The American Soccer League has been a name used by three different professional soccer leagues in the United States. The first American Soccer League was established in 1921 by the merger of teams from the National Association Football League and the Southern New England Soccer League. For several years it was the second most popular professional sports league in the country. Disputes with the United States Football Association and the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 led to the league's collapse in spring 1933. That summer, the second American Soccer League was created on a smaller scale and with smaller budgets. This league existed until over-expansion and financial limitations led to its collapse in 1983. In 1988, the third American Soccer League was created as an east coast counterpart to the west coast-based Western Soccer Alliance. The third iteration of the ASL lasted only two seasons, merging with the WSA in 1990 to form the American Professional Soccer League.
The original American Soccer League, operating between 1921 and 1933, was the first significant, viable, professional soccer league in the United States. The league operated primarily in the Northeastern United States, mainly in the New York metropolitan area and Pennsylvania. The ASL was created by the merger of several teams from the National Association Football League (NAFBL) and Southern New England Soccer League in 1921. The move came from a growing disenchantment with the mismanagement of the NAFBL as well as the desire by the United States Football Association (USFA) to create a unified first division league.
By 1924, the combination of excellent pay and a high level of play drew talented overseas players, especially from Scotland and England. This led to a significant amount of resentment in Europe and threats of sanctions from FIFA, including the possible expulsion of the USFA. At the Sixteenth Annual Congress of FIFA on June 4, 1927, the USFA and the other national associations came to an agreement regarding player transfers which defused the situation. The ASL then ran afoul of the USFA when team owners complained that USFA's requirement that ASL teams play in the National Challenge Cup created an unnecessary financial burden. At the time the Challenge Cup ran during the ASL season forcing the ASL teams to travel long distances by train or bus to play cup games, then return to the Northeast to play league games. Therefore, the ASL boycotted the 1924 National Challenge Cup. They reentered the competition the next year after the USFA reduced its take of the gate receipts from 33.3% to 15%. However, resentment continued to simmer between the league and governing body. Matters came to a head in 1928, when the ASL decided to again boycott the Challenge Cup. When three ASL clubs, most prominently Bethlehem Steel F.C., defied the league and entered the cup anyway, the ASL suspended them. In response, the USFA and FIFA declared the ASL an "outlaw league". This sparked the "Soccer War". The ASL team owners defied USFA and FIFA, relying on the league's reputation to continue to draw players. At first it seemed as if the ASL might win; however, USFA then helped bankroll the creation of a new league, the Eastern Professional Soccer League (ESL), to rival the ASL. The three ex-ASL teams joined with several teams from the Southern New York Soccer Association (SNYSA) to form the ESL. This led to the SNYSA, under the leadership of Nat Agar, owner of the ASL Brooklyn Wanderers, to leave USFA and ally with the ASL. Despite the alliance between the ASL and SNYSA, the creation of a competing league caused severe financial strains on the ASL. The league finally broke and came into compliance with USFA and FIFA. In the fall of the 1929/30 season, the ESL and ASL merged to form the Atlantic Coast League which began a 1930 spring-fall season. After the summer break, the league was renamed the American Soccer League and the league finished the fall half of the 1930 season with a different name than it began the spring half.
However, the Soccer Wars had permanently crippled the ASL and it collapsed at the end of the 1933 spring season. Ironically, while USFA and FIFA "won" the wars and established their pre-eminence over the ASL, the spectacle of a U.S. athletic association conspiring with a European organization to undermine a U.S. athletic league alienated many U.S. sports fans by creating an image of soccer as a sport controlled by foreigners. These fans turned their backs on soccer, relegating the sport to the position of a minor league, ethnic-based sport for decades to come.
|Year||Winner (number of titles)||Runners-up||Top Scorer|
|1921-22||Philadelphia Field Club (1)||New York Field Club||Harold Brittan|
|1922-23||J&P Coats (1)||Bethlehem Steel F.C.||Daniel McNiven|
|1923-24||Fall River Marksmen (1)||Bethlehem Steel F.C.||Archie Stark|
|1924-25||Fall River Marksmen (2)||Bethlehem Steel F.C.||Archie Stark|
|1925-26||Fall River Marksmen (3)||New Bedford Whalers||Andy Stevens|
|1926-27||Bethlehem Steel F.C. (1)||Boston||Davey Brown|
|1927-28||Boston (1)||New Bedford Whalers||Andy Stevens|
|1928-29||Fall River Marksmen (4)||Brooklyn Wanderers||Werner Nilsen|
|Fall 1929||Fall River Marksmen (5)||Providence Gold Bugs||Bill Paterson|
|1930||Fall River Marksmen (6)||New Bedford Whalers||Jerry Best|
|1931||New York Giants (1)||New Bedford Whalers||Bob McIntyre|
|1932||New Bedford Whalers (1)||Hakoah All-Stars|
Complete team listEdit
In the fall of 1933, a second American Soccer League was established. This second league survived until 1983. Like the original ASL, this league primarily operated in the Northeastern United States for much of its existence. In order to compete with the North American Soccer League, the ASL went national in 1976, expanding to the Western United States by adding teams in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Tacoma. In addition, Bob Cousy was hired as commissioner and the league changed the standings scoring system to more closely resemble the NASL. ASL teams were awarded 5 points for a win, 2 points for a tie, and 1 point for each goal up to a maximum of 3 per game. The NASL awarded 6 points for a win and 3 for a tie, with 1 for each goal up to 3 per game. The ASL also had a limit on the number of foreign players each team could have in an effort to gain popularity among American fans.
While this expansion gave the ASL national exposure, the league and teams were no match financially for the NASL. On rare occasions, an ASL team would outbid a NASL team for a recognizable player, but more often than not, the better players in the ASL were offered more money to jump to the NASL. The high point in the history of the league may have been the 1976 championship game between the Los Angeles Skyhawks and New York Apollo; Skyhawks won 2-1 in front of over 9,000 fans. But by 1979, attendance was down, every team was losing money, and the league finally folded in 1983. After the ASL II ceased operations, several of its teams formed the original United Soccer League, which played seasons in 1984 and 1985.
Complete team list Edit
The next league to call itself the American Soccer League played two seasons in 1988 and 1989. This league comprised ten teams on the East Coast. During its second season, the league champion Fort Lauderdale Strikers played the San Diego Nomads, champions of the Western Soccer Alliance in a "national championship" game. By 1990, the ASL and WSA had merged to form the American Professional Soccer League.
|Year||Winner (number of titles)||Runners-up||Top Scorer|
|1988||Washington Diplomats (1)||Fort Lauderdale Strikers||Jorge Acosta|
|1989||Fort Lauderdale Strikers (1)||Boston Bolts||Ricardo Alonso|
Complete team list Edit
- ↑ U.S. Soccer History - 1921
- ↑ 
- ↑ Template:Cite book
- ↑ U.S. Soccer History - 1929
- ↑ The Globe-Times -- Bethlehem; Saturday, December 29, 1928
- ↑ The Globe-Times -- Bethlehem; Saturday, January 26, 1929
- ↑ October 26, 1928 Bethlehem Globe
- ↑ SPEEDY COLLAPSE OF OUTLAW LOOP FORECAST
- ↑ The Ethnic Period: 1933-1960
- ↑ Encyclopedia of Ethnicity and Sports in the United States