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100 Moments: First Soccer Bowl Held on Jan. 1, 1950

The following piece is part of a yearlong series of stories commemorating significant moments in U.S. Soccer history as the U.S. Soccer Federation celebrates its 100th anniversary:

After the 1949 regular season, the Intercollegiate Soccer Federation adopted a subjective way to determine a collegiate champion through a short-lived Soccer Bowl system based on seasonal records and the level of competition the teams had faced during the regular season.

The first Soccer Bowl game was held on Jan. 1, 1950, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, where the University of San Francisco and Penn State met in the title game in front of approximately 4,500 spectators. However, there would not be an outright champion.

Through 90 minutes and extended stoppage time, the two sides played to a 2-2 draw and the Dons and Nittany Lions were named co-champions. While there was not an outright winner, it did provide the first cross-country championship platform for the college game.

This system was only adopted in the early 1950s. Since 1959, the NCAA champion at the Division I level has been determined through the College Cup tournament format, which first began as an eight-team tournament and has now expanded to 48 teams.

In the Soccer Bowl debut, Dick Baptista scored both goals for San Francisco and it was looking like the Dons would garner the crown with a 2-1 lead through 90 minutes. But the referee allowed more than six minutes of stoppage time and awarded a penalty kick as USF defender Rosendo Diaz was ruled for a hand ball in the box with 10 seconds remaining.

Penn State’s Harry Little notched the PK equalizer past San Francisco goalkeeper Angelo Carmassi and the game ended in a 2-2 tie.

“The way that game ended still bothers me,” said former Dons head coach Gus Donoghue.

Several Dons players would say later on that no one touched the ball with their hands in the game’s closing seconds. Reports are conflicting as to how the post-game decision to not play overtime panned out. One report says the Dons and Nittany Lions head coaches jointly agreed to end the game, while another suggests that the USF team captain refused the referee’s request to continue playing.

Little’s game-tying goal in stoppage time was his second of the afternoon and his sixth PK of the season. Earlier in the game, Little scored a rebound goal to tie the score at 1-1 as Penn State’s Ted Lieb had an initial shot that was turned away by Carmassi.

The Soccer Bowl system featured three games, and both programs from this 1950 match would return to the championship. Penn State defeated Purdue 3-1 in the 1951 Soccer Bowl and Temple defeated San Francisco 2-0 in the 1952 Soccer Bowl.

Additional Notes:

  • In this era, the college game consisted of 22-minute quarters and only two referees. In the first Soccer Bowl, the officials were Harry Lyons and Justin Keenoy.
  • Penn State’s Harry Little and San Francisco left back Steve Negoesco were named to the 1949 All-America Team.
  • Negoesco was inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2003. He coached the University of San Francisco to 544 wins and four NCAA championships (1966, 1975, 1976 and 1980; the 1978 title was later rescinded because of the use of an ineligible player).
  • Dick Baptista led San Francisco with 18 goals that season.

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