Philadelphia Soccer History

Philly soccer 100: Bethlehem wins appeal, cup conflict

Photo: Bethlehem FC, 1913-14

Our series looking at Philadelphia soccer history happenings one hundred years ago continues.

Bethlehem wins appeal

On Oct. 11, 1913, Bethlehem FC of Philadelphia’s amateur Allied League defeated Wissinoming of Philadelphia’s professional Pennsylvania league 5-1 in the preliminary round of the American Football Association’s American Cup tournament. As the scoreline indicated, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Oct. 12 that Wissinoming was “out-played from the beginning” by the fast combination play of “the up-staters.” With the win, Bethlehem was scheduled to face the Trenton Caledonians in the next round on Oct. 18. But while Wissinoming may have been out-played on the pitch, they still had some fight in them of the pitch.

Before Bethlehem could face Trenton, Wissinoming filed an appeal with the AFA alleging that Bethlehem center half Bobby Morrison had been signed from fellow Pennsylvania League club Tacony FC without Tacony’s permission. On Oct. 19, the Inquirer reported that the AFA had agreed with Wissinoming’s allegation and ordered the American Cup tie to be replayed on Oct. 25. Additionally, Morrison would be banned from playing in any other American Cup games for the remainder of the 1913-14 tournament.

After the AFA ruling, Bethlehem filed an appeal of its own with the United States Football Association. Soon after its founding in April of 1913, the USFA, known today as the US Soccer Federation, had secured provisional recognition from FIFA as the supreme national soccer body in the US. USFA president Dr. G. Randolph Manning advised Bethlehem to play the replay while it waited for the USFA to consider its appeal of the AFA ruling. As it turned out, heavy rains meant that Wissinoming’s field was unplayable for the Oct. 25 replay and so both teams were left to wait for the USFA’s decision. Meanwhile, the AFA announced that the replay would be rescheduled for Nov. 1 and Trenton Caledonian’s announced that travel costs meant they were withdrawing from the tournament.

The USFA issued a judgement overturning the AFA’s ruling on the grounds that Morrison had signed the nationally recognized “Form C” after signing with Bethlehem. Unsatisfied, Wissinoming again appealed to the AFA. While for Wissinoming all that was at stake was a chance to advance in the American Cup tournament, what was really at stake was which organization, the AFA or the USFA, would be the ultimate arbiter of soccer disputes in the US.

On Nov. 3, the Inquirer reported that delegates at a special AFA meeting in Newark had “submitted to the ruling” of the USFA, which meant that no replay would take place and that Morrison was eligible to continue playing for Bethlehem. Of the “about twenty” clubs represented in the vote on the issue, only four had voted for the game being replayed. Three of the four clubs were from Philadelphia and included, in addition to Wissinoming, Tacony and Hibernian, each of whom were fellow members of the Pennsylvania League. The representative from Victor, the other Pennsylvania League club that participated in the vote, happened to be J. Alfred Frost, who also happened to be president of the Football Association of Eastern Pennsylvania and District, the USFA’s regional organizing body for the Philadelphia area. Unsurprisingly, Frost voted to uphold the USFA ruling overturning the AFA.

The importance of the the AFA vote was not lost on observers. The Inquirer wrote on Nov. 3, “And now that the United States of America Football Association has shown its authority, we have an organization at last that stands supreme and its decisions hereafter should be binding on all parties involved.”

With the ruling, Bethlehem would next face Farr Alpaca FC in Holyoke, Mass.

American Cup ties, National Challenge Cup gets underway
Boys Club 1913-14

Boys Club 1913-14

Victor defeated Boys’ Club of the amateur American League 3-2 at the latter’s home grounds at Front Street and Erie Avenue in first round American Cup play on Nov. 1, 1913. Boys’ Club opened the scoring five minutes into the contest off of a goal from center forward Gallagher. Five minutes later, the home team scored another goal courtesy of inside right Burgin. Just before the half, Victor’s inside right scored to keep the visitors in the game. In the second half, it was all Victor. Newton tallied again to level the scoreline and inside left Gaynor scored the gamewinner from a penalty kick after being tripped in the box. With the win, Victor were scheduled to next face Loco FC of Schenectady, NY.

