It is often claimed that the Oneida Football Club of Boston, Massachusetts, founded in 1862 was the first club to play soccer outside the United Kingdom. However, the club could not have been playing soccer, as they were formed before The Football Association formulated the rules in England; it is not known what rules the club used, and it broke up within the space of a few years. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the club is often credited with inventing the “Boston Game”, which both allowed players to kick a round ball along the ground, and to pick it up and run with it. The first U.S. match known to have been inspired by FA rules was a game between Princeton University and Rutgers University on November 6, 1869, which was won by Rutgers 6-4. The FA rules were followed in the Princeton-Rutgers contest: participants were only allowed to kick the ball and each side had 25 players. Other colleges emulated this development, but all of these were converted to rugby by the mid-1870s and would soon become famous as early bastions of American football.
The Fall River Rovers were among one the few clubs to win both the National Challenge Cup and the American Cup.
The earliest examples of governance in the sport started in 1884, when the American Football Association (AFA) was incarnated. The AFA sought to standardize rules for the local soccer teams based in the Northeastern United States, particularly in northern New Jersey and southern New York state. By 1886, the AFA had spread in influence into Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. With the creation, the AFA created the first non-league cup in American soccer history, known as the American Cup. For the first dozen years, clubs from New Jersey and Massachusetts dominated the competition. The tournament set a foundation for a new, rival association to rival the AFA, known as the American Amateur Football Association (AAFA). Founded in October 1911, the association began creating its own soccer tournament, known as the American Amateur Football Association Cup, and in 1913, both the AAFA and AFA applied for membership in FIFA, the international governing body for soccer.
Within a year of its founding, the AFA organized the first non-league cup in U.S. soccer history, known as the American Cup. Clubs from New Jersey and Massachusetts dominated the first twelve years. It would not be until 1897 that a club from outside those two states won the American Cup. Philadelphia Manz brought the title to Pennsylvania for the first time. Due to internal conflicts within the AFA, the cup was suspended in 1899, and it was not resumed until 1906. The conflicts within the AFA led to a movement to create a truly national body to oversee American soccer. Drawing on both its position as the oldest soccer organization and the status of the American Cup, the AFA argued that it should be the nationally recognized body.
Early soccer leagues in the U.S. mostly used the name “football,” for example: the American Football Association (founded in 1884), the American Amateur Football Association (1893), the American League of Professional Football (1894), the National Association Foot Ball League (1895), and the Southern New England Football League (1914).
In October 1911, a competing body, the American Amateur Football Association (AAFA) was created. The association quickly spread outside of the Northeast and created its own cup in 1912, theAmerican Amateur Football Association Cup. In 1913, both the AFA and AAFA applied for membership in FIFA, the international governing body for soccer. Later that year, the AAFA gained an edge over the AFA when several AFA organizations moved to the AAFA. On April 5, 1913, the AAFA reorganized as the United States Football Association (USFA), presently known as the United States Soccer Federation. FIFA quickly granted a provisional membership and USFA began exerting its influence on the sport. This led to the establishment of the National Challenge Cup that fall. The National Challenge Cup quickly grew to overshadow the American Cup. However, both cups were played simultaneously for the next ten years. Declining respect for the AFA led to the withdrawal of several associations from its cup in 1917. Further competition came in 1924 when USFA created the National Amateur Cup. That spelled the death knell for the American Cup. It played its last season in 1924.
Common confusion between the terms “American football” and “association football” eventually led to a more domestic widespread use of the term “soccer” to regard association football. Originally seen as a British slang term for “association football”, the use of “soccer” began appearing in the late 1910s and early 1920s. A noticable example was the American Soccer League (ASL), which formed in 1919. The governing body of the sport in the U.S. did not have the word soccer in its name until 1945, when it became the United States Soccer Football Association. It did not drop the wordfootball from its name until 1974, when it became the United States Soccer Federation, often going simply as U.S. Soccer.
During the days of the ASL, the league was seen as widely popular, and considered to be the second most popular sports league in the United States, only behind Major League Baseball. However, internal debates between the USFA and ASL led to a known “soccer war” and the demise of both the league and the sport in the United States, entering a prolonged time of obscurity.
What is now the United States Soccer Federation was originally the United States Football Association, formed on April 5, 1913.