The Free World Cup: What if the World Cup began in 1906?

Who do you think will win the 1906 World Cup?

  • Scotland

    Votes: 2 66.7%
  • Austria

    Votes: 1 33.3%
  • Argentina

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Denmark

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
  • Poll closed .
Wonder what happens to American pro football in TTL, because soccer (as it is known in America) is going to be more popular, and the Great Depression will affect this...
I think American football would decay like soccer did during the Great Depression in America in OTL, but pick back up in popularity with some sort of revival during the late 20th century and become the fourth- or third-biggest sport in America after soccer and baseball (and maybe basketball). It wouldn't be as big as it is today, and probably wouldn't have as many ads and breaks if it tries to compete with the other sports.
1921 and 1922 – Format Change and World Cup Qualifiers Draw

1921 and 1922 – Format Change and World Cup Qualifiers Draw​

Following the Olympics, FIFA met up once again to determine the hosts of the next World Cup. There were five candidates this time: the United States, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway. It was determined that, due to their recent results, the United States and Canada would be the only ones seriously considered. The United States narrowly beat out Canada in the voting, and they were chosen to host the next World Cup on May 1922. Qualifiers would begin in June 1921. The qualification system from the previous World Cup remained, but this time nations were more accurately placed as most had already played a few matches.

Another decision made during this meeting was a BIG one: the World Cup format itself would change. Many at FIFA felt that 16 slots wasn’t enough to fully represent the world, and so multiple formats and expansions were proposed:
  • 20-team format with 4 groups of 5 teams, with the top 2 of each group advancing to the knockout stages.
  • 24-team format with 6 groups of 4 teams, with the top 2 of each group along with the 4 best third-placed teams advancing to the knockout stages.
  • 24-team format with 8 groups of 3 teams, with the winner of each group advancing to the knockout stages.
  • 32-team format, doubling the amount of teams and adding 1 extra round to the current knockout stages.
The 24-team format with 6 groups of 4 teams became the most popular format with both FIFA officials and the associations, so it was decided to expand the World Cup to 24 teams. Most were glad that their teams had a higher chance to qualify, but others were wary of the expansion, saying that it would bog down the magic of the World Cup by filling it with worse teams and more games.

This time around, Europe was allotted 15 slots, the Americas 5 slots, and Africa, Asia and Oceania 1 slot respectively with the final slot going to current champions and hosts the United States. Europe would play 11 4-team groups, with the winner of each automatically qualifying, and the top 8 second-placed teams advancing to a play-off round in which 4 would come out on top. The Americas would play 5 4-team groups, with the winner of each automatically qualifying. Africa would play only one 4-team group, Oceania would play 2 4-team groups with the winner of each qualifying for a play-off in which the winner would go on to the World Cup, and Asia would do the same but with 5-team groups.

These were the pots used in the draws:

The results of the draw were the following:
  • Group 1: Andalusia, Italy, Poland, Alderney
  • Group 2: Germany, France, Russia, Estonia
  • Group 3: Bohemia, Ireland, Romania, Latvia
  • Group 4: Switzerland, Sweden, Basque Country, Greece
  • Group 5: Scotland, Castile, Portugal, León
  • Group 6: Belgium, Jutland, Luxembourg, Guernsey
  • Group 7: Cantabria, Wales, Aragon, Gibraltar
  • Group 8: Denmark, Hungary, Galicia, Valencia
  • Group 9: Catalonia, Austria, Isle of Man, Jersey
  • Group 10: England, Norway, Croatia-Slavonia, Iceland
  • Group 11: Netherlands, Finland, Malta, Lithuania
  • Group 12: Canada, Chile, Pará, Newfoundland
  • Group 13: São Paulo, Jamaica, Haiti, Guatemala
  • Group 14: Quebec, Rio de Janeiro, Trinidad and Tobago, Surinam
  • Group 15: Uruguay, Bahia, Paraguay, Barbados
  • Group 16: Argentina, Mexico, British Guiana, Peru
  • Group 17: Bengal, Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, Madras
  • Group 18: Japan, Philippines, Siam, Iran, Bombay
  • Group 19: South Africa, Egypt, Liberia, Congo
  • Group 20: New Zealand, Victoria, Western Australia, Papua
  • Group 21: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania
1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Europe)

