USA Mens Soccer Team 1916

History of Soccer in the USA

Many historians and game followers have argued over the years with regards to the origin of the game of soccer in the United States. It was believed for a considerably long periods of time that the game of soccer entered the United States sometime in the 1860s from the area of the Ellis Island. However, recent discoveries have hinted towards the fact that as per evidence, the Scottish, Irish, English as well as the German immigrants entering the United States did so from the port of New Orleans. Considering that these immigrants brought the game with them, it can be safely assumed that the game of soccer entered the United States from the port of New Orleans, and it was in this area that the first of the many games of soccer were held.

One of the first association football clubs in the United States was called the Oneida Club. This club, although as short lived as it was, is known to have originated the concept of club football. It was majorly unclear as to the rules that were being followed by the club for a long time, however, according to the Britannica encyclopedia, the club and its players followed the ‘Boston Game’ in which the players were allowed to travel with the ball in their hands and also to kick it around in the field. Officially, the first recorded instance of a match being played in football over US soil as per FA rules was the football match played between Rutgers and Princeton University on the 6th of November 1869. The match was played with the rules allowing only the kicking of the ball and not carrying it in the hand. Each team comprised of a total of 25 members. Rutgers won the match with a score of 6 to 4.

In the year 1884, the American Football Association was formed. Its aim was mainly to formulate and standardize the rules for American football or soccer. Its area of influence was limited to the regions of New York and New Jersey initially but by the year of 1886, the American Football Association had spread its wings to Massachusetts and Pennsylvania as well. The American Football Association was instrumental in organizing the first non league cup in the history of American soccer. The cup was called the American cup and was started within a year of the founding of the American Football Association. The cup was a huge hit and ran very well till the year 1899 when it was suspended due to an internal conflict in the American Football Association and remained suspended till it was restarted in the year 1906.

Most of the soccer leagues in the United States used the name football. For example, the following leagues were formed in the earlier days of the history of soccer in the United States:

1. American Football Association ( 1884)
2. American Amateur Football Association (1893)
3. American League of Professional Football (1894)
4. National Association Foot Ball League (1895)
5. Southern New England Football League (1914)

The use of the term soccer was resorted to in order to avoid the confusion between Association football and American football. The word soccer was originally seen as a British slang for the term association. Its widespread use was observed in the late 1910s and early 1920s. In the year 1911, the American Football Association had a competitor that called itself the American Amateur Football Association (AAFA). This association was seen spreading wide and was quick to form its own cup in the year 1912 and called it the American Amateur Football Association Cup. FIFA was the oldest and the most recognized body that dealt with the matters of football. Internal conflicts within the AFA coupled with the rivalry and the competition with the AAFA led both parties to register with FIFA in the year 1913 in order to settle the matter of a nationwide body that would regulate soccer in the United States. The AFA tried to gain advantage by claiming its older status and the success of the American Cup and would have succeeded but for the fact that many members of the AFA joined hands with the AAFA thus giving the American Amateur Football Association the upper hand.

By the time of the onset of the great depression in the year 1929, there were many football leagues and clubs that had come into existence in the United States. The Unites States Soccer Federation, the United States Football Association were some of the many. Of these, the one that was widely popular was the American Soccer League, which is making a comeback this year (2014).  It was responsible to make football a craze so big that it was ranked as the second most popular sport in the United States after Baseball. However, even the American Soccer League could not survive the depression and this led to the end of football in the United States for a very long period of time.

The early 1960s saw the re emergence of the sport with college soccer picking up speed in many regions. In the year 1967, the two main professional soccer leagues came into being called the National Professional Soccer League and the United Soccer Association. These ended up merging together to come out stronger as one organization called the North American Soccer League in the year 1968. This started the trend of American soccer and it caught on like wild fire thereafter. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was an increased turnout for this game in colleges nationwide. Thereafter came the era of increased funding for the women soccer matches with the passing of Article IX which mandates equal funding for women’s sports as like men’s sport activities. The 1990s saw an increase in the following of the game and this was largely supported and due to the fact that the FIFA world cup of 1994 was held for the first time in the United States.

As to date, more than 24 million Americans are known to play Soccer. Many top notch clubs from around Europe have invested both their time and money in the pre season games in the United States and these are large crowd magnets when it comes to fan following contributing to a great extent towards the sport as well as the general economy that benefits in many ways.


1. A History of Soccer in Louisiana written by Scott Crawford
2. The Year in American Soccer – 1929 written by Dave Litterer
3. The Football Association 20 World Cup Facts
4. Women’s Soccer Before 1999 written by Emily Jonathan
5. The American Soccer History Archives