US SoccerUS Soccer

Where It All Began: The Story of the 1930 U.S. World Cup Squad, "The Shot-Putters"

The first in a series of weekly World Cup updates coming to you every Wednesday from the U.S. Soccer Communications Center.  As a build-up to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, the forthcoming articles are being presented to educate and entertain the U.S. Soccer Family about the great worldwide history of the tournament as the U.S. Men's National Team prepares for the 2002 event in Korea/Japan this June. 

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: “The Story of the 1930 U.S. World Cup Squad:  The Shot-Putters”

To qualify for the 2002 World Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Team played 16 games.  To get there in 1930 they had to accept an invitation and be willing to spend 18-days on an ocean liner to Uruguay.  In fact, the U.S. had only played 11 international matches in their history when they arrived in the South American country, the site of the first-ever FIFA World Cup.

From those humble beginnings, the FIFA World Cup has grown into not only the world’s largest sporting event, but the largest event … period … in the world.  The 17th World Cup will be staged in Korea/Japan in June of this year and will be viewed by an estimated worldwide audience of 50 billion people across 64 matches.

As the first World Cup, the tournament in Uruguay did not require qualifying rounds (the only World Cup with predetermined qualifying rounds).  Because of the immense travel time it took from Europe to South America in 1930, only four European teams – Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia – accepted invitations to the first World Cup. Mexico, USA, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay rounded out the 13-team field.

The U.S. squad sailed to Uruguay on the S.S. Munargo (Commander W.W. Clark) and trained throughout the voyage until reaching Montevideo, Uruguay on July 1, 1930.  The squad that arrived in Montevideo included six British born players, but only one who had played professionally in Britain (George Moorhouse – Tranmere Rovers).

Once all the teams arrived in Uruguay, the organizing committee split the teams into four groups for the first round of the first-ever World Cup competition.  One group contained four teams, while the remaining three groups were comprised of three squads apiece.  The U.S. was drawn into Group Four with Belgium and Paraguay.

Only two matches took place on the first day of World Cup play - July 13, 1930 - as France took on Mexico in the first match in World Cup history, and the U.S. faced Belgium later in the day.

In the second game in the history of the World Cup, the U.S. record the first-ever shutout, topping Belgium 3-0 in front of 15,000 spectators at Central Park Stadium in Montevideo.  U.S. forward Bart McGhee opened the scoring for the U.S. in the 23rd minute, finishing off a Bert Patenaude shot that hit the crossbar.  Captain Thomas Florie made it 2-0 with a goal just before the half, and James Brown set up Patenaude in the 69th minute for the USA’s third goal.

The U.S. needed a win in its second and final group match to advance to the semifinals.  What the U.S. got was a second straight shutout, the first hat trick in World Cup play and the Group 4 title, in addition to a historic 3-0 win against Paraguay and a spot in the semifinals.  A crowd of 20,000 saw Bert Patenaude enter the World Cup record books, as he recorded the first-ever hat trick in World Cup competition.

Patenaude, the U.S. center forward, started his historic day with a goal in the 10th minute, and five minutes later Patenaude’s shot was deflected into the goal by Paraguay’s Ramon Gonzales. The tally was originally ruled an own goal, but FIFA later changed the decision and credited the American striker with the goal.   Patenaude concluded the hat-trick with a tally in the 50th minute.

Along the way to the semifinals, the U.S. picked up the nickname “the shot-putters” from the French, because of the tremendous bulk of the American players.  According to the Uruguayan media, “the shot-putters” entered the semifinals as one of the favorites to take home the prize.  The USA’s World Cup title dreams ended shortly after the semifinals kicked off, as Argentina crushed the U.S. 6-1 in front of 112,000 people at Centenario Stadium in Montevideo on July 26, 1930.

Just four minutes into the game U.S. goalkeeper James Douglas, who had posted consecutive World Cup shutouts, badly twisted his knee.  U.S. defender Ralph Tracey broke his right leg, but continued until halftime, when Argentina took a 1-0 lead into the locker room.  The injury woes continued in the second half for the U.S., as Tracey was unable to continue and with no substitutions allowed at the time in international soccer, the U.S. was reduced to 10 men.  Argentina took advantage of the USA’s spell of injuries and extended their lead to 3-0 before pressuring the shorthanded side with three goals in a span of seven minutes to open up a 6-0 gap.  U.S. midfielder Andy Auld set up James Brown in the 89th minute as the U.S. avoided a shutout.

The U.S. was scheduled to play semifinal losers Yugoslavia in a third-place consolation match prior to the final, but the Europeans refused to play.  Consequently, the U.S. was awarded third-place in the 1930 World Cup without kicking the ball.  To this day, it is the best-ever finish for a CONCACAF team at a World Cup tournament.  In the final, Uruguay went on to top Argentina 4-2 on July 30, 1930 to become the first-ever World Cup champions.

The United States’ stellar run to the semifinals – still the USA’s best finish in a World Cup – opened up doors overseas for two of the team’s top players.  After the tournament, James Brown signed with Manchester United and Alexander Wood signed with Leicester City.

U.S. World Cup Roster - Uruguay 1930
Player, Position, (Hometown - Club)
Andrew Auld, M, (Johnston, R.I. - Providence Gold Bugs)
Mike Bookie, F, (Cleveland, Ohio - Cleveland Slavia)
James Brown, M, (New York, N.Y. - New York Giants)
James Douglas, GK, (Kearny, N.J. - New York Nationals)
Thomas Florie, F, (Hughesdale, R.I. - New Bedford Whalers) - captain
James Gallagher, D, (Brooklyn, N.Y. - New York Nationals)
James Gentile, M, (Philadelphia, Pa. - Philadelphia F.C.)
William Gonsalves, M, (Fall River, Mass. - Fall River Marksman)
Bart McGhee, F, (Philadelphia, Pa. - New York Nationals)
Arnold Oliver, F, (New Bedford, Mass. - Providence Gold Bugs)
George Moorhouse, D, (Long Beach, N.Y. - New York Giants)
Bert Patenaude, F, (Fall River, Mass. - Fall River Marksmen)
Philip Slone, D, (New York, N.Y. - New York Giants)
Ralph Tracey, D, (St. Louis, Mo. - Ben Miller F.C.)
Frank Vaughn, D, (St. Louis, Mo. - Ben Miller F.C.)
Alexander Wood, D, (Detroit, Mich. - Holley Carburetors)

Coach: Robert Millar
Head of Delegation / USFA Vice-President: Elmer Schroder
Manager: Wilred Cummings
Trainer: Jack Coll

Content and research assistance from “The United States and World Cup Competition”; Colin Jose; copyright 1994.