The Bethlehem Steel won the 1918/1919 National Challenge Cup title, 2-0 over Paterson FC in Fall River, Mass. It was the club’s fourth National Challenge Cup title in the last six years.
100 years ago, the National Challenge Cup (now known as the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup) crowned its sixth national champion. Prior to the 106th edition of the US Open Cup Final last August, TheCup.us begins a five-part series that jumps in a time machine back a full century to see what obstacles the 1918/1919 tournament faced. The game and the world itself was very different 100 years ago. World War I was wrapping up in Europe and there was an outbreak of the Spanish Flu around the country. The United States and the game of soccer were likely unrecognizable to the modern fan, so we decided to take a look back to see how it all played out.
Editor’s 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. If you have confirmation of any of their names, or any other details that would add to our historical records, feel free to reach out to us HERE. We are always looking for help with historical research.
Check out the past entries in this five-part series: Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Quarterfinals | Semifinals & Final
1918/1919 National Challenge Cup – Semifinals
The final four survivors in the National Challenge Cup were set to meet in Bethlehem, Penn. and Harrison, N.J., and both games turned out to be anti-climactic blowouts.
Bethlehem Steel players (from left to right) Fred Pepper, James Campbell and Brown. Photo: Fall River Daily Evening News – April 18, 1919
In a game some newspapers billed as a showdown of East versus West, Bethlehem Steel hosted Chicago’s Bricklayers & Masons FC at Taylor Stadium in Bethlehem on Mar. 29. The Chicagoans had not lost a game all season, scoring 40 goals and conceding only eight, while Bethlehem had lost just one game to an all-star team in St. Louis and scored an astounding 74 goals in 23 games while allowing 17. A remarkable 62 of those goals were scored by Bethlehem’s deadly squad of strikers. Among those five stars was a trio of future Hall of Famers in Harry Ratican (16 goals / 14 games), Tommy Fleming (12 goals / 20 games), and Bob Millar (8 goals / 13 games). Millar would not only play for the US National Team, but led the team as head coach at the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930. The fourth and fifth strikers were future Canadian international George Forrest (15 goals / 22 games) and George McKelvey (11 goals / 22 games), who would finish his career as one of the most successful players in US soccer history with five Open Cup titles and five more American Cup championships.
The visitors got off to a poor start before the game even kicked-off. Scheduled to arrive the evening before the game, the Bricklayers missed a train connection in Buffalo which delayed their arrival until the morning of the game itself.
High winds with gusts of 40 miles per hour swept over the stadium which forced the teams, which were both noted for their long passes, to change their normal tactics and favor shorter passes. About 5,000 spectators braved the chilly conditions, and after a few minutes, Bethlehem showed its superiority over their Chicago rivals. The Bethlehem Globe noted it was only a matter of how many goals the Steelmen would score.
Playing the first half with the strong wind at their backs, it didn’t take long for Bethlehem to score its first goal, and the wind played a direct role. Bethlehem won a corner kick in the third minute and McKelvey’s kick was blown just under the crossbar. Brickies goalkeeper Harry Holmes managed to tip the ball but was unable to stop it from entering the net. Seven minutes later, Bethlehem scored once again from a corner kick, this time from Fleming. His kick found the head of Forrest, who deflected the ball to Millar, who kicked it in from his position just about under the crossbar.
Bethlehem was well in charge of the game at this point and the Bricklayers first shot on goal did not come until 25 minutes had passed, a shot by Stewart that went over the crossbar. Bethlehem won corner after corner, and nearly added to their lead when another McKelvey corner kick struck the crossbar. Despite their dominance, Bethlehem failed to add to their advantage and the first half finished 2-0 in their favor.
Bethlehem’s dominant form continued in the second half, with Fleming shooting just wide of the goal, and then nearly scoring again when Holmes fumbled the ball in front of goal. The Chicagoans broke away for their only other good chance of the game, as forwards H. Stewart and Harold Hawke drove up-field, only to see Bethlehem goalkeeper William Duncan make a great save of George Herron’s shot. After this, Bethlehem began to add to their lead, as Millar scored his second and third goals to push the score to 4-0. Fleming finished the rout to give the defending tournament champions a 5-0 win and their fifth consecutive Finals appearance.
