Today, the second in a multi-part series on the influence of Scottish and Scottish-American players on the game in the United States. Part One can be found here.
If one player formed the bridge between the two eras and the two regions it was Archie Stark. Born in Glasgow on December 21, 1897, Archibald McPherson Stark came to the United States in 1910, and within two years- at the age of 14- he was already playing for Kearney Scots (also known as “Scottish-Americans), one of the most successful clubs in the National Association Foot Ball League (NAFBL). Stark would remain with Kearney for four seasons, the highlight of which was scoring the winning goal in the 1915 American Cup (at the time the most prestigious cup competition in the U.S.). Stark followed his time with Kearney Scots with one season at Babcock & Wilcox where he played alongside fellow Scot Bob Millar (formerly of St. Mirren F.C.) before the entry of the United States into World War I halted play in the NAFBL.
Following his service in France Stark returned home and resumed his career with Paterson F.C.. During his one season with Paterson the club reached the final of the National Challenge Cup, losing to Bethlehem Steel F.C.. Even in defeat Stark impressed B.S.F.C.- then the biggest club in the U.S.- enough to be invited on their Scandinavian tour (see Part One). After leaving Paterson he played for two seasons with Erie A.A./Harrison F.C., before the NAFBL went out of business and he joined New York F.C. of the newly formed American Soccer League. It would be with the New York side that Stark’s career would blossom and it would be through the ASL that the United States would see a soccer “boom” that would remain unrivaled until the heyday of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in the 1970s.
New York F.C. were a good club and in an attempt to become a “great” club they overspent and were forced to sell off their best players, including Stark (45 goals in 69 matches) in order to stay in business. In they end, even with the sale of Stark and others, they could not continue. As sad as it was for the club, it was the best thing that could have happened to Stark- he was sold to Bethlehem Steel F.C. where he would remain for a seven seasons- his longest tenure with any club. Knowing what they had in Stark, B.S.F.C. made an attempt to improve what was already the best club in the country. Not surprisingly this meant surrounding Stark with an even more talented group of Scottish expats. Among those players was Alex Massie- another Glaswegian. When Bethlehem Steel F.C. folded in 1930 Massie returned to Scotland to play for Heart of Midlothian F.C. and later moved to England where he played for Aston Villa F.C.. Massie was also capped 18 times for Scotland. Massie’s career demonstrates two things: First, that the standard of soccer in the U.S. at this time was a high one. Ayr United F.C. and Bury F.C. were is two last clubs before moving to the States, and when he returned to the U.K. he was able to play for even bigger and better cubs and all of his Scotland caps came after playing in the U.S. Second, for all of the success that Massie had, Stark is generally considered to have been a better player!
During Stark’s time at Bethlehem Steel the club won three league titles (and were runners-up twice) and two national cup competitions. Stark himself was the league’s leading scorer twice during this period including the 1924-25 season when he scored 70 goals in all competitions (44 total matches). This remained the world record for goals in a top flight season for 87 years until Lionel Messi scored 73 matches in all competitions in 2011-2012. Messi, however, needed 60 matches to set his record! Stark’s ASL career lasted until the league folded in 1933. After leaving Bethlehem Steet in 1930 he returned to New Jersey where played for three seasons for the Newark Americans. Stark scored 18 goals in his first season with the club, but the league’s records for his last two seasons have been lost. Even taking that into account Stark scored 253 goals (in 293 matches)- still a top flight record in U.S. soccer. It is impossible to know just how many goals Stark scored overall as the records for the first 10+ years of his career are spotty at best. Most estimates but his overall total somewhere between 350 and 400.
As successful as Stark was, he was not a one-man Scottish show during the ASL reign over American soccer. Prominent Scottish players during the ASL’s first incarnation included Daniel McNiven (Partick Thistle), Andy Auld (Parkhead Juniors & U.S.A.), John Nelson (223 ASL goals), Bill Harper (Hibernian, Arsenal & Scotland), Malcolm Goldie (Clydebank), Johnny Ballantyne (Partick Thistle), Tommy Steel (U.S.A.), Alex McNab (Greenock Morton & Scotland), Bill McPherson (Greenock Morton), Jimmy “Tec” White (Motherwell), Jimmy Gallagher (U.S.A.), Frank McKenna (Vale of Leven), Barney Battles (Hearts & Scotland), David Robertson (Kilmarnock & U.S.A.), Jim Brown (Manchester United & U.S.A.), Bill Carnihan (Partick Thistle & U.S.A.), Findlay Kerr (U.S.A.), Bertie McGhee (U.S.A.), and James “Hookey” Leonard (Cowdenbeath). This list, it must be noted, represents only the cream of the Scottish crop during the ASL first incarnation and is predominantly made up of those players who were professionals before coming to the States. It is also made up of only players whose birthplaces I can confirm. Including all of the Scottish players who played in the league would literally stretch the list into the hundreds. This list also only includes “Scots,” not Scottish-Americans or Scottish-Canadians. Adding those players would almost make one wonder why it was called the American Soccer League?
In the next installment: A generation in the “soccer desert” and Scots in the NASL.