St. Louis Soccer League

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The St. Louis Soccer League was a soccer league based in St. Louis, Missouri, that existed from 1907 to 1938. At its founding, it was the only fully professional soccer league in the United States.

History[edit]

St. Louis teams, which began competing in citywide leagues in 1890, organized the Association Foot Ball League in 1903. In 1907, the St. Louis Soccer League was established as a rival to the AFBL. In 1908, the two leagues merged. Typically, the league featured four teams each season.

The merger brought St. Leo's from the AFBL into the SLSL, where the team, the league's only fully professional squad, dominated the standings for seven years.

In an attempt to undermine St. Leo’s, several individuals involved in the league attempted to remake the SLSL as an amateur league. The effort was defeated but it led to split. Those teams dedicated to full professionalism joined St. Leo’s in the Federal Park League while the amateur teams moved to Robison Park. The split brought the Ben Millers into the Federal Park League. When the two leagues reunited in 1915, Ben Millers replaced St. Leo’s as the dominant team.[1]

While the two leagues crowned separate champions during the 1913-1914 season, the 1914-1915 saw a city champion when the top team in each league, St. Leo’s from Federal Park and Innisfails from Robison Field, played for the title. Innisfails won the championship, replacing St. Leo’s as the city’s top team. Following the 1914-1915 season, the two leagues reunited.

In 1916, the newly established U.S. Football Association assembled a team of U.S. players for a Scandinavia. These games became the first in the history of the national team. Of the players on the U.S. roster, only Matt Diedrichsen from Innisfails was selected from outside the north east U.S.

The entry of the United States into World War I drained all four teams by drafting players into the military, with St. Leo’s affected the most.

In 1926, the SLSL briefly expanded to include Chicago Sparta, but the team did not complete the season, withdrawing on November 11, 1926. In 1935, the SLSL began a period of instability which led to its eventual dissolution four years later.

In 1939, the league expanded to include teams from Chicago and Cleveland. Teams from these two cities and St. Louis had competed against each other from time to time, but this year, the SLSL decided to formalize the competition, which was called the “Inter-city Soccer Loop”. The league, which had experienced considerable internal strife including lawsuits between teams over player tampering had finally collapsed.[2] The St. Louis Municipal League, which ran the lower St. Louis city divisions, became the only league. As such its top division became the de facto St. Louis first division until the creation of the St. Louis Major Soccer League in 1948.

National competition[edit]

Before the establishment of the National Challenge Cup in 1914, most teams participated in city, state or regional competitions. The only opportunity for teams from one region to test themselves against the best on a national level came from ad hoc cups and off-season tours.

In 1913, the St. Louis Soccer League came to national attention when St. Leo’s tied the Paterson True Blues, winners of the American Cup. At the time, the American Cup was the most recognized regional cup and was the de facto East Coast championship.

While the newly established United States Football Association established the National Challenge Cup in 1914, it was not until 1918 that the St. Louis teams entered the cup. This was first truly national competition and over the next few years, replaced the regional cups. They initially had difficulty getting past the Chicago and Cleveland teams, but in 1920 Ben Millers stunned the east coast teams by knocking off Fore River to become the first club outside of the northeast to win the cup. SLSL teams then went to the next four finals, taking only the 1922 title. SLSL team also went to the final in 1926, 1929 and every season from 1932 to 1939.

Champions[edit]

Season Winner
1907-08 Innisfails
1908-09 St. Leo's
1909-10 St. Leo's
1910-11 St. Leo's
1911-12 St. Leo's
1912-13 St. Leo's
1913-14 St. Leo's
1914-15 St. Leo's
1915-16 Ben Millers
1916-17 Ben Millers
1917-18 Ben Millers
1918-19 Scullin Steel
1919-20 Ben Millers
1920-21 Scullin Steel
1921-22 Scullin Steel
1922-23 Vesper Buick
1923-24 Vesper Buick
1924-25 Ben Millers
1925-26 Ben Millers
1926-27 Ben Millers
1927-28 Tablers
1928-29 Tablers
1929-30 Tablers
1930-31 Coca Colas
1931-32 Coca Colas
1932-33 Stix, Baer and Fuller F.C.
1933-34 Stix, Baer and Fuller F.C.
1934-35 St. Louis Central Breweries F.C.
1935-36 Burke's Undertakers
1936-37 Burke's Undertakers
1937-38 St. Matthew's
1938-39 Chicago Sparta

Teams[edit]

The list includes the years in the SLSL and their city if not St. Louis. During the 1913-1915 seasons, the SLSL expanded to eight teams competing in two separate leagues, the Federal Park League and the Robison Field League. For those teams which competed during those two seasons, their leagues are noted in italics.

When the SLSL was established, St. Louis boasted dozens of other leagues. In 1913, the St. Louis Municipal League consolidated many of these disparate leagues into a multi-division organization which sat below the SLSL.[3] While St. Louis did not have a promotion / relegation system between the SLSL and MUNY, teams moved easily between the two leagues.

Finally, St. Louis soccer teams depended on sponsorship. When sponsorship changed, the teams changed their names as well. When the team remained the same, except for their names, the new names are listed immediately below the original name when those changes are known. Some of the teams, such as St. Matthews, may have been the same team, but the information available does not allow us to make that determination, so they are listed as different teams.

  • Andersons 1931-1935
  • Athletics 1913-1914 (Robison Field League 1913-1914)
  • Barrett Hoovers 1923-1924
  • Bartunek Slavias (Cleveland, Ohio) 1938-1939
  • Ben Millers 1913-1935 (Federal Park League 1913-1915)
  • Blue Bells 1909-1911
  • Burke's Undertakers 1935-1939
  • Business Men’s A.C. 1912-1913
  • Chicago Sparta 1926 (withdrew during the 1926-1927 season), 1938-1939
  • Central Brewery 1935-1936
  • Coca Colas 1930-1933
  • Columbia A.C. 1913-1915 (Federal Park League 1913-1915)
  • Columbus Club 1910-1915 (Robison Field League 1913-1915)
→ Naval Reserve F.C. 1914-1918
  • Compton Hills 1914-1915 (Federal Park League 1914-1915)
  • DeAndreis 1921-1922
  • Hellrungs 1929-1931
→ Stix, Baer and Fuller F.C. 1931-1934
→ St. Louis Central Breweries F.C. 1934-1935
  • Hellrung & Grimm 1935-1936
  • Hoover Sweepers 1922-1923
  • Innisfails 1907-1908, 1909-1921 (Robison Field League 1913-1915)
  • Irish American A.C. 1911-1912
  • Lindell Trust 1938-1939
  • Lotus 1936-1937
  • Madison Kennel 1928-1930
  • Manewals 1914-1915 (Robison Field League 1914-1915)
  • Manhattan Beer (Chicago) 1938-1939
  • Marre’s 1934-1936
  • Minit-Rubs 1933-1934
  • Morgan Haulers 1927-1928
  • Optimists 1936-1937
  • Ratican’s 1924-1927
→ Tablers 1927-1931
→ St. Louis Screws 1918-1922
  • St. Matthew 1907-1908
  • St. Matthew's 1937-1938
  • St. Patricks 1937-1938
  • St. Teresa 1907-1910, 1913-1915 (Robison Field League 1913-1915)
  • Thistles (Bend, Illinois) 1907-1909
  • Town Criers 1936-1937
  • Vesper Buick 1922-1926
→ White Banner 1926-1927
  • Wellston’s 1925-1929
  • West Ends 1908-1909

See also[edit]

External links[edit]