1918/1919 National Challenge Cup Semifinal #1
March 29, 1919
Bethlehem Steel 5:0 Bricklayers & Masons FC
Taylor Stadium – Bethlehem, PA
Bethlehem: George McKelvey – 3rd min.
Bethlehem: Bob Millar – 12th min.
Bethlehem: Bob Millar – 2nd Half
Bethlehem: Bob Millar – 2nd Half
Bethlehem: Tommy Fleming – 2nd Half
Bethlehem: William Duncan, James Wilson, Jock Ferguson, Fred Pepper, James Campbell, Davie Brown, George McKelvey, George Forrest, Harry Ratican, Bob Millar, Tommy Fleming
Bricklayers: Harry Holmes, Charles Dixon, Jack Walker, H.F. Erickson, E.F. Bromley, James Shaw, John Parry, J.H. Heath, George Herron, Harold Hawke, H. Stewart
Referee: William E. Hinds | Linesmen: E. Waldron, J. H. Carpenter
The other semifinal was set for the next day, March 30, at Harrison Field (sometimes known as ‘Federal League Baseball Park’) in Harrison, N.J., and featured a rematch of a contest in a separate cup tournament earlier in the season. On Feb. 9, Paterson FC romped over Morse Dry Dock 5-1 in the Quarterfinals of the American Cup. The American Cup was a competition which began in 1885 and was confined to the northeastern part of the United States but in other respects was similar to the National Challenge Cup .
The Morse roster had been bolstered since that embarrassing defeat, and featured seven players who had played with 1917/1918 National Challenge Cup runners-up Fall River Rovers. For a while, it appeared Paterson would be without speedy forward Harry Bleich, who broke his nose the previous week in Paterson’s American Cup semifinal win over Merchants Ship. Despite being advised to sit out the match, Bleich insisted on playing.
Support TheCup.us and its coverage of the US Open Cup by purchasing a “Champions” shirt, honoring the five clubs from the pre-Modern Era (1914-1994) to win four or more US Open Cup titles. Visit THECUP.US SHOP
As soon as referee James Walders blew his whistle to start the game, Paterson was off and running, bombarding the Morse goal from all angles. At one point Morse managed to get the ball to midfield, only for Paterson’s Amie Vandeweghe to recover possession, sending the ball back in the attacking end. A Morse defender cleared the threat away but gave Paterson a corner kick. The resulting corner from Harry Meyerdick found future Hall of Famer Archie Stark, who drove home the opening goal after 17 minutes.
The visitors from Brooklyn responded three minutes later as Harry Holgate sent a low twisting shot which Paterson goalkeeper Walter Healey saved. However, before he could clear the ball, an onrushing Sam Bell knocked Healey down, allowing future Hall of Famer Fred Beardsworth to recover the loose ball. Healey, still on the ground, managed to get a hand on the shot but was unable to stop it from going in to even the score at 1-1.
This counterattack sent Paterson into a frenzy and, as the Paterson Morning Call described it, the resulting Paterson attack kept Morse goalkeeper Jack Albion “busier than a one-armed paper hanger with the hives.” Albion kept the ball out of his goal for the moment, but Paterson would not be denied. In the 35th minute, Vandeweghe kicked the ball high and long, falling right at the feet of Bleich. Before the Morse defenders could respond, Bleich put Paterson back on top 2-1, which is how the first half ended.
In the second half, Paterson resumed their attack, peppering Albion with shots for about 20 minutes to no avail, until Stark got hold of the ball in a scrum inside the box and made the score 3-1 in favor of Paterson. In the process of scoring the goal, Paterson forward Rudy Hunziker had to be helped off the field with an injury. The Morse band, which had little chance of enthusiastic playing up to that point, smartly played a funeral dirge as Hunziker was helped off the field.
