Spanish Soccer in New York City

In the podcast I mentioned a few of the challenges that Spanish teams and the Spanish American Soccer League (LHA) faced as the decade of the 1920s drew to a close. These included personal and institutional rivalries, violence and the financial disaster that began with the Great Depression. One element that I had to leave out was the collateral damage caused by the Soccer War.

Listen to the podcast here.

The dispute centered on the participation of American Soccer League (ASL) clubs in the United States Open Cup but also involved broader issues over the management of the sport in the U.S. The eventual breakdown caused the United States Football Association (USFA) to withdraw its support from the ASL and to organize a rival league called the Eastern Soccer League.

One aspect of the conflict that has not been well addressed is the response of local and regional organizations to the troubles. The expulsion of the ASL from the USFA meant that groups had to choose sides and support one organization or the other. The LHA had long been a member of the Southern New York State Football Association (SNYSFA) but that group’s president Nathan Agar soon became one of the leading figures opposing the USFA. According to Roger Allaway, Agar resented the fact that several teams from his Association had been poached by the USFA for its new league. As a result Agar withdrew the SNYSFA from the national association. This action and his support of the rogue ASL led the USFA to ban Agar for life. As a member of the SNYSFA the Spanish American League had to decide if it would support the state association or back the national association. After a series of meetings the League ultimately voted to side with the USFA and left the SNYSFA. Hispano also joined the newly formed Eastern Soccer League, although on the pitch they proved to be one of the circuit’s worst teams.

Thomas Cahill, founder of the American Soccer League. Image from
Thomas Cahill, founder of the American Soccer League. Image from

Other individuals within the Spanish community, however, continued to support both the SNYSFA and the ASL. Juan Gallego, president of Galicia Sporting Club served as the state association’s vice president and drew a one-year suspension from the USFA. Part of the reason for his loyalty may have been the result of a long-standing relationship between Agar and the Spanish clubs. When Real Madrid came to the city in 1927 they were originally scheduled to meet Agar’s Wanderers since he had been one of the main organizers of the visit. Instead he gave Galicia the opportunity to match up with the Spanish club. Although the soccer war was eventually settled the fact that the two most powerful Spanish clubs in New York had backed different sides in the dispute could only have added to the problems that Spanish soccer faced going into the 1930s.

Originally posted October 2013.

Further Reading

Ana María Varela-Lago, “Conquerors, Immigrants, Exiles: The Spanish Diaspora in the United States (1848-1948).” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California San Diego, 2008.

Carolyn F. Ware, Greenwich Village 1920-1930. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935.

Catalog of photo exhibit on Spanish immigrants in New York, 1898-1945.

Spanish Immigrants in the U.S. website.

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