The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) charter was signed in The Astor House, a luxury hotel in the heart of New York City, bringing to life organised football in the United States on 5 April, 1913. And while The Astor House has since been demolished, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati held a press conference yesterday at New York City Hall – a very fitting location just across Broadway from where the historic hotel once stood – to mark 100 years of America's football association.
Howard Wolfson, New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Government Affairs and Communications, joined Gulati for the press conference and recalled football’s history in America’s largest city: "The past, present, and future of American soccer have all started in New York City. From the U.S. Men's National Team playing in Ebbets Field for their first-ever home match, to the 1994 World Cup, to the newest New Yorkers who bring their passion for the beautiful game to pitches in all five boroughs, New York City is at the heart of soccer's growth in the United States.
“It is no surprise that one hundred years ago U.S. Soccer began in our city, and that today they are reaffirming their commitment to making the game one of America's preeminent sports. Congratulations to U.S. Soccer on their centennial, and we look forward to another hundred years of the world's game prospering in the world's capital."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office also presented the USSF with a proclamation declaring Friday, 5 April 2013 as “U.S. Soccer Day” in the Big Apple. Several former players and notable USSF staff including Michelle Akers, Walter Bahr, April Heinrichs, Cobi Jones, Jurgen Klinsmann, Alexi Lalas, Carli Lloyd and Tab Ramos were also on hand for the press conference and the ensuing events around New York.
The next stop featured Gulati and Co taking part in the tradition of lighting the top of the Empire State Building. Gulati enlisted the help of Klinsmann and Lloyd to pull the lever, illuminating the iconic skyscraper in red, white and blue. The busy day finished up with an official viewing party to watch the USA women take on Germany in a thrilling friendly that ended in a 3-3 draw.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter commemorated the occasion by writing a letter to Gulati. In his note to Gulati, Blatter wrote: “I would like to extend my sincerest congratulations on such a momentous occasion, in particular, because this makes the U.S. Soccer Federation one of FIFA’s earliest member associations.
“Finally, I would like to wish you and your association all the very best for the festivities marking 100 years of U.S. Soccer and every success with the further development of our beautiful game in the years to come.”
Centennial celebrations continue
On Tuesday, to start the centennial celebrations the USSF rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Wednesday, Peter Vermes and Joe-Max Moore were announced as the newest inductees to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Thursday featured a day-long event in Times Square where supporters could take photos with the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ trophies from 1991 and 1999 and play small-sided games with U.S. Soccer legends such as Alexi Lalas and Carli Lloyd.
As much as Friday’s events served to remember the past 100 years of football in the United States, the focus was squarely on the future of the sport in America. USA still lays claim to the most profitable FIFA World Cup in history. And from that success, Major League Soccer was born. Now in its 18th season, MLS has established itself as a top-tier league, undoubtedly contributing to the success of the national team, which has qualified for every FIFA World Cup since 1990 and are currently sitting third in the CONCACAF ‘hexagonal’ qualifying group.
The development of women’s football in America has also been a triumph for the New World nation and the launch of the National Women’s Soccer League next weekend is the country’s latest endeavour to establish a thriving top-flight league for the best women’s footballers in the world.
The USSF will continue their celebrations throughout the year to mark the centennial, largely during international friendlies and at the remaining home FIFA 2014 World Cup Brazil qualifiers. 2 June will be the next big centennial celebration date for the USSF, when USA take on Germany in Washington, DC and the American women head north to take on Canada in Toronto later in the day.