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On This Day: 1930 World Cup Begins With Win

As might be expected after more than three-quarters of a century, myths abound about significant events.  An enduring myth about the United States’ 1930 World Cup team is that six of the players were former English professionals.  The fact is that six of the players were indeed born in Britain (five in Scotland, one in England), but they had come to the USA as youths.  Only one, George Moorhouse, had ever played a soccer match in Britain, and that was a two-game appearance for third division Tranmere Rovers eight years earlier.

Unlike the modern era where coaches spend years scouting and working with players before choosing a World Cup squad, manager Wilfred Cummings and coach Robert Millar had just three warm-up matches prior to the trip to Uruguay.  Eleven men came from Northeast teams, two from St. Louis, one from Cleveland, one from Detroit, and one from Philadelphia.  They had never before played a game together prior to the South American adventure.

Despite the lack of preparation, the team cobbled together by Cummings and Millar reached the semifinals of the knockout-style tournament with two surprising 3-0 wins against Belgium and Paraguay in group play. Bert Patenaude scored all three goals against Paraguay to become the first player to record a hat trick in the World Cup.

In the semifinals, the U.S. didn’t fare as well, falling 6-1 in an ill-tempered match with Argentina. Despite losing U.S. midfielder Raphael Tracy to a broken leg 10 minutes in, the U.S. only allowed a single goal in the first half but more injuries made it tough to stop the Argentina attack and five more goals came as the Americans finished with only eight fit men on the field.


Being an athletic team trainer isn’t generally viewed as a dangerous profession!

But at the 1930 World Cup it was.  In the semifinal match against Argentina, trainer John Coll was felled by the fumes from his own bottle of smelling salts, which fell open while he was tending a player.  One version of the tale has it that Coll ran onto the pitch to argue a call during the increasingly rough match; Cummings, however, saw it differently, claiming that an Argentine player knocked the smelling salts out of Coll’s hand and into Andy Auld’s eyes while the American was being treated for a gashed lip. One way or another, the salts didn’t work as planned, and Coll was helped off the field.


The team sailed on the S.S. Munargo (along with the Mexican team)…arriving at our destination only one day late, on July 1st in a heavy downpour, it being the 92nd consecutive day of rain…It is well to state the on the third of July we resumed training of the team which we started on board the S.S. Munargo, the morning after leaving Bermuda, June 17th, as a daily routine, and let it be said that we had the best conditioned outfit to participate in the World’s Series…{Even though the trip ultimately resulted in roughly a $2,000 loss for the U.S.F.A.} the trip was immeasurably profitable, because of the cementing of our Good Will soccer relations was duly and forever accomplished and cannot be calculated in just so many dollars and cents.”

From the official report of team manager Wilfred Cummings


Is it any wonder why the boys consider “13” their lucky number?  We sailed from home on Friday the 13th; it took 13 days to reach Rio de Janeiro {the first major stop on the voyage}; there are 13 stars and stripes in our shield; 13 teams entered the 1st World’s Championship of Football; our first game was on July 13; and 13 goals were scored during our games in the championship series.

From the official report of team manager Wilfred Cummings


The United States had a unique way of entering the stadium at each of its 1930 World Cup games, marching in unison and singing the “Stein Song,” a popular collegiate song.  The song, based upon a German composition, originated at the University of Maine, and was brought to nationwide attention when a Maine student, Rudy Vallee, re-wrote the original 1902 version and sang it on NBC’s Fleischmann Radio Hour program in 1929.  Considered one of the great fight songs, it was adopted by the U.S. team as its unofficial anthem. 

As Wilfred Cummings wrote of the semifinal match against Argentina:  “Again, we entered and forced our way through the throngs singing the “Stein Song” after being accompanied by military escort on horseback through the grounds surrounding the huge stadium.”