Photo: Detail of article in Feb. 15, 1914 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer
Our series looking back at Philly soccer happenings one hundred years ago continues.
Once again, winter weather wreaked havoc on the schedule of Philadelphia’s seven soccer leagues on the Saturday matchday of Feb. 14, 1914, forcing the postponement of games from the professional Pennsylvania League to the Northeast Junior League, including play in what was supposed to be the first round of the city’s Allied Cup tournament.
A Philadelphia Inquirer report on Feb. 15 said it all: “There was not one soccer match played in this city and vicinity yesterday, the grounds being in such bad shape that not even an exhibition game was started.”
It had been a tough winter for soccer in Philadelphia. Rain and gale-force winds meant that only one out of 24 scheduled games was played to completion on Jan. 3, 1914, and that game featured shortened halves. Two weeks later on Jan. 24, not a single scheduled game was played, the Inquirer reporting on Jan. 25, “The game has been played on many worse days, but the frost, combined with the rain, converted the various grounds into a sea of mud.”
Weather events, combined with schedule disruption resulting from the multiple replays needed to determine a winner in the third round of the American Cup — Pennsylvania League side Victor played Jersey AC three times on the way to being eliminated from the tournament while Bethlehem played West Hudson four times, including one game that was abandoned because of the weather and the fourth deciding game, a game that otherwise would have likely been postponed when a driving rainstorm dropped more than a half of inch of rain on the already distressed field at Tacony Ball Park — meant that there was a real possibility that postponed games would not be played at all if the city’s various leagues were to finish play before the start of the baseball season.
The situation grew worse a week after the Feb. 14 postponements when poor conditions again meant that every game scheduled for Feb. 21 was postponed except for an exhibition game at Bethlehem’s East End Field between Bethlehem FC and a picked team from the Allied American League. The Inquirer reported on Feb. 21, “It is several years since soccer was hampered through having such severe weather and some of the magnates stated last night, even if there should be a general thaw, the grounds are in such bad shape that it will take some time before they are playable.”
So, what of the exhibition game in Bethlehem?
After “several tons of drifted snow had been removed from the field and sand liberally scattered,” some “2000 enthusiastic fans” saw a game described by the Inquirer on Feb. 22 as “fast and exciting from the start.”
The Inquirer report continued, “Some fine football by both teams was displayed and it soon became apparent that goals would be very scarce.”
In fact, both of the goals scored in the 1-1 draw came from penalty kicks, the Allied Leaguers taking a 1-0 lead into the half before Bethlehem equalized in the 70th minute.
The exhibition game was played six days after Bethlehem received the news that United States of America Football Association, the organizers of the National Challenge Cup — or, as we would say today, the US Soccer Federation, organizers of the US Open Cup — had turned down the team’s protest following their 1-0 loss to Brooklyn FC on Jan. 25. Bethlehem had argued that Brooklyn was 30 minutes late for the scheduled start of the third round game and had also fielded ineligible players.
With the news that the protest had been dismissed came news of the draw for the next round of the National Challenge Cup. Peabody FC, the only Philadelphia team remaining in the tournament, was drawn to play New Bedford FC at home.