The US Soccer Federation is celebrating its 110th anniversary in 2023, and the Federation’s roots are traced back to a conclave at New York City’s Astor House Hotel on April 5, 1913.
Before then, there was no governing body overseeing regional soccer leagues before the creation of the US Soccer Federation.
Before The New Federation
Founded in 1884, the American Football Association (AFA) was the first non-league organization in the United States. The AFA tried to standardize team rules in northern New Jersey and southern New York. Two years later, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Texas became part of this region.
To generate revenue during the winter months when ballparks are empty, owners of several Major League Baseball teams set up the American League of Professional Foot Ball (ALPFB) in 1894. However, players from the AFA who signed contracts with ALPFB teams were banned by the AFA. After 17 days, the ALPFB folded despite having financial backing.
The AFA organized an American Cup within a year of its founding.
As a result of economic conditions and labor unrest, many of the textile companies who sponsored Fall River teams ceased to support them beginning in 1894. Also, players who had signed with the ALPFB teams weren’t allowed to play. As a result, AFA suspended the cup in 1899, and the English tour in 1905 generated an interest that led to its revival in 1906.
An amateur football organization called the American Amateur Football Association (AAFA) was established in October 1911. The American Amateur Football Association Cup was created in 1912 due to the association’s rapid expansion outside of the Northeast.
FIFA, the international soccer governing body, accepted AFA and AAFA’s membership applications in 1912. The AFA argued that it should gain national recognition based on its position as the oldest soccer organization and the status of the American Cup.
However, neither group was recognized by FIFA, as only one United States representative group could exist. FIFA wanted a cohesive US Soccer Federation.
US Soccer Federation First 38 Years
Soccer leaders in the US formed the United States of America Foot Ball Association. This historic meeting set the foundation for US Soccer’s growth and success at all levels – youth, amateur, and professional.
As one of FIFA’s world governing bodies’ oldest affiliates, US Soccer has grown into one of the sport’s most successful organizations, integrating player participation into its top-to-bottom National Team program and becoming one of the sport’s leading organizations.
US Soccer has been known by three different names throughout its 110-year history: the US of America Foot Ball Association (1913-1944), the US Soccer Football Association (1945-1973), and the US Soccer Federation (1974-present).
From the formation of the US Soccer Association to the US Men’s National Team’s historic win over England at the 1950 FIFA World Cup, here are some of the critical moments of US Soccer’s first 38 years:
April 5, 1913: The United States of America Foot Ball Association was founded in New York City’s Astor House Hotel by soccer leaders from all 48 states.
June 21, 1913: USFBA’s first president, Dr. Randolph Manning, was sworn in. A founding member of the Deutscher Fussball Bund (German Soccer Federation) in 1900, Manning was also the American Amateur Football Association president.
August 20, 1916: C.H. Spalding scored in the 35th minute, Charles Ellis scored in the 60th minute, and Harry Cooper scored the game-winning goal in the 85th minute to lead the US to a 3-2 victory over Sweden in its first international friendly. It was the first of six games in Norway, and Sweden played in front of 16,000 spectators.
Aug. 10-Sept. 24, 1919: Bethlehem Steel became the first American team to tour Denmark and Sweden as a four-time National Challenge Cup winner and champion of the National Association Foot Ball League. The Bethlehem Steel team went 6-2-6 with four shutouts on its tour under head coach Thomas Cahill.
May 25, 1924: During the preliminary round of the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, France, the USMNT won 1-0 against Estonia for its first shutout victory in only its third international match.
November 8, 1925: The USMNT won 6-1 in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a record four goals from forward Archie Stark. With Bethlehem Steel of the American Soccer League in the late 1920s, Stark set records for the number of goals scored in a first-division season (67) and for the number of goals scored in a first-division career (260), setting the record for the number of goals scored in a first-division season.
1945: A new name was given to the US Football Association, now called the US Soccer Football Association.
June 29, 1950: At Estadio Independencia in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the USA defeated heavy favorites England 1-0 in the 1950 FIFA World Cup opening round. The National Soccer Hall of Fame inducted the 1950 World Cup team in 1976.
1951-1990 US Soccer Federation Key Moments
It was 1985 when the US Women’s National Team debuted, and both the professional and college games gained notoriety. Then, for the first time in 40 years, the US Men’s National Team competed in the World Cup.
November 28, 1959: At Memorial Stadium in Storrs, Conn., St. Louis University defeated Bridgeport University 5-2 in the first NCAA championship tournament.
September 18, 1961: FIFA recognized CONCACAF, the governing body of soccer in North, Central, and Caribbean America and the Caribbean, as one of six continental confederations.
1964: An association affiliated with US Soccer, the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), is founded.
1967: The Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), an affiliate of US Soccer, is founded.
1967: US Soccer forms the Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), an affiliate member organization.
The North American Soccer League was formed when the FIFA-sanctioned United Soccer Association merged with the National Professional Soccer League. In the NASL championship series on Sept. 21 and 28, the Atlanta Chiefs defeated the San Diego Toros by an aggregate score of 3-0.
1974: The US Soccer Federation replaced the US Soccer Football Association.
1974: The US Youth Soccer organization is founded.
July 29-Aug. 11, 1984: Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics. In front of 78,000 spectators at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif., the USA opened the tournament with a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica on July 29. Rick Davis scored two goals in that match and one goal contributed by Jean Willrich.