The band’s tactic backfired, as a seemingly irked Hunziker returned to the field and played like a demon. Hunziker took hold of the pass from Vandeweghe and raced down the field toward the goal. Before Morse fullbacks Frank Booth and Charles Burns could stop him, Hunziker sent a cross to Bleich who had no trouble beating Albion for Paterson’s fourth and final goal. With only a few minutes remaining, Paterson’s defense held Morse at bay, sending them to the championship game against the mighty Bethlehem Steel. They would be the first team to represent the Garden State in the National Challenge Cup Final.
1918/1919 National Challenge Cup Semifinal #2
March 30, 1919
Paterson FC 4:1 Morse Dry Dock
Harrison Field – Harrison, NJ
Patterson: Archie Stark – 17th min.
Morse: Fred Beardsworth – 20th min.
Paterson: Harry Bleich (Amie Vandeweghe) – 35th min.
Paterson: Archie Stark – 65th min.
Paterson: Harry Bleich (Rudy Hunziker) – 2nd Half
Paterson: Walter Healey, Poet, Murray, Tommy Stark, Amie Vandeweghe, Henry Meyerdick, Knowles, Archie Stark, Harry Bleich, Rudy Hunziker, Davey Brown
Morse: Jack Albion, Frank Booth, Charles Burns, Mackie, John McCann, Stone, Henry Holgate, Fred Beardsworth, Sam Bell, Morgan, McGreavey
Referee: James A. Walders | Linesmen: Thomas Cunningham, William Rowley
1918/1919 National Challenge Cup Final
Soccer enthusiasts must have felt a sense of déjà vu heading into the 1918/1919 National Challenge Cup Final on April 19. For the fifth year in a row, the juggernaut Bethlehem Steel had rumbled through the tournament and were once again in the Final. Winners in 1915, 1916 and 1918 and runners-up in 1917, the Steelmen were looking to win the Dewar Trophy for the fourth time in the Cup’s short six-year history. Standing in their way were fellow National Association Football League members Paterson FC, who had reached the Quarterfinals the previous season.
Headline from the Fall River Daily Evening News – April 21, 1919
The teams met once in the 1918/19 season prior to the final, with Bethlehem emerging with a 4-0 victory in the opening game of the season. Heading into the Challenge Cup final game Bethlehem were riding an 11-game unbeaten streak in the tournament dating back to December of 1917 and had lost only once in all competitions and exhibitions (a 4-3 defeat to a St. Louis All-Star squad).
Paterson came into the final reeling from back to back shutouts, a 2-0 loss to Federal Ship in the New Jersey state cup semifinals, and a loss by the same score to Robins Dry Dock in an NAFL contest. In an odd twist, the teams were set to meet again a week later in Philadelphia in the American Football Association Cup Final.
Clear and cool weather greeted the approximately 10,000 spectators who filed into the Fall River Athletic Field in Fall River, Mass., some arriving as early as 9 a.m.. The crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of Paterson, and the Fall River police department dispatched 40 officers to control the crowd which, in some parts, were lined fifty-deep around the field, with many other fans sitting on top of fences. Before the game, Paterson goalkeeper Walter Healey, who years prior played with Fall River’s Pan American team, was presented with a handsome traveling bag by the Fall River admirers.
Bethlehem won the coin toss, and Paterson had the first good chance to score off a corner kick. Knowles delivered the ball to the goalmouth, but the resulting shot went wide of the right post. The pro-Paterson crowd was in a frenzy with the ball staying in the Bethlehem end, highlighted by Davey Brown’s shot that clattered off the goalpost. Bethlehem’s attacks were snuffed out quickly by Paterson, as Tommy Fleming and Harry Ratican were held in check. At one point Bethlehem’s George McKelvey and Paterson’s Harry Meyerdick collided, forcing McKelvey to leave the game for a couple of minutes. Brown again came close for Paterson, sending another shot off the crossbar and over.
