clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

On the 155th anniversary of organized soccer, a look at how we got here

Today, in October of 1857, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest founded Sheffield FC; the club officially recognized by FIFA as the oldest football club in the world.

Michael Regan

Today, in October of 1857, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest founded Sheffield FC; the club officially recognized by FIFA as the oldest football club in the world. They had to establish a set of rules to play by, which became known as the Sheffield Rules. These influenced the Football Association which was founded in 1863 and set down a standardized set of rules in 1877.

On the anniversary of Sheffield FC's founding, I thought it would be fun to look at the rules the club set down for their matches. For example, the Sheffield Rules greatly changed how balls out to touch were handled and eliminated the fair catch.

Last year, Sheffield FC auctioned off the set of written rules from 1858, with the archive taken to Paris, New York, and Doha before auction. It contains rules such as "Pushing with the hands is allowed but no hacking or tripping is fair under any circumstances whatsoever."

Matches lasted two hours, and each side could field 20 players. Players were allowed a fair catch of a ball that had not touched the ground (like in hockey) or come in via a throw in. Bringing either a red or blue flannel cap was required to differentiate the two teams.

The FA in London didn't require everyone to play under the same set of rules until 1877, during which time Sheffield were able to add some more additions to the rules. Corner Kicks, free kicks, and the solid crossbar became a thing in 1871. The FA invented the penalty kick in 1891.

When the club was created, football was the provision of colleges like Cambridge and public schools, just like American football in the states. The first intercollegiate football game played in the states in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton used rules influenced by the Football Association in London. The soc in the word Association became the word soccer.

The Rutgers-Princeton games in 1869 had no running with the ball, 25 a side, and a spherical ball. The Princeton rules also awarded a free kick to anyone who caught the ball on the fly.

All of these things that happened almost 150 years ago are what led to the soccer football we all know and love. The United States of America Football Association was founded in 1913 and has been a FIFA member ever since. It wasn't until 1974 at the height of the NASL that it became the United States Soccer Federation.

At the same time FIFA was awarding the United States the World Cup, USSF was selecting Major League Soccer as the league to be the top of the US soccer pyramid. The LA Galaxy were one of those original founding clubs. So here we are.