Origins, 1609-1862

Various forms of soccer-style games have been around since Roman times, and the United States was the first British colony to start playing soccer-style games. Some form of football was played in the Colonies as far back as the establishment of the original Jamestown settlement in 1609. The rules are unclear, but they most likely resembled the sprawling Shrovetide games then popular in England. It was soon banned by ordinance as a reputed bad influence, and for the next two centuries appeared only in the least restricted of colonial communities. The first written accounts of football in the US centered on contests in the major colleges and universities of the Northeast. The freshman and sophomore classes at Harvard had instituted an annual intramural football contest in 1827, played on the first Monday of the new school year.

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These games were evidently quite rowdy, as the event was known as "Bloody Monday". Princeton played something known as "ballown" in which the ball was hit with the fist as well as the foot. By the 1840's, they had organized their games into intramural tournaments. Other forms of the game were played at Amherst and Brown. The game probably bore little resemblance to the modern game, and in fact the round (originally rubber) ball was not introduced until the 1850's, and games were either pick-up or special annual events. The modern form of soccer originated in England in the early 1830's.

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The sport grew among working-class communities and was seen as a way of keeping young and energetic kids out of trouble at home and in the school; they could let off steam and learn the values of teamwork (rampant individualism was considered a problem at the time).The first football clubs were established in Sheffield in 1857, and soon they had enough to establish their own Football Association in 1867. Sheffield FA played London FA in 1861, one of the first regional matches. And eventually the need for a unified set of rules became obvious. This, prompted by many letters to the editors of the newspapers in the midlands, the near-north, and London regions of England, and led to a series of meetings, which culminated in the formation of the Football Association (FA) in 1863. This worked together to establish the first standardized set of Football rules which soon became the standard in England. The next major development was the establishment of a knockout cup in 1871, based on the house competitions at Harrow School. These knockouts, in which most teams names are placed in a hat, and drawn out in pairs, then leading to a one-game knockout competition similar to the NCAA Championships, which culminates in a Cup trophy. When soccer first started in the United States, it was played primarily by schoolboy and college teams, and was largely an upper-class game. The Oneida club, formed in Boston in 1862 may have been the first soccer club to consist of a regular roster of players, as opposed to the pick-up games commonly played at the time, although it is not clear whether they were playing soccer, rugby, or a hybrid game. It consisted of a group of Boston secondary school students from fairly elite public schools in the area (Boston Latin, Boston English, etc.). This club would play matches against pickup teams throughout the Boston collegiate community and went undefeated, and unscored upon during their entire four-year existence. Apparently, teamwork, and familiarity with teammates was a significant factor in winning, and this was not lost on the public. If the Oneidas were in fact playing soccer, then they would be the first soccer club anywhere outside of England, even predating the formation of Scottish teams.

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