1985: A US Soccer affiliate, the US Adult Soccer Association (USASA), was founded in 1985. USASA hosts the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in conjunction with US Soccer.
August 18, 1985: US Women’s National Team debuted, losing 1-0 to Italy.
1985: A 2-0 shutout over Canada in Blaine, Minn., was the first domestic victory for the US Women’s National Team. In their debuts for the US Women’s National Team, Marcia McDermott and Joan Dunlap each scored a goal.
July 4, 1988: After receiving ten votes, the United States won the rights to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup over Morocco (7 votes) and Brazil (2 votes).
November 19, 1989: Paul Caligiuri scored the biggest goal in US Soccer history since Joe Gaetjens’ goal against England in 1950. Caligiuri’s dipping strike from 35 yards out gave the USA a 1-0 victory against Trinidad & Tobago in front of 35,000 Trinidadians to clinch their first World Cup appearance since 1950.
1991-Present: Key Moments In The US Soccer Federation
With the US hosting its first FIFA World Cup in 1994, soccer in the US gained considerable attention during this era. A US Men’s National Team blanked CONCACAF foe Mexico in 2002 to advance to the FIFA World Cup Quarterfinals. A dominant force in the sport emerged in the 1990s and early 2000s with the US Women’s National Team. As well as winning World Cup titles in 1991 and 1999, they also won four Olympic championships, making them the first country to accomplish this feat in both men’s and women’s soccer.
November 30, 1991: In Guangzhou, China, the US Women’s National Team defeated Norway 2-1 in the first-ever FIFA Women’s World Championship. US captain Michelle Akers scored both US goals in the 20th and 78th minutes, as the US won the tournament six to zero.
June 18-July 17, 1994: FIFA World Cup 2015 took place across nine different cities in the United States, the 15th edition of the tournament. Over 3.5 million fans flocked to stadiums, which still holds the record for most spectators at a World Cup. In front of 93,869 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, Earnie Stewart’s 52nd-minute game-winner helped the USA advance past the first round for the first time in 64 years.
August 1, 1996: For its first gold medal, the USWNT defeated China PR 2-1 in the first edition of women’s soccer in the Olympics. At Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., 76,489 spectators witnessed Shannon MacMillan score the game’s first goal, and Tiffeny Milbrett score the winner in the 68th minute.
July 10, 1999: A sellout crowd of 90,125 witnessed Brandi Chastain score the game-winning penalty kick as the US Women’s National Team won the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup in a shootout over China. During sudden-death overtime, Kristine Lilly cleared a header for a game-saving clearance, and Briana Scurry saved China’s third penalty kick.
2001: The US Soccer Federation created the US Club Soccer Association.
June 17, 2002: With a 2-0 win over CONCACAF foe Mexico, the USMNT advanced to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Quarterfinals. As a result of Brian McBride’s and Landon Donovan’s scoring, Brad Friedel made six saves in Jeonju, Korea’s Round of 16 match. As a result, the USA won its first single-elimination World Cup game since the 1950 tournament in Brazil and was the USMNT’s first shutout in World Cup history.
May 26, 2003: Due to a risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome in China, the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in the United States from September 23 to October 11. The USA finished third in the tournament after losing to German World Cup champions in the semifinals, despite a 3-1 victory over Canada.
August 26, 2004: At the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, the US WNT won the gold medal with a goal by forward Abby Wambach in overtime. During regulation, Lindsay Tarpley scored another goal for the USA.
October 2007: As the top U-15/16 and U-17/18 youth players and clubs competed against each other, US Soccer launched its first Development Academy season to provide a structured environment for evaluating up-and-coming athletes and developing and identifying players and coaches for future youth national teams. In the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup on November 17, 2010, Juan Agudelo scored in his debut to lead the USMNT to a 1-0 win against South Africa, becoming the first Academy player to make the first team.
June 23, 2010: At the 2010 FIFA World Cup, forward Landon Donovan scored a 91st-minute goal to give the USA a 1-0 victory over Algeria and a place in the Round of 16. The USA would have been eliminated from the tournament if they did not win.
August 9, 2012: Wembley Stadium was packed with 80,203 spectators watching the USWNT capture its fourth gold medal. It was the first time a country won four gold medals in soccer, including both men’s and women’s teams. In the gold medal match, Carli Lloyd scored both goals for the USA.
June 2, 2013: The USMNT beat Germany 4-3 in an electrifying match in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, on June 2 to celebrate US Soccer Federation 100th birthday. In the first match since the dramatic semifinal victory in the 2012 London Olympics, the USWNT also celebrated victorious celebrations by defeating Canada 2-0 in Toronto.
2014: It was a year of record attendance for USMNT matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as record numbers of fans flocked to stadiums and parks. The US Soccer coaching and youth development programs are received significant investment due to new television and sponsor agreements.
2015: With the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup being the most coveted trophy in the sport, the US Women’s National Team claimed the most coveted prize in a record-breaking performance.
2019: With a 2–0 victory over the Netherlands in the final, the United States successfully defended its title after winning the 2015 edition in Canada. The victory gave them their record fourth title and made them the second nation, behind Germany, to have successfully retained it. Unlike Germany, this victory held distinction as Jill Ellis, the US manager in both 2015 and 2019, won both tournaments.
2022: It has been confirmed that the USMNT will participate in the Qatar World Cup in 2022. A qualification spot for the USWNT to Australia and New Zealand World Cup in 2023 has been secured.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!