Paterson won another corner, and Meyerdick sent a well-placed shot into the goalmouth, which went into a crown of players, rolled over goalkeeper William Duncan’s arm, and then found its way into the goal. As the crowd roared and Meyerdick celebrated with his teammates, protesting Bethlehem players followed referee George Lambie back to the center circle. Lambie then stopped and ran towards the linesmen to explain the goal was disallowed because Meyerdicks’s corner kick had not been touched by another player before going in the goal. The crowd howled in disapproval over the nullified score. On their way home after the game, Bethlehem’s Bob Millar reportedly admitted to someone that the ball struck him before passing the goal line. Paterson remained on the attack until the end of the half but suffered a setback for the rest of the game when star forward Rudy Hunziker was thrown to the ground and re-agitated an old knee injury.
At the start of the second half, the blinding sun shone directly into the faces of the Paterson defenders, and Bethlehem finally got their attack going. In the 58th minute, Harry Ratican sent a nice pass to McKelvey down the right flank, who slammed it past Healey for a 1-0 Bethlehem lead. Paterson resumed its attack, but the Bethlehem defense were up to the task. With five minutes remaining, a gimpy Hunziker had a good chance to pull Paterson level, but his shot went a few inches over the bar.
At this point, the Fall River crowd was anxious for Patterson to tie the score. Paterson gained another corner with a minute remaining, and Knowles sent the pass into a crowd of Paterson players in front of the goal. Brown’s header struck the crossbar yet again, and Duncan snatched the ball off the rebound and kicked it out to Fleming. Meyerdick attempted to steal the ball from Fleming and in doing so, sent it to Ratican who found himself all alone against Healey. Ratican avoided the netminder and scored the clinching goal, and referee Lambie blew the final whistle right after, securing Bethlehem Steel’s fourth National Challenge Cup title in five years.
A team photo of the Bethlehem Steel in 1919 ahead of their tour of Sweden. Photo: Spaulding Guide
In the rematch for the American Cup the following weekend, Bethlehem yet again came out as 2-0 winners. Paterson would ultimately be hurt by the loss of their injured star Rudy Hunziker, and Bethlehem’s George Forest scored the first goal ten minutes into the game off a Fleming corner kick followed by a Harry Ratican clincher in the 68th minute. Paterson’s fortunes were far different this time around, as they only won two corner kicks the entire game.
Following their cup triumphs, Bethlehem embarked on a tour of Sweden and Denmark from Aug. 10 to Sept. 24, winning seven, drawing five and losing just two games. Bethlehem were the first American club to make a trip to Europe, and the second team representing the United States after the National Team made a similar trip to Sweden and Norway in 1916.
Remarkably, Bethlehem Steel would reach the final just one more time before the team folded in 1930. In 1926, they defeated St. Louis’ Ben Miller SC 7-2 to win their fifth and final National Challenge Cup title. Paterson would eventually win the National Challenge Cup in 1923 in controversial fashion when Scullin Steel of St. Louis forfeited the replay of their 2-2 draw due to injuries and losing players who had left for spring training for their respective baseball teams. The forfeit was also complicated by the USFA’s decision to have the replay take place in the East (Harrison, NJ) instead of St. Louis. After the 1922-23 season the new owner moved the club from Paterson across the river to the Big Apple where they became the New York National Giants.
1918/1919 National Challenge Cup Final
April 19, 1919
Bethlehem Steel 2:0 Paterson FC
Fall River Athletic Field – Fall River, Massachusetts
Bethlehem: George McKelvey (Harry Ratican) – 60th min.
Bethlehem: Harry Ratican – 90th min.
Bethlehem: William Duncan, James Wilson, Jock Ferguson, Fred Pepper, James Campbell, Davie Brown, George McKelvey, Butler, George Forest, Harry Ratican, Tommy Fleming
Manager: William Sheridan
Paterson FC: Walter Healey, Broadbent, Murray, Tommy Stark, Aimie Vandeweghe, Henry Meyerdick, Knowles, Harry Bleich, Archie Stark, Rudy Hunziker, Davy Brown
Manager: Tom Garside
Referee: George Lambie | Linesmen: Ed Pemberton, George Mitchell