Philadelphia Soccer History

Philly and the founding of the US Soccer Federation

On Monday, April 7, 1913, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “Coming together in the interests of general harmony and having in view for their chief object direct representation in the International Federation, soccer football delegates from all parts of the country met at the Astor House in New York last Saturday night and formed the United States of America Football Association.”

That coming together may not have happened without out the assistance of some of the leaders of the Philadelphia soccer scene, namely Douglas Stewart, John B. Farrell, and Oliver Hemingway.

Need for national governing body clear
Douglas Stewart

Douglas Stewart

The need for a national governing body for soccer was clear to most supporters of the game at the time, as noted in an article entitled “For a National Organization of Soccer” in the 1911 Spalding Guide. While the sport was booming, Dr. G. Randolph Manning, who would become the federation’s first president, described soccer’s boom as consisting of “different foot ball metropoles” around the country; any organizational connection between those “metropoles” was largely ad hoc and temporary. Uniform governance was sorely lacking in matters as fundamental as the interpretation of the Rules of the Game, not to mention the organization of a truly national challenge cup competition, the settling of disputes between local, regional, and state governing bodies, and the burgeoning influence of money and its effect on the continuing development of both the amateur and professional game. Such issues were compounded by the very things which made the United States so unique. As Manning explained in the 1913 Spalding Guide:

“The difficulties are, according to such circumstances in this country, the difference in climatic and geographical conditions, the dealing with so many different nationalities, the proper regulation of professional and amateur questions, the omnipresent power and lure of money, all must serve more or less as impediments in the correct management and control of the game by the Unites States of America Foot Ball Association during its first years of existence.”

The upcoming 1915 Panama-Pacific Games in San Francisco, and the 1916 Berlin Olympics, only underscored the need for a internationally recognized national soccer organization in the US.

Not that attempts hadn’t already been made toward that end.

“Peace” conferences fail

The American Football Association had been founded in 1884 and long claimed to be the supreme governing body of the sport in the US. But despite its longevity, the AFA had remained isolated on the east coast. Its American Cup competition, the nearest thing to a national championship tournament for the game at the time, was largely confined to clubs from the original US soccer axis that ran from New England through New York and the West Hudson area of Northern New Jersey and as far south as the Philadelphia area. Little outreach had been made to such western soccer hotbeds as St. Louis and Chicago. The AFA was also criticized by some as too Anglo-centric through their affiliation with England’s FA and insufficiently concerned with the conflict between the continuing development of the amateur and professional game.

Edward Duffy wrote of the AFA in the 1913 Spalding Guide, “That organization was jealous of its position in soccer, but would not make the necessary progressive advances, despite the fact that it had no opposition until the existence of the American Amateur Foot Ball Association in the East.”

The AAFA had been founded in October of 1911 with the aim of providing national governance of the amateur game. Its structure was unwieldy, however, and its quest for recognition from FIFA soon ran afoul of similar efforts from the AFA. Reluctant to decide a national dispute, FIFA ordered the two organizations to settle their differences before either application for recognition would be considered.

J. Alfred Frost

J. Alfred Frost

Each organization set up “peace” committees in order to work out their differences, with J. Alfred Frost of Philadelphia — who was president of Tennyson FC in the city’s professional Pennsylvania League and a former first vice president of the city’s old Sons of St. George league — on the AFA’s committee. Significant progress had been made, despite the revelation that the AFA had been attempting to recruit other soccer organizations into its fold during the negotiations, and many thought an agreement was at hand when the AFA announced in December of 1912 that it had dismissed its own committee. And so, for a time, the hopes for peace were dashed.

Help would come from Philadelphia.

Enter Philadelphia

Duffy writes in the 1913 Spalding Guide, “So soon as the American Foot Ball Association had ended the ‘peace’ conferences, President Manning conferred with Secretary Cahill as to the advisability of obtaining the co-operation of the Allied American Foot Ball Association of Philadelphia, conceded to be one of the largest and best governed amateur organizations in the country, to aid in the creation of a national governing body.”

