The First Cup: Brooklyn Field Club wins inaugural National Challenge Cup on late winner over Brooklyn Celtic (May 16, 1914)

Posted by | May 16, 2014

Brooklyn Field Club from the 1913/14 season introduces “The First Cup” series, which revisits the first running of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup (then known as the National Challenge Cup) that took place from the fall of 1913 to the spring of 1914. Click here for the full series.

Note: As you read this, you’ll notice a lot of players with just one name. This is not an oversight on our part, but rather, many of the sources of this information (newspapers, publications etc.) only use the last name of players in their stories.

At long last the moment had arrived, the crowning of first ever National Challenge Cup champion. On October 12, 1913, the list of 40 participating teams was announced, and on November 1 the first games were played. Almost six months later, Brooklyn Celtic and Brooklyn Field Club emerged the sole survivors of the elimination contests, convening at Coats Field in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to decide who would reign supreme and lift the Dewar Challenge Trophy.

Brooklyn Celtic from the 1913/14 season

The Pawtucket Times described the scene at Coats Field that afternoon: “Long before the captains had met in the center of the field……every vantage point within the spacious enclosure was peawed with humanity. The grandstand and bleachers filled like magic; around the field the spectators thronged seven and eight deep. Every automobile was filled to its capacity and even the baseballs scoreboard in left field provided a precious foothold for groups of hardy souls.”

Thomas Bagnall, president of the New York Amateur Association Football League, USFA President Dr. Rudolph G. Manning, and USFA Secretary Thomas Cahill were all on hand for this historic occasion, the crowning of the first true soccer champion of the United States. After both teams were photographed and a “moving picture machine” was set up in the grandstand to film the action, Celtic forward Thomas Campion kicked off at 3:21 pm.

Field Club won the coin toss and chose the south goal, forcing Celtic to deal with both the bright sun and a fairly strong wind from the south. Field Club wasted no time, grabbing the lead a mere two and a half minutes into the game. Bob Millar sent an overhead shot on goal that Frank Mather successfully blocked with a leaping save, Before Mather could set himself again, Percy Adamson put the ball past the Celtic goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead. The force of the kick sent Adamson to the ground, but his teammates happily picked him up, embracing him and patting him on the back.

Pawtucket Times (1914)

Play in the early stages of the game was described as rough, with referee Charles Creighton often warning the players of their aggressiveness.

The Pawtucket Times described the rough play in detail. “Adamson and Millar tripped with their feet and chopped with their elbows,” the paper reported. “Andy Robinson and (David) Flanigan and the other Celtic backs body-checked their opponents.” The rough and tumble play left all the players under heavy scrutiny from referee Creighton, who issued repeated warnings.

The rough play finally came to a head after 25 minutes. As Roddy O’Hallaran was closing in on the Field Club goal, H.W. Matthews charged in with a hard tackle, leaving O’Hallaran to fall face first onto the pitch. Creighton immediately blew his whistle, awarding a penalty kick to Celtic. Thomas Campion stepped up for the spot kick and sent it into the net before Field Club goalkeeper Haughie could even move.

(From left to right) Headlines from the Springfield Union, Pawtucket Times and New York Tribune about the 1914 National Challenge Cup Final

Play settled down for the rest of the half, and heading into the break the score was knotted 1-1.

For much of the second half Field Club dominated the game, keeping the ball in the Celtic half of the field for most of the way. The Celtic defense appeared to have tired legs by this time, defending desperately rather then strategically. George Knowles sent in a hard shot that Mather stopped more by luck than brilliance. The Times noted that Celtics fullback Andy Robinson played an instrumental role in keeping Field Club from winning the game with a larger score.

With just minutes remaining, and extra time looming, the Celtic defense finally gave way. Bob Millar once again started the action that would lead to the winning goal, sending in a high overhead shot into the goal area. James Ford then leapt high into the air, driving the ball headlong past Mather and into the US soccer history books.

USFA president Dr. G. Randolph Manning and many other dignitaries were in attendance for the inaugural National Challenge Cup Final.

For the last two minutes Celtic threw all their men forward in a desperate bid to net the equalizer, but their weary legs were too much to overcome. In the end, Brooklyn Celtic left the field knowing the better team had won.

The Pawtucket Times singled out Bob Millar, who would be inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame in its inaugural class of 1950, as the most instrumental player in the game. Millar’s actions directly set up both Field Club goals, as well as being involved in nearly every important moment of the game.