In the other local American Cup first round game on Nov. 1, Tacony easily defeated Trenton Hibernians 3-1. Unfortunately, playing Trenton Hibernians meant that Tacony had to forfeit its opening National Challenge Cup — now known as the US Open Cup — game against Kensington.

For Tacony, choosing to play the American Cup game rather than the National Challenge Cup game was probably an easy decision. After first winning the 1909-10 edition of the American Cup, becoming only the second Philadelphia team to win the tournament after the John A. Manz team first won it in 1897, Tacony had made it to the semifinals in 1911, and the final in 1913, and the team was hungry to win the tournament once again. The USFA-backed National Challenge Cup tournament, however, was in its first year and while it was created with the intention of becoming the means of deciding a true annual champion of the United States, it remained at this point an unknown quantity. Scheduling a National Challenge Cup game on the same day as an American Cup game probably didn’t help Tacony’s opinion of the new tournament. As the Inquirer wrote on Nov. 3, “There is something radically wrong in the arrangements when a team is scheduled to play two important cup games in one afternoon.”

The Nov. 1 replay against Wissinoming no longer an issue, Bethlehem was free to host Disston in their opening National Challenge Cup game. Play was fast in the opening 15 minutes of the match, but Bethlehem soon began to assert themselves and the scoreline was 2-0 in their favor at the half, the home team playing “a fine combination passing game, the players’ work at times completely bewildering the visitors.” The visitors remained bewildered through the second half and Bethlehem were the 7-0 winners. As the Inquirer described, Disston “were absolutely outclassed.”

League play

In the Pennsylvania League, Hibernian easily defeated Wissinoming 4-0 at Wissinoming’s home ground at Torresdale Avenue and Van Kirk Street to remain undefeated in league play.

West Philadelphia FC (top) and Reading FC (bottom), 1913-1914

West Philadelphia FC (top) and Reading FC (bottom), 1913-1914

Nov. 1 was a day for road wins in the Allied League first division. First, Reading scored a huge upset, defeating West Philadelphia 2-0 at 44th and Parkside Avenue. In this age before substitutions were allowed, West Philadelphia had to play with ten men when left fullback Campbell left the game injured only ten minutes after the opening whistle. A shorthanded opponent or not, the Inquirer wrote on Nov. 3 that if Reading continued to play as they did against West Philadelphia “they will push Bethlehem very close for the rag” in the Allied League first division. The Falls team traveled to Wilmington to face the Irish Americans at Wawaset Park and returned home 3-1 winners. In the only other Allied league game of the day, Disston Reserves defeated Darby YMA 3-1 in third division play.

In the American League, Cardington thumped Victoria Plush Mill 9-1 while Victor AA defeated Whitehall Rovers 2-0. Rangers and Frankford Boys’ Club played to a 3-3 draw.

Lopsided victories continued to be the storyline in the United League where the winners outscored the losers 40 goals to 3 in the seven games played on Nov. 1. Among the big scores was West End defeating Era AA 12-0. While Era played the game with only 10 men, the Inquirer noted “it can hardly be said that this was the cause of the one sided score.” Two other games resulted in 14 goals for the winners, with league leaders Christ Church defeating Roxborough 7-1, and American Pulley Company defeating Olney 7-0. Only the game between North Philadelphia and Bristol finished with a respectable 2-1 scoreline.

In the sole Cricket Club League first division game of the day, Merion defeated Moorestown 3-1 in Haverford. In second division play, Belfield defeated Germantown 3-1. The University of Pennsylvania defeated Philadelphia Cricket Club second team by the same scoreline.

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  1. Pingback: Philly soccer 100: Three area teams knocked out of American & US Open Cup

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