Bethlehem Steel)       3    6
David Brown (Harrison)              20    6
John Rattray (Bethlehem Steel)      20    6
James McGhee (Philadelphia)         22    6
Willie Crilley (New York)            5    5
Albert Mitchell (New York)           7    5
Charles Lappin (J&P Coats)          16    5
Joseph Ingram (Harrison)            20    5

Leading Goalkeepers 
                                      GP    GA   S    GAA
Findlay Kerr (18)/
Billy Highfield (10)(Bethlehem Steel) 28    26  11    0.92
Tommy Schofield (25)(J&P Coats)       28    30   9    1.07
Francis Higgins (14)/
Tommy Whalen (12)(Fall River)         28    36  10    1.29
Pete Renzulli (Paterson)              20    31   5    1.55
Bobby Geudert (New York)              23    42   4    1.83
John Surgenor (13)(Brooklyn)          25    52   1    2.08
John Ward (16)/
Jimmy Douglas (14)(Harrison)          23    56   3    2.44
Ness (24)                             25    72   2    2.88

St. Louis Soccer League

St. Louis remained one of the true soccer hotbeds of the country, with the SLSL second only to the American Soccer League in terms of prestige and professionalism. This year, the young Vesper Buicks rose to the top, winning the season handily. Many famous names dotted the rosters of the other teams, including Dutch Olberman of Scullin Steels and Harry Ratican of Ben Millers, but many of these were veterans and were showing their age. The legendary Ben Millers, winners of so many cups a few years ago, brought up the bottom of the league this year. Scullin, who lost center forward Cliff Brady just before the season with a broken leg, and the new Hoover Sweepers were tied for second. Scullins also mourned the sudden death of the brilliant Outside man Charlie Bechtold of pneumonia during the off-season. Although Vesper-Buick shone, overall, league play was slipping, and not up to the caliber of the previous decade.

St. Louis League teams remained popular attractions for exhibition games, and were always in demand to visit other cities where a good gate was guaranteed. St. Louis was mindful of the veteran status of many stars, and looked to land a number of international players from the influx that began sweeping the country along the east Coast.

St. Louis faced a unique challenge among US soccer leagues: Many of their best players were native born Americans who also played professional baseball. As the season winds to a close, many of them are already at spring training preparing for the upcoming season. The league faced a new challenge, with the coming of professional rugby planned for the following season. How this would affect the soccer season was unclear, but the new rugby circuit planned to play in Sportsman’s Park, already used by the St. Louis Soccer League and baseball’s Cardinals. Date conflicts were sure to be a problem.

                Final SLSL League Standings, 1922-23

                       GP   W   L   T   GF  GA  Pts
Vesper-Buicks          17   8   4   5   28  16  22
Scullin Steels         17   5   5   7   20  21  17
Hoover Sweepers        17   5   5   7   21  25  17
Ben Millers            17   4   8   5   28  35  13

Champion:  Vesper-Buick
Municipal League champion (Playoff):  St. Matthew's won the round robin 
elimination, and then defeated Chicago Swedish Americans 2-1.

Amateur Leagues & Cups

Southern New England Football Association: Connecticut State League: Manchester 10-1-1-21
New Bedford Industrial League: Acushnet – Bethany (9-0-2-51-9-20)
New Bedford & District League: Cove Albions (10-1-0-42-9-20)
Pawtucket & District League: Saylesville (7-1-3-23-10-14)
Blackstone Valley League: Taft AC (10-1-1-25-8-21)
Rhode Island League: Victoria (7-0-2-30-4-16)
Times Cup: Acushnet-Hathaway 2, Saylesville 1
Kerr Thread Cup: Yanks 4, Butler Mill 2
Guy Norman Cup: Kerr Mill F.C. 2, H & B.F.C. 1

New York State Association Football League: 1st Division: Lexington (14-1-3-31); 2nd Division: Brooklyn St. George (19-1-2-40); La Sultana Cup: Lexington FC 2, Norwegian FC 1
Northwestern New York State Cup: Kodak Park 2, Swedish Gymnastic 0
New Jersey State Amateur Champion: American Athletic Association of Hamilton, NJNew Jersey Amateur Soccer League: Hudson (16-2-0-66-1-32)
Allied Amateur Cup: Fleischer Yarn 1, Dunkirk 1. Replay: Fleischer 10, Dunkirk 1 (not completed as of press time)
Allied Amateur League: Fleischer Yarn (undefeated). League Cup: Fleischer defeated Kaywood, 3-0).
West Penn Challenge Cup: Arden; Junior Cup: Castle Shannon A.A.
Pittsburgh Press Soccer League: Jeannette (12-2-0-39-13-24)
Interstate Soccer League (PA/NJ): Scranton Old Forge (7-2-0-35-9-14)
Greater Baltimore League: Patterson Tigers (5-0-1-11)
Ohio State Trophy: Colrain 1, Goodyear 0 (at Cleveland)
Detroit & District League: 1st Division: Roses FC (6-1-1-28-6-13)
Detroit Amateur League: Ulster AC (12-1-1-45-16-25)
Michigan State Champion: Walkerville FC defeated Caledonia FC

Peel Challenge Cup (Illinois): Pullman A. F. C.
Chicago Major Soccer League: Olympia FC. (note: Sparta FC admitted this year) Teams in 1923-24 to include Olympia, Bricklayers, Thistles, Canadian Club, Swedish-Americans, Pullman, Sparta Union.
South Texas League: Senior Pirates (Galveston) (won in both 1921-22, 1922-23) Utah: 1921-22 Schubach (state) cup: Caledonians. In 1922-23, Salt Lake was leading 5-0-0 when bad weather forced postponement. Inter-city League: Salt Lake (9-0-3-43-11-24)
Northwest League: West Seattle (4-0-2-10)
Portland (Oregon) Soccer Association: 10-2-25-6-20)
California State Cup: Barbarians defeated Olympic 1-0
John O. Belis Perpetual Trophy: Olympic
San Francisco Football League: Olympic (10-6-2-2-34-11-14) (three-way tie; Olympic won tiebreaker with 3 goals) Bay Cities Football League (founded 1922): Sons of St. George defeated Neptunes in playoff,

The US National Team

No games this year, as the US entered its last inactive year in a spell going back to 1916.

National Challenge Cup

Paterson FC of the American Soccer League won the cup by forfeit when Scullin Steel of St. Louis decided to pass up the replay after the two had tied, 2-2, at the former Federal League ballpark in Harrison, N.J., on April 1. Scullin would have had to field a very diluted team in the replay because of injuries and the departure of several players to fulfill baseball contracts.

In the semifinals, both played on March 25, Paterson had beaten J&P; Coats of Pawtucket, R.I., 3-2, while Scullin defeated Pittsburgh Arden, 2-1. The quarterfinals were Paterson 4, New York FC 1; Coats 1, Abbot Worsted 0; Scullin 3, Chicago Bricklayers 1, and Arden 1, Pittsburgh Jeannette 0.

The College Game

Intercollegiate Association Football League Champion: Pennsylvania

Penn Intercollegiate Association Football League Champion: Penn JV

College All-Americans:

G -  Anderson, Pennsylvania
RF - Garrett, Haverford
LF - Castle, Pennsylvania
FH - Downs, Pennsylvania
CH - Smart, Princeton
LH - Fisher, Yale
OR - Ritchie, Haverford
IR - Cooper, Princeton
CF - Lingelbach, Pennsylvania
IL - Boos, Pennsylvania
OL - McLaughlin, Pennsylvania

Other Action

1923 American Cup Final: Fleischer Yarn of Philadelphia defeated J&P Coats of Pawtucket, 2-0.