The National Soccer League of 1932
The one-two punch often offered as the main cause of the demise of the original American Soccer League are the organizational and structural instabilities spinning out of the U.S. “Soccer Wars” and the Great Depression. Because the battles between the ASL and the U.S. Football Association tend to be more dramatic, most of the historical focus of that time tends to be on the “Soccer Wars” rather than the more consequential ongoing and long-term financial impacts of the Great Depression. One often-forgotten footnote of those impacts was the creation of the National Soccer League. And “creation” may be a strong term for the nascent league as it only existed for a few weeks in October of 1932.
Let’s differentiate this NSL with the other, better-known leagues with the same name. Currently a recreation league, the semi-pro National Soccer League of Chicago was formed in 1938 from a merger between the Chicago Soccer League and the International Soccer Football League. The National Soccer League of New York was also formed in 1938 as a new amateur league. That league joined the New York metro area soccer landscape alongside the ASL (at that point fully reorganized as a semi-pro league), the Metropolitan Soccer League, and the German-American Soccer League. That NSL eventually merged into the GASL in 1974 and that league was renamed as the Cosmopolitan Soccer League in 1977.
So, what the hell was the National Soccer League of 1932?
A bit more background will be helpful. In the fall of 1929, the “Soccer Wars” ended with the creation of the Atlantic Coast Soccer League, a new, merged league created from the top professional teams from the ASL and the Eastern Soccer League. In the fall of 1930, the ACSL was reorganized and resumed the title of the American Soccer League. Separate from the organizational and franchise changes, the professional soccer circuit itself was relatively stable between late 1929 through the end of 1931. The cracks were beginning to show, to be sure, but in 1932, the wheels really began to fall off.
Per usual, at the beginning of the year, the ASL clubs took part in the opening stages of the National Challenge Cup (now the U.S. Open Cup). In February, the league clubs met to settle pending issues for the 1932 season including a schedule opening on the first weekend of March. A few days before the season started, the four New York clubs (the Americans, Giants, Hakoah All-Stars and Newark Americans) announced that were refusing to take part in the opening weekend schedule and were in talks to create a new eight-team Metropolitan League. That weekend the New York teams don’t play their scheduled games and offer to withdraw from the ASL due to the financial inability to continue the schedule of playing one New England team per road trip (the clubs preferred to play two games on those road trips).
A couple of days later, three of the teams officially withdrew from the ASL Hakoah’s offer to withdraw was refused and the ASL continued as a four-team league along with the Boston, New Bedford and Pawtucket team. The reduced six-game home and away spring schedule ran through April.
The New York clubs were unable to get their new league off the ground and filled their spring dates playing a variety of exhibition games. These included a Newark City club that either replaced the Newark Americans or was a reorganized version of the Newark Americans. Hakoah joined the exhibition schedule in May after requesting that the ASL not schedule any more games for them.
The fall season of the ASL began the weekend of September 17 with six total teams, the five teams from the spring season plus new clubs in Brooklyn and Fall River. As a side note, the New Bedford club at this point was Sam Mark’s franchise that was previously the Fall River club by way of the New York Yankees.
At the same time, the New York Americans and the New York Giants, along with the Queens-based Bohemian Americans, began playing exhibitions as warm-ups for the opening of the National Soccer League on October 2. The league was announced to have eight total members. Two games took place on the opening day of the NSL: the New York Americans and New York Nationals played to a 4:4 draw at Starlight Park; and the Bohemian Americans defeated the Newark Rangers at Clark’s Field in Newark.
Who were these two new teams? And what happened to the Giants and Newark City clubs? To answer the first, on October 1, Charles Stoneham sold the Giants to D.W. Bremmer of the Indiana Flooring Company and the team was renamed the New York Nationals. Perhaps already the most confusing sports club naming history somehow got even more confusing! The Indiana Flooring F.C. joined the ASL in 1924 and was bought by Stoneham in 1927. Stoneham was the owner of the New York Giants baseball team but, because there was already a team with that name in the ASL, he renamed them the New York Nationals. In 1930, the Giants renamed themselves the New York S.C. so Stoneham renamed the Nationals the New York Giants. And, became the Nationals again the day before the NSL debuted.
The Newark Rangers are more of a mystery. It’s not know if they are a continuation of the Newark City club noted above that took part in exhibitions against the New York Americans and Hakoah clubs or a completely new club formed for the NSL.
Other than those two games, no other NSL games were played on the opening day but news reports noted that four other teams from Brooklyn, Westchester and Astoria were supposed to enter the competition next when when the eight-team schedule was completed. But, the next Sunday, only one NSL game is reported to have been played: the Bohemian Americans and the New York Americans played to a 2:2 draw at Starlight Park.
And, after only three games, the NSL was over. On October 12, the New York Americans and a new club, the New York Field Club, joined the ASL and the NSL folded. New York F.C. was made up of many of the players from the Giants/Nationals team. But the club was unable to play its first scheduled game that weekend because the owner was unable to sign the players in time for the match. The club began its season in earnest the following weekend. It is unknown what happened to the Newark Rangers club.
The addition of the two New York teams made the ASL an eight-team league. But, after only one game, Sam Mark’s New Bedford club folded. Two weeks later, the club was replaced by the Bohemian Queens franchise. The new Fall River club took the fall season championship.
In 1933, the ASL reorganized yet again by creating formal Metropolitan and New England Divisions with the New England teams seemingly not taking part in the league at all during the spring half. And with that, the fracturing of the first major U.S. soccer league into lesser regional semi-pro leagues was basically complete.
- Dan Creel
Cover photo of Brookhattan FC, courtesy of the club.