1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Europe)​

The following are the results of every qualifier group:

Group 1​

Alderney 0-19 Alderney
Poland 1-2 Italy
Andalusia 0-0 Poland
Alderney 0-23 Italy
Italy 2-2 Andalusia
Alderney 0-12 Poland

Group 2​

Estonia 0-4 Germany
Russia 2-3 France
Germany 2-2 Russia
Estonia 1-5 France
France 4-2 Germany
Russia 0-0 Estonia

Group 3​

Latvia 0-9 Bohemia
Romania 2-1 Ireland
Bohemia 3-0 Romania
Latvia 1-4 Ireland
Ireland 2-9 Bohemia
Latvia 1-7 Romania

Group 4​

Greece 0-3 Switzerland
Basque Country 2-2 Sweden
Switzerland 6-0 Basque Country
Greece 1-7 Sweden
Sweden 0-9 Switzerland
Greece 1-1 Basque Country

Group 5​

León 0-6 Scotland
Portugal 2-4 Castile
Scotland 8-1 Portugal
León 0-0 Castile
Castile 0-2 Scotland
León 0-3 Portugal

Group 6​

Guernsey 0-27 Belgium
Luxembourg 1-4 Jutland
Belgium 0-0 Luxembourg
Guernsey 0-11 Jutland
Jutland 0-3 Belgium
Guernsey 0-9 Luxembourg

Group 7​

Gibraltar 0-8 Cantabria
Aragon 2-1 Wales
Cantabria 3-1 Aragon
Gibraltar 0-10 Wales
Wales 2-0 Cantabria
Gibraltar 0-12 Aragon

Group 8​

Valencia 1-0 Denmark
Galicia 2-4 Hungary
Denmark 7-0 Galicia
Valencia 2-7 Hungary
Hungary 0-3 Denmark
Valencia 0-2 Galicia

Group 9​

Jersey 0-20 Catalonia
Isle of Man 0-11 Austria
Catalonia 16-0 Isle of Man
Jersey 0-22 Austria
Austria 2-2 Catalonia
Jersey 0-13 Isle of Man

Group 10​

Iceland 0-0 England
Croatia-Slavonia 1-3 Norway
England 2-1 Croatia-Slavonia
Iceland 0-5 Norway
Norway 4-2 England
Iceland 1-6 Croatia-Slavonia

Group 11​

Lithuania 3-9 Netherlands
Malta 2-5 Finland
Netherlands 4-0 Malta
Lithuania 2-7 Finland
Finland 1-3 Netherlands
Lithuania 1-1 Malta

2nd place play-offs​


The 2nd-placed teams were seeded and drawn according to placement, with the top 4 at home and the bottom 4 away.

The European qualifiers had a fair few notable moments: Cantabria (Group 7) were knocked out in 3rd place by goal average despite having 4 points, Denmark (Group 8) had quite the scare as they lost their first fixture against Valencia, England (Group 10) had an embarassing performance and was knocked out with 2 points and no victories, and Switzerland (Group 4) once again went through the entire stage without conceding a goal.
1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Americas)

1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Americas)​


Group 12​

Newfoundland 1-6 Canada
Pará 2-2 Chile
Canada 4-0 Pará
Newfoundland 1-1 Chile
Chile 0-0 Canada
Newfoundland 3-2 Pará

Group 13​

Guatemala 0-6 São Paulo
Haiti 1-1 Jamaica
São Paulo 4-1 Haiti
Guatemala 2-5 Jamaica
Jamaica 2-8 São Paulo
Guatemala 0-1 Haiti

Group 14​

Surinam 0-4 Quebec
Trinidad and Tobago 1-7 Rio de Janeiro
Quebec 8-3 Trinidad and Tobago
Surinam 0-6 Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro 2-0 Quebec
Surinam 5-1 Trinidad and Tobago

Group 15​

Barbados 0-14 Uruguay
Paraguay 2-0 Bahia
Uruguay 4-3 Paraguay
Barbados 0-4 Bahia
Bahia 2-4 Uruguay
Barbados 0-9 Paraguay

