American soccer writing, history & data.
The 1919-20 St. Louis Soccer League was the first full season since the end of the Great War and could arguably be seen as the greatest season of soccer in St. Louis up to that point. In early July, league president Winton Barker announced that the four SLSL clubs would enter the National Challenge Cup that season instead of one picked organization representing St. Louis in the competition. It was the first time teams from St. Louis had entered the competition.
With the same teams returning from the prior season, the SLSL scheduled a 21-game season with Sunday doubleheaders at Cardinal Park starting October 5 which conformed to U.S.F.A. dates due to the NCC. The league raised ticket prices from 30 to 35 cents which included the war tax. All four SLSL clubs drew a First Round bye in the National Challenge Cup.
Crowds returned to soccer in a big way as attendance was up from prior seasons. A new attendance record was set for a regular season contest on November 16 when 4000 paid to see the doubleheader at Cardinal Park. That attendance was equaled the next Sunday when the same number of fans came out to see the SLSL clubs play in their Second Round NCC matches. For almost two decades, the professional leagues in St. Louis had played 30-minutes halves, but the NCC required the teams to play the standard 45-minute halves. In addition, the two NCC games that day also counted in the league standings.
Harry Ratican's club, Robins Dry Dock F.C. from Brooklyn, N.Y., played a series of matches in St. Louis during the week of New Year's. On New Year's Day, Robins beat a team of SLSL All-Stars 3-1 before a record crowd of 5100 at Cardinal Park in which Ratican scored a brace. On January 3, 1920, another team of SLSL All-Stars drew Robins 1-1 with Ratican again scoring for the Brooklyn squad. The next day, Robins Dry Dock, helped by another Ratican goal, defeated Ben Miller 4-2 before yet another a record crowd of 5500 at Cardinal Field.
The league-leading Ben Millers also became the St. Louis representative in the NCC's later rounds beating Innisfails in the Second Round and Scullin Steel in the Third Round on Christmas Day. On February 1, 1920, Ben Miller beat Pennsylvania's McKeesport National Tube F.C. 3-2 before 5000 at Cardinal Field to make it into the Western Semifinals.
Well ahead of the pack, the Ben Millers dropped off the pace as the season ended drawing two and losing three over their last five matches. This allowed the Innisfails to catch up and tie for first place at the end of the season on March 14. The league scheduled a one-game playoff for the season title the next Sunday. For the playoff match, the league decided to play regulation 45-minute halves with two 15-minute extra periods in case of a tie at the end of regulation. The match did end tied 3-3 after 90 minutes. It remained tied through the first extra period but Kavanaugh scored in the final minute of the second extra period to win the pennant for Ben Miller.
On April 5, 1920, Ben Miller traveled to Bricklayer's field in Chicago and beat Olympia 2-1 in the NCC Western Semifinals. On April 11, Ben Miller beat St. Leo's, the Municipal League champions, 3-1 at High School Field to win the city championship. Two weeks later, the Hatters defeated Packard F.C. from Detroit 4-2 at High School Field to win the NCC Western Final.
The National Challenge Cup Final took place on March 9, 1920. Ben Miller defeated Fore River F.C. of Quincy, Mass. 2-1 before 10,000 at Federal League Park in St. Louis. It was the first national soccer title for the city of St. Louis and the first time that an all-American born team had won the NCC. In addition, Ben Miller completed a uniquely St. Louis treble winning the league, city championship, and national cup.
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