Coverage of the contest was better in the New England region. The Pawtucket Times allowed for an entire column to be devoted to the game, running from top to bottom of the page. The Boston Herald and Providence Evening Tribune also devoted numerous paragraphs to describing the action.  Perhaps surprisingly, most New York area papers provided small accounts of the game. The largest of which was from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which gave it  four paragraphs. Other papers, like the New York Sun, Tribune, Press and New York Times featured only basic coverage of the game.

Pawtucket Times: “Bob Millar: Brooklyn Field Club forward whose sterling plays dazzled rivals”


In the years after the historic contest, each club went on to drastically different fortunes, even though each were gone within a few short years. Brooklyn Celtic had another banner year in 1915, winning the New York State Amateur Football League again, as well as reaching the finals of both the American Cup and National Challenge Cup. They continued their dominance of the NYSAFL in 1916 and 1917, taking their run of league titles to five in a row stretching back to 1913.

Suddenly on September 9, 1917, it was announced the club was going to pull out of all competitions due to the fact that almost all of their players had been drafted into service for World War I.  The New York Sun noted that McKenna and O’Halloran were the only players from the first team available for games.  Brooklyn Celtic’s final National Challenge Cup game was a 3-1 loss in the Second Round of the 1916 tournament to the new juggernaut of American soccer, Bethlehem Steel.

The name would return in the 1930s with an American Soccer League team. The new Celtics reached the semifinals of the Challenge Cup in 1936 and won the championship in 1939, before folding for good in 1942.

After losing Bob Millar, Neil Clark and James Ford to Bethlehem Steel for the 1914-15 season, Brooklyn Field Club went into a sharp decline. The club finished the 1914/15 season in the middle of the NAFL with a 5-6-3 record, and were ousted from the Challenge Cup in the Second Round by Paterson Rangers. The 1915/16 season was more of the same for Field Club, finishing middle of the pack again in the NAFL, and elimination from National Challenge Cup in the First Round by Yonkers FC.

The team came to a quiet end in the fall of 1916. After playing only one game in the NAFL, an 11-1 loss to New York FC, the team disbanded. Their final mark on the National Challenge Cup was a forfeit loss to Interborough Rapid Transit Strollers in the opening round of the 1917 tournament.

1914 National Challenge Cup Final
Brooklyn Field Club 2-1 Brooklyn Celtic
May 16, 1914 –   Coates Field – Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Scoring Summary

Field Club: Percy Adamson (Unassisted) – 3rd min.
Celtic: Thomas Campion (PK) – 27th min.
Field Club: James Ford (Bob Millar) – 87th min.

Brooklyn Field Club: Haughie, Hynds, Charles Drinkwater, H.W. Matthews,Neil Clark, Nichols, James Ford, George Knowles, Percy Adamson, Robert Millar, Henry Shanholdt

Brooklyn Celtic – Frank Mather, James Robertson, Andrew Robertson, David Flanagan, Frank O’Hara, Hugh Kelly, Albert Lonie, Thomas Campion, Roddy O’Halloran, McGreevey, Patrick Butler


Attendance: 10,000
Referee: Charles E. Creighton | Linesmen: Hamilton Handling, Charles Taylor

The Dewar Trophy

Road to the National Challenge Cup Final

Brooklyn Celtic
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: 6-0 win vs. Hollywood Inn
Round 3: 5-0 win vs. Babcock & Wilcox
Quarterfinals: 2-0 win vs. Columbia Oval
Semifinals: 6-2 win vs. Niagara Falls Rangers


Brooklyn Celtic tournament goal scorers: Roddy O’Hallaran 7, Albert Lonie 5, Thomas Campion 4, Mike King 3, McQueen 1


Brooklyn Field Club
Round 1: 1-0 win vs. IRT Strollers
Round 2: 3-0 win vs. Brooklyn Rangers FC
Round 3: 1-0 win vs. Bethlehem FC*
* The result was protested by Bethlehem, but the USFA ruled in favor of BFC

Quarterfinals: 4-1 win vs. Yonkers FC
Semifinals: 2-1 win vs. New Bedford FC


Brooklyn Field Club tournament goal scorers: Bob Millar 6, Harry Shanholt 2, Percy Adamson 1, Charles Drinkwater 1, Coward 1, Hynds 1, Neil Clark 1, Slade 1, James Ford 1

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