Group 16​

Peru 1-3 Argentina
British Guiana 0-2 Mexico
Argentina 8-0 British Guiana
Peru 3-2 Mexico
Mexico 0-0 Argentina
Peru 1-1 British Guiana

There weren't any surprises in these qualifiers, except for one: Rio de Janeiro (Group 14) qualified to the World Cup for the first time!
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1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Asia)

1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Asia)​


Group 17​

Madras 4-0 Hong Kong
Burma 2-2 Singapore
Bengal 7-0 Madras
Hong Kong 3-1 Singapore
Burma 0-0 Bengal
Singapore 0-6 Madras
Bengal 5-1 Singapore
Burma 2-4 Hong Kong
Hong Kong 0-9 Bengal
Madras 3-3 Burma

Group 18​

Bombay 8-0 Philippines
Iran 3-2 Siam
Japan 4-1 Bombay
Philippines 2-1 Siam
Iran 3-0 Japan
Siam 0-0 Bombay
Japan 6-0 Siam
Iran 3-4 Philippines
Philippines 2-5 Japan
Bombay 1-1 Iran

The play-off was played between the top teams of each group.

Japan would make its debut on the world stage shortly after their impressive Olympic performance.
1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Africa)

1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Africa)​


Group 19​

Congo 0-24 South Africa
Liberia 1-2 Egypt
South Africa 3-0 Liberia
Congo 0-7 Egypt
Egypt 2-2 South Africa
Congo 0-4 Liberia

South Africa would return to the World Cup after being absent from the 1914 edition.
1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Oceania)

1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Oceania)​


Group 20​

Papua 0-7 New Zealand
Western Australia 1-1 Victoria
New Zealand 4-1 Western Australia
Papua 0-2 Victoria
Victoria 3-5 New Zealand
Papua 0-2 Western Australia

Group 21​

Tasmania 0-12 New South Wales
South Australia 2-3 Queensland
New South Wales 0-0 South Australia
Tasmania 0-3 Queensland
Queenlsand 1-4 New South Wales
Tasmania 0-9 South Australia

The play-off was played between the top teams of each group.

New Zealand would make their World Cup debut following their surprising Olympic performance.
The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Group Stage Draw

The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Group Stage Draw​

This time around, the World Cup did not start on the 21st of May; instead, it would begin on the 1st of June, with the draw being made on the 21st of May. FIFA officials gathered in New York to present the draw. The draw only had one prerequisite: the United States would be seeded to the top of Group A. These were the pots used in the draw:

The results of the draw were the following:
  • Group A: United States, Belgium, Uruguay, Romania
  • Group B: Argentina, Bohemia, New Zealand, Hungary
  • Group C: Canada, São Paulo, Wales, Rio de Janeiro
  • Group D: Switzerland, Catalonia, South Africa, Austria
  • Group E: Scotland, Netherlands, Italy, Norway
  • Group F: Denmark, Japan, France, Aragon
These groups turned out quite competitive, and fans were excited to see how they would do. Ticket sales rose through the roof and FIFA expected that the attendance records set in 1910 would be repeatedly broken, up to the final.
The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Group Stage

The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Group Stage​

Group A​

United States 3-0 Romania
Uruguay 0-0 Belgium
United States 1-1 Uruguay
Belgium 3-2 Romania
United States 2-1 Belgium
Romania 0-4 Uruguay

Group A was the first taste audiences got of the new World Cup format. The opening game ended 3-0 with a United States win against Romania and 78,000 attendees. Uruguay had begun to build up their younger players and performed well in this stage. The United States, Uruguay and Belgium advanced while Romania was left in the dust with zero points.

Group B​

Argentina 2-1 Hungary
New Zealand 2-2 Bohemia
Argentina 4-2 New Zealand
Hungary 2-0 Bohemia
Bohemia 1-1 Argentina
New Zealand 4-3 Hungary

Remarkably, New Zealand came in 2nd in this group, beating out veterans Bohemia and Hungary as Argentina came in 1st. The lacklustre performance from the Bohemians eventually led to the entire squad except for one forward to be kicked out of the team and replaced. Hungary continued their history of mediocre World Cup results.

Group C​

Canada 5-1 Rio de Janeiro
São Paulo 4-0 Wales
Canada 11-0 Wales
Rio de Janeiro 3-3 São Paulo
São Paulo 0-0 Canada
Rio de Janeiro 2-0 Wales

This group was heated from the get-go, with São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, eternal rivals, having to face each other and ending their match with an impressive 3-3 draw. Wales’ return to the World Cup for the first time since the very first one in 1906 left them utterly demolished and hopeless as they went home having conceded 17 and scoring none. Canada triumphed as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro advanced just below it.

Group D​

Austria 1-1 Switzerland
South Africa 0-0 Catalonia
Switzerland 3-1 South Africa
Catalonia 2-0 Austria
Switzerland 6-0 Catalonia
Austria 2-2 South Africa

This group was strange: Switzerland came out on top, Catalonia advanced while only scoring 2 goals and conceding 6 and South Africa and Austria were perfectly tied in points and goal average. Austria continued their streak of bad performances following the 1910 tragedy, but at least they qualified this time. Switzerland and Catalonia advanced.

Group E​

Scotland 5-1 Norway
Netherlands 3-0 Italy
Scotland 6-2 Italy
Norway 3-2 Netherlands
Netherlands 4-2 Scotland
Norway 3-1 Italy

Scotland, Norway and the Netherlands were evenly matched, each with 4 points at the expense of Italy who struggled to muster up anything of value. Scotland ended 1st with a 0.06 difference in goal average above the Netherlands, as both of them and Norway advanced.

Group F​

Denmark 2-0 Aragon
France 1-1 Japan
Denmark 5-1 France
Aragon 2-2 Japan
Japan 3-2 Denmark
France 4-3 Aragon

Denmark once again had a scare as they lost to Japan, but they still finished 1st. Japan went unbeaten but ended 2nd due to goal average, and France had their first World Cup success in a long while after barely ending 3rd, triumphing over Aragon.

Ranking of 3rd-placed teams​


Due to the unique situation in Group D, both Austria and South Africa were considered to be 3rd-placed teams, but neither qualified.

The group stage had ended, and it was time for the Round of 16. Teams were randomly drawn like in the previous World Cups, with the United States being the top seed. After the draw, these were the fixtures:

There were many exciting and unseen matches this time around, and the Round of 16 match-ups were seen as the most equal yet. However, many began to criticize the group stage, deeming it unnecessary and lacking competitiveness, as most teams in it advanced. Others, arguing in favour of the group stage system, said that it helped to weed out the best of the best, and gave more chances to good teams to qualify for the tournament.
The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Round of 16

The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Round of 16​

It was now time for the round of 16, and everyone was expecting a batch of exciting football matches. The first game of the round was played before all others: the United States vs. Catalonia. However, things on the pitch did not look good. Both sides looked tired, lacking the energy and drive to play proper football. The exhaustion from the 3 matches played during the group stages had set in, and Catalonia was really lacking compared to the US, as they let in 4 goals and could barely muster up 1. What didn’t help was that many of the American players had come into the pitch half-drunk after a night of drinking before the game, and had garbage attitudes towards officials, fans and the Catalonians. The team would later apologize for this, but it left a bad mark on the American team’s reputation.

Scotland and New Zealand were a bit more energetic, especially New Zealand, as they were euphoric to have gotten to this point. The Scotsmen got the lead at 30’, but the Kiwis would hit right back with a goal at 42’, and the match would remain drawn for almost the entire second half. However, that energy seen in the first half was starting to go away, and its place was boring football, made up of weak passes and lame attempts at the goal. One of these attempts from New Zealand managed to get through, and Scotland, dumbfounded, slowly realized that they could not equalize and were knocked out of the cup once again. 2-1 victory for New Zealand.

Belgium was destroyed. They had played 3 very intense games in the group stage, and the players did not want to keep playing. The Canadians, meanwhile, had managed to get 3 easy victories during the group stage and still had plenty of stamina left, which led to an absolute blowout of the Belgian team, as the Canadians ran up the score to 5 goals when they would have really comfortably won with 1 or 2. The Belgians made barely any attempts to equalize as the Canadians ran circles around them and advanced to the quarter-finals without much effort.

For São Paulo vs. the Netherlands, it was more exciting. Neither team was particularly tired, and they played a very fierce game, with the first half ending in a 1-1 draw with a very controversial Dutch goal, where a player had clearly pushed the ball with his elbow towards the feet of the striker who scored the goal, but the referee did not catch this and allowed the game to go on. The Paulistas did not employ their usual strategy of fouling, instead preferring to play on the defensive and going on calculated and concentrated attacks against the Dutch goal. The second half ended 2-2 and had to go into extra time, but the golden goal was scored mere seconds after the game picked back up again, with a São Paulo defender kicking the ball across the field and into the distracted Dutch goalkeeper’s goal.

France vs. Argentina was up next, and the Argentines wiped the floor with the French within the first 10 minutes, scoring a flurry of 3 goals before falling back hard on the defensive. The French were unable to get a single goal in as the Argentines made few attempts against the French goal. With the game having been secured in such a short time period, the Argentines saved their energy for the next couple of matches as the French went home utterly defeated.

Newcomers Rio de Janeiro had to face Switzerland next. The Swiss were still a strong side, having lost none of their players due to not participating in WW1, and the Fluminense had very little footballing experience outside of the Americas. This led to a 2-0 Swiss victory over Rio de Janeiro. The match itself was not the highlight here, though. After the match, the Swiss quickly realized they would have to face Argentina once again, and a few Swiss players began to complain to the FIFA officials present that they did not want to keep facing the same team over and over. The officials said there was nothing they could do, so the Swiss complained that the current system used was terrible. This altercation would lead to consequences later…

The most intense match of the round of 16 was Norway vs. Japan. Both sides still had most of their energy. The Japanese started off strong by scoring 2 goals, and the Norwegians attempted to strike back with 1 before the end of the first half. During half time, it is said that a Norwegian player chugged a half-litre of beer, and that same player went on to score 2 goals in 5 minutes at the beginning of the second half. With Norway in the lead, the Japanese were desperate to score again, which they did at 56’. Then they scored again. And again. And again. Then the match ended. 6-3. The Norwegians were flabbergasted that this had happened, but still shook the hand of the Japanese players after the match with utmost respect.

The Danish were uneasy that this World Cup would spell doom for them. They had already had their scares with Valencia and Japan, and now they were facing a team that equalized with the current World Champions during the group stages. The Uruguayans were full of energy, compared to the Danish who were very tired at this point. They still tried their best, and blocked all shots Uruguay took, but they were incapable of making many serious attacks against them. The match went into extra time with no goals scored. At 107’, the Uruguayans would dispatch two Danish defenders with fouls at once, which the referee did not perceive as fouls, and a striker broke through and scored the golden goal, winning Uruguay the match, and the Danes went home, defeated, relegated to the same status of disgraced World Champions as Scotland.

The round of 16 had ended. The matches were really not as exciting as many had thought, and support for keeping the group stage system was decreasing. Many had noticed that the teams that managed to sneak in in 3rd place (Belgium, Rio de Janeiro, Norway and France) were knocked out in the first knockout match; the “best-3rd placed teams” system was seen as unnecessary as it allowed teams to pass through the group stage with mediocre results. By the end of the day, these were the fixtures:
Reading through this, I'm confused how FIFA got away with banning England from a world cup.

The extremely notorious for being independent FA of the early 1900s would never have accepted this without a massive fight.

It would also have taken on a political bent - England beinf the heart of the British Empire means that there would likely be condemnation of the move from the entire Empire.

And Man Utd being destroyed in the early 1900s? Liverpool fan much?

Seems a bit ASB.
The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Quarter-finals

The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Quarter-finals​

21st of June. The beginning of the quarter-finals. By this point, European fans were completely distraught. Only one European team (Switzerland) had made it to the quarter-finals of the WORLD CUP. They were also quick to note that every single match in the previous round was a European team vs. a non-European team. It was getting harder and harder to justify 11 European slots in the World Cup finals with this kind of performance.

An incredibly exhausted and somewhat hungover American team had to face New Zealand in the first quarter-finals match. The Kiwis had terrible odds to win: 350-to-1, to be exact. However, they would shock the record-breaking American audiences by scoring a goal in the middle of the first half. The Americans had mostly gotten over their hangover, and they still had a few energy reserves left, but they were too tired to make too many attempts at goal. A particular shot arced over the goalposts and directly into the face of a man standing in the audience. By the second half, many journalists noted that the American crowds were slowly but surely getting distraught looks on their faces, the realization that NEW ZEALAND was knocking them, the World Champions and best team in the world, out of the World Cup that they were hosting. And then, the referee blew his whistle. The Kiwis celebrated their win in front of an almost completely silent crowd, with only the foreigners in the audience cheering them on. The Americans dropped to the floor in shame and defeat.

Canada and São Paulo faced each other once again, shortly following their 0-0 group stage draw. The Canadians were prepared for São Paulo’s radical change of strategy adopted in this World Cup, and scored 2 goals in the first half as the Paulistas could barely catch up. The Canadians were fast, relentless and ruthless, barely celebrating the goals they scored so they could go back to playing as soon as possible. While they attempted to equalize by scoring a goal in the second half, Canada instantly retaliated with another goal keeping their comfortable lead and crushing the Brazilians’ hopes of ever going further than the quarter-finals in a World Cup.

Argentina and Switzerland faced each other once again. The Swiss won the pre-game coin toss, and kicked off the game. The player kicking off the ball passed it to a midfielder, who passed it to a defender… who shot the ball straight into his own team’s goal. Kick-off again. The Swiss scored another goal against their own net. Then another. Then another. By the end of the first half, the scoreline was 26-0 in favour of the Argentines, who could only watch as the Swiss ran their tally to exorbitant levels. At half-time, FIFA officials decided to declare the match as a forfeit and an automatic 2-0 victory for Argentina as the 26-0 scoreline was not recognized. The Swiss were angry to face Argentina again, but they were also protesting the lack of fixtures given to them by FIFA, as they had mostly played against only European teams (and only teams from neighbouring nations at that). Their very open protest turned heads at FIFA, who would begin to consider making radical changes to the way they did things…

The final match of the quarter-finals was Japan v Uruguay. Both teams were considered evenly matched, and this was exemplified on the pitch: no goals were scored during the first half, despite a multitude of attempts by the Uruguayans. Japanese defenders would not let a single shot through, and, if they did, then the goalkeeper would easily catch it. During the second half, the Uruguayans managed to score a goal, but the Japanese equalized later on, sending the Uruguayans into a frenzy. The match looked like it was going into extra time, but, at the 89th minute, an Uruguayan midfielder took a corner kick, and… scored from the corner directly into the goal. This is widely regarded as one of the highlights of the tournament, and the media began to come up with terms to more easily describe a goal from a corner, such as “swerve goal”, “oriental goal” (in reference to both the goal being scored against Japan and the goal being scored by Uruguayans whose country’s full name is the Oriental Republic of Uruguay), “arc goal” and just simply “corner goal”. Uruguay won the match 2-1 and advanced to the semi-finals for the first time.

Many had mixed opinions on the quarter-finals. On the one hand, you had intense, legendary moments like New Zealand’s triumph or Uruguay’s corner goal, but also the boring Canada vs. São Paulo match and the forfeited Argentina vs. Switzerland match. Criticism of the group stage system and FIFA’s way of doing things in general amplified after Switzerland’s protest, and many American fans were completely distraught that their team had failed to even make it to the semi-finals despite being reigning World Champions and playing the World Cup as hosts. By the end of the day, these were the fixtures:
Reading through this, I'm confused how FIFA got away with banning England from a world cup.

The extremely notorious for being independent FA of the early 1900s would never have accepted this without a massive fight.

It would also have taken on a political bent - England beinf the heart of the British Empire means that there would likely be condemnation of the move from the entire Empire.

And Man Utd being destroyed in the early 1900s? Liverpool fan much?

Seems a bit ASB.
England left FIFA multiple times during the early 20th century IOTL (over things as menial as letting the Central Powers remain in the Federation following WW1 and at one point leaving because of pay disagreements in 1928 and not returning until 1946), and were never fans of the idea of FIFA in the first place; it took a while for them to join. England almost exclusively played games against the Home Nations until 1922 (with Austria, Hungary, Bohemia and Belgium being the rare exceptions to this), so I don't think this would have bothered them that much besides getting kicked out of the World Cup they were hosting.

I don't think the rest of the Empire would've cared much. They never played against the Home Nations during this time, plus ITTL English players could've still signed up to play with one of the nations of the Empire as FIFA allows a player to play for 2 different associations.

I didn't really think about Man Utd being destroyed much, I just threw that in for the fun of it. This TL isn't about clubs anyways.

I'm not really concerned with being realistic in this project. I try to not be super unrealistic, but pre-WW2 football was insane and difficult to replicate in a convincing way.
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The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Semi-finals, 3rd Place Match and Final

The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Semi-finals, 3rd Place Match and Final​

25th of June. For the first time ever, the semi-finals were entirely made up of non-European teams. New Zealand and Canada would face each other for the first time, while rivals Argentina and Uruguay would finally butt heads during a World Cup.

New Zealand had come to the tournament not expecting great results. Although they had beaten World Cup veterans New South Wales to qualify, most estimated that they would get to the Round of 16 at best. Canada, meanwhile, was one of the favourites to win, and had been on a roll during the entire knockout stage. The Kiwis, although excited by their win against the United States, had no chance of going further. Canada, although slightly exhausted, destroyed New Zealand. Four goals and that was it for the New Zealanders, ending their miraculous run. The Americans in the audience rejoiced, and Canada was once again in the World Cup final.

Meanwhile, Argentina and Uruguay would have their fateful match. Argentina had historically been the better team, with Uruguay only winning a few times against them. However, they had recently won 3 of their matches against Argentina before the tournament, so their hopes were up. They managed to score a goal during the first half, and then half-time came. The nerves and the tiredness caused both teams’ defenses to drop, as both sides scored 2 more goals. 3-2. Argentina tried to equalize, and they did score another goal, but the striker who scored it was ruled as being offside, much to the chagrin of the Argentines, and they were unable to score another goal as the match ended. Uruguay had advanced to the World Cup final for the first time, as Argentina had to be content with playing for 3rd place again.

Argentina was forced to play another exhausting 3rd place match. After 6 straight games and endless hours of training in-between, they were done. The New Zealanders were in the same boat. Still, they tried their best to play interesting football, and the crowd appeared to love it. This match featured a new record for fastest goal from initial kick-off, with Argentina scoring within 5 seconds of the referee blowing his whistle. Argentina would score again during the first half, and New Zealand would score once during the second half. Try as they might, New Zealand could not tie the match, and Argentina won 3rd place for the first time.

2 days after the 3rd place match, it was time for the final. Canada and Uruguay were clearly tired, as both had to play exceptional football for 6 matches in a row to get to this point. Although the most likely to win was Canada, Uruguay was the crowd favourite, as newcomers to the final and due to America’s rivalry with Canada. Uruguay was experiencing a golden generation of footballers, and Uruguayan clubs were destroying the national teams of other nations throughout the world. Canada, meanwhile, had mostly unnotable clubs, but a great national team that had won most of its recent games.

The first half was difficult for both teams. Both had employed a strategy that balanced offense with defense, which caused an all too familiar deadlock, but this time mostly in the Uruguayan side of the pitch. Neither side was scoring goals, and most attacks were long-distance, which meant they were either easily caught by the goalkeepers or were way off the posts. A nasty foul left a Canadian midfielder unable to play, so they had to bear the rest of the game with 10 players. By the end of the first half, no goals had been scored, and the audience was growing restless.

The second half started, unexpectedly, with a Canadian goal. Continuing the trend of long-distance shots, the player who was kicking off decided to kick the ball straight into the Uruguayan goal, and, surprising everyone, this succeeded, and Canada were up 1-0. After this lead, the Uruguayans were hit by their classic World Cup bad luck and one of their players got a concussion after a botched pass ended with the ball colliding with his head at full speed. Canada had a lot of close calls when it came to goals to secure their lead, including one in which the Uruguayan goalkeeper was on the ground far away from the goal, and a Canadian midfielder tried to kick the ball right over him, but ended up missing the posts completely and the ball went off-field.

The end of the second half was fast approaching. The Uruguayan team was unable to score another goal, no matter how hard they tried.

The referee blows his whistle.

Canada are World Champions.
The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Aftermath

The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Aftermath​

The immediate aftermath of the final came with the Canadian squad lifting the trophy in front of a mostly American and Canadian crowd that had made a quick trip to watch the match. They had finally beat out the United States and become World Champions, as Uruguay stood defeated, but happy to have gotten that far. This World Cup had been full of surprises, and fully cemented the dominance of non-European teams against the Europeans, who were shocked that their international football was in such poor shape.

In spite of all the excitement and amazing moments, there were many things that could not be ignored. Throughout the entire knockout stages, players in certain sides were tired and definitely not playing at their full potential, and the 3 group games contributed greatly to that. Many saw the stage as completely unnecessary as 2/3 of the teams that participated advanced to the knockout stage. Critics also thought that the system gave too much pity for 3rd-placed teams in groups, who could still advance in spite of poor performance. Most people wanted a return to the 16-team knockout system of the previous World Cups.

The criticism got to FIFA as well. Many things were proposed: try out one of the other proposed systems (the 20-team format being the most popular, especially for including a break for one team per group every match day), go back to the 16-team system, try a different qualification method, or try something completely new and different. FIFA would vote on these issues at their next meeting in 1925. Following the war and during the course of the World Cup qualifiers, many new international teams had been founded across the world, which prompted FIFA to begin work on another report, due to be released 2 months before the meeting.

A radical new idea sprung up during this time. A team of journalists who wrote for sports paper The Fulham Constant proposed the introduction of a lower-tier World Cup, for teams who failed to qualify for the main World Cup but still wanted international action, even coming up with potential qualifier spots for such a Cup and what teams would have participated if a 1922 edition had been held. The proposal managed to catch FIFA president Jules Rimet’s eyes, who liked the idea and would propose it during the 1925 meeting.
1924 – Football at the 1924 Olympics

1924 – Football at the 1924 Olympics​

The 1924 Olympic football tournament in Paris was, unexpectedly, the largest international footballing competition ever held, with 32 teams participating, including the international footballing debuts of the Irish Free State and Turkey. The competition also featured the first ever combined Indian team. The decision to make it 32 teams was made as a suggestion by the IOC, as many nations wanted to participate in the Olympic footballing tournament, far more than the 16 that had played in the previous tournaments. FIFA considered this a good way to test the proposed 32-team knockout system that would only add 1 game to the original 16-team knockout format previously used in the World Cup.

The Round of 32 contained many varied matches, from absolute blowouts like Argentina 9-0 Lithuania or Netherlands 12-0 Luxembourg, to heated matches like Egypt 3-2 Sweden and Turkey 4-3 Poland. Hungary finally faced Austria in international competition and defeated them 1-0. The most surprising victory in this round by far was Egypt’s, whose previously mediocre team defeated Sweden to advance to the Round of 16. The Round of 16 had its fair share of exciting football, with France finally winning 2 rounds of an international tournament with a 2-0 against India, Uruguay continuing its blowout streak against South Africa 5-1, Belgium destroying Hungary 6-2, the United States and the Netherlands having a heated 5-3 match, and New Zealand barely managing to scrape a win against Egypt 3-2. The quarter-finals saw Uruguay beating France 3-1, Finland losing to Argentina 2-0, Canada triumphing over Belgium 4-2 and the United States getting their revenge against New Zealand 2-1.

The semi-finals were once again exclusively non-European, and contested between what were considered to be the top 4 teams in the world at the time. Both of the matches were between historic rivals, with Uruguay once again beating Argentina 2-0, and Canada beating the United States 4-3 after an incredibly intense game and an 87th-minute winning goal. Argentina came out victorious in the 3rd place match against the United States 2-0, and Uruguay faced Canada in the final once again, but this time demolishing them 4-1 to take the Olympic gold.

This tournament further cemented the idea that the rest of the world was now better than Europe at football, with only 6 European teams