American soccer writing, history & data.
During the summer of 1924, the St. Louis Soccer League began publicly referring to itself by its formal business name - the Soccer and Exhibition Co. of St. Louis. The business entity that operated the league since its inaugural season was usually made up of seven stockholders: the four team owners; president, Winton E. Barker; vice president J. G. Barrett; and treasurer, Phil Riley.
This change in public branding was connected to the league's push against the U.S.F.A. and the national body's priority for teams to play in the National Challenge Cup. Attendance and subsequent gate receipts in the SLSL had dropped by over half from the 1919-20 to the 1923-24 season. Two factors were presented for this. First, the public was losing interest in purely league games because the competition only had four teams and the outcome of the league was usually understood fairly early on in the season. But the second, and biggest, issue was National Cup games. The prior season's cup final alone brought in receipts greater than $3000 of those of the entirety of that season's league games. But, while attendance was high for later cup games, with more renowned clubs, the playing of earlier rounds against less consequential clubs disrupted the regular league season schedule and did not pull in crowds.
The SLSL began talks with the American Soccer League, in a similar situation with the NCC, to plan the establishment of two big leagues. All this was happening while a power struggle was occurring at the U.S.F.A. where Thomas Cahill was being pushed out.
Under pressure from the top two professional leagues, the U.S.F.A. restructured the NCC whereby only 32 teams would be eligible for the first round. The top teams would be seeded directly into the first round while the rest of the entrants would enter via a number of qualifying rounds. This still wasn't enough for the professional leagues and the SLSL then the ASL withdrew from the NCC.
To help bolster their season and replace the NCC matches, the two professional leagues planned to play each other in exhibition matches during the season and a series at the end of the season to crown a national professional soccer champion.
The SLSL again played Sunday doubleheaders at St. Louis University Field (the renamed High School Field). But, just before the SLSL season two major changes occurred in the organization. Willie Foley, owner and manager of the Barrett-Hoover franchise, sold his interests to Ben Miller for between $3000 and $4000. This was reported to be the first transaction in the SLSL where a franchise was sold for cash. Foley continued as manager of the team which was renamed Ben Miller.
As the same time, Ben Miller severed his connection as sponsor of the old Ben Miller team owned by Ursula Ratican and managed by Harry Ratican. This left that team without a backer for the start of the season. As such, it was called the Raticans for the first three weeks of the season. Prior to the Sunday, November 2 match, Ratican found sponsorship from a downtown clothing business and the team was renamed Pants Store Co. But, the team continued to be popularly called the Raticans.
On October 31, 1924, Benjamin W. Miller passed away after an operation to remove a cancerous tumor. Ownership of the team passed to George A. Miller.
In early February, 1925, the SLSL players, organized at the Professional Soccer Players' Association, voted to strike after the directors of the Soccer and Exhibition Co. of St. Louis refused a proposition from the players demanding a revision to the split of the gate receipts. In the SLSL, players were paid a percentage of the gate receipts after the company took a cut and expenses were paid. This players felt their cut was unfair and the amounts they received had decreased over the years. The matches on February 9 were canceled due to the labor action.
A compromise was reached during the next week and the schedule resumed. The four franchise owners arrived at separate agreements with their players. It was understood that the players on the Vespers, Scullins and Ben Millers were guaranteed $10 for each winning and $7 for each losing game. The Pants Score team, fearing an inability to meet those guarantees, agreed to a percentage split of the gate receipts.
The Ben Millers (Willie Foley's former Barrett-Hoover team) took the league title by a point over Vesper-Buick. On March 22, they defeated St. Matthew's, the Municipal League champions, 5-0 before 6000 at St. Louis University Field to become the recognized city champions.
On April 5, Ben Miller hosted Boston of the American Soccer League in the professional championship series. The ASL was still finishing their league season but Boston won the mid-season ASL Cup which provided the opportunity to play in the series. Ben Miller won the first match 1-0 before 15,000 at St. Louis University Field. On Saturday, April 11, Boston beat Ben Miller 3-1 at Walpole Street Grounds in front of 4000 to even the three-game series. On Sunday, April 26, Boston edged Ben Miller 3-2 before 3800 at St. Louis University Field to win the professional soccer championship.
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