At the time, Philadelphia’s Allied American league was comprised of some 31 clubs from Philadelphia and the surrounding area playing in three divisions. The Allied association also hosted the city’s Allied Amateur Cup tournament, which had 19 entrants in 1913. A member of the AFA, the league was an emerging model for the sustained and efficient development of the game. It was also an organization run by committed officers who had the time and resources to support the creation of an effective national soccer organization. Duffy continues,

After much correspondence and several trips to Philadelphia, Secretary Cahill enlisted Douglas Stewart, then president of the Referees’ Association of Philadelphia, and a great friend of all the amateur organizations in that territory, as a soldier in the great soccer army then in the making. Through Mr. Stewart’s efforts, President John B. Farrell and Secretary Oliver Hemingway of the Allied Association agreed to meet the executive board of the American Amateur Foot Ball Association at the Astor House in New York, March 8, 1913, and at that meeting Messrs. Farrell and Hemingway decided to join with the American Amateur Foot Ball Association in its efforts to form a new national organization at a congress to be held at the Astor House April 5. These men agreed their organization would pay half the expenses of the congress, and that nothing should be spared toward inviting every soccer organization in the country to be represented.

Secretary Cahill drew up the necessary circular letters, and favorable responses were received from all parts of the country, indorsing the action taken by the New York and Philadelphia bodies in trying to organize a national body.

Stewart, originally from Scotland, became the head of the University of Pennsylvania’s soccer program in 1910, a position he held for 32 years. Before his involvement with the Allied American league, Hemingway had been president of the city’s Sons of St. George Association Foot Ball League, where he had worked with Frost. The Sons of St. George league had been founded in 1907 and was one of three Philadelphia leagues involved in the organization of the Allied American league before the 1912-13 season. When the various representatives of soccer bodies — from the East Coast and as far west as Michigan, St. Louis, and Utah — met at Astor House on April 5, the Inquirer reported Stewart “was in the chair.”

John B. Farrell

John B. Farrell

Duffy explained, “That the ideas of the American Amateur Foot Ball Association and the Allied American Foot Ball Association of Philadelphia was the proper one and the congress a popular and timely movement, is evident by a list of those present at the gathering.” It was a list that, in addition to Stewart, Farrell, and Hemingway, also included C. Blamphin of the Associated Cricket Clubs of Philadelphia and Haverford College’s Dr. James A. Babbitt, secretary of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. (Some newspaper reports, such as the Inquirer article on April 7, 1913, say that “Andrew M. Brown, American League of Association Football Clubs of Philadelphia” was at the meeting. Brown was there, but he was the president of the AFA. Brown said of his presence at the founding meeting, “My position is somewhat antagonistic.” The president of Philadelphia’s American League at the time was J.E. Chambers.)

In the book Distant Corners (Temple University Press, 2011), David Wangerin is more blunt in his account of what happened after negotiations between the AAFA and AFA broke down. “Within a few months,” Wangerin writes, “the influential Allied American Association of Philadelphia jumped sides and lined itself behind the AAFA. Sensing it now had the upper hand, the new association pressed its advantage,” calling the meeting on April 5, 1913 at Astor House that resulted in the founding of the United States of America Football Association, known today as the United States Soccer Federation.

Credit too is due”

Describing the essential efforts of G. R. Manning and Thomas Cahill in bringing about the formation of the USFA, E.L. Mockler, author of the 1911 “For a National Organization of Soccer” article, writes in the 1913 Spalding Guide, “Credit too is due to the Philadelphians, Douglas Stewart, ex-president of the Referee’s Association of Philadelphia, and to John B. Farrell and Oliver Hemingway, whose agreement in the end to co-operate with the A.A.F.A. made the calling of the congress advisable.”

Oliver Hemingway

Oliver Hemingway

After its founding, a committee of seven was created to draft the USFA’s constitution, and Allied American league president Farrell served on that committee. When the new organization held its first election in June of 1913, Allied American league secretary Oliver Hemingway was voted first vice president. Hemingway also served on the first organizing committee of the National Challenge Cup, known today as the US Open Cup.

Among the federation’s founding affiliated associations were the Foot Ball Association of Eastern Pennsylvania and District, established six days after the USFA, and the Allied Amateur Cup Competition of Philadelphia. Frost would become the first president of the Eastern Pennsylvania and District association with Hemingway as vice president. Frost was also the first chairman of the USFA finance committee where he also worked along with Hemingway. Stewart would also later serve as president of the Eastern Pennsylvania and District association and was elected USFA second vice president in 1915.

The question of which American soccer governing body would be recognized by FIFA was debated until August of 1913 when FIFA extended provisional recognition to the USFA. With that, the AFA, who had earlier decided against joining the USFA, voted to join the new organization, continuing to run the American Cup tournament until its demise in 1924, when it was last won by Bethlehem Steel. FIFA granted full recognition to the USFA in 1914, making it the first national soccer organization from North and Central America to be recognized by FIFA.


  1. Luva Golazo says:

    You are doing a great job of enlightening dummies like me who had no clue about the rich history of soccer in the area.

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