Soccer Almanac

American soccer writing, history & data.

Final NAFL 1920-21 season & coming of ASL

July 1, 2021 |  Categories:  NAFL  

During the offseason, rumblings began to be heard about the possibility of a new Eastern League to be made up of the best of the Eastern clubs. This included clubs such as Bethlehem Steel, Robins Dry Dock, New York F.C., and Paterson F.C from the NAFL as well as Fall River Rovers and J. & P. Coats from New England. The Eastern League didn't materialize for the 1920-21 season, but the seeds were planted.

Merchant Ship was dropped during the summer for failing to honor their scheduled games. Disston was initially going to meet the same fate but was allowed to return to the fold. Morse Dry Dock also disbanded before the schedule began so the league welcomed the return of the Babcock & Wilcox club to bring them back up to eight members.

Bethlehem Steel easily won their third title in a row but discontent over the less stable clubs continued to rise. Paterson F.C. disbanded and dropped out of the league around New Year's. Many of the club's best players had left to join Erie and various shipyard clubs began to make offers to their star players who became dissatisfied. Paterson's manager, Garside, decided to release the entire roster and shutter the team. In January, the NAFL sought applications for a replacement club but only Paterson's Bunker Hill F.C. responded. That club was awarded Paterson's franchise on January 31.

Immediately after the season's close, officials from the top Eastern clubs gathered to form the American Soccer League with the intention it be the first true major soccer league in the U.S. The NAFL lost its best clubs to the new concern and, soon after, convened an emergency committee to seek applications from clubs. Their intention was to confine their activities to New York and New Jersey for the coming season because they believed there would be no room for both the ASL and NAFL to operate in Pennsylvania.

The league did not return for the 1921-22 season. A new Philadelphia-based National Soccer League took up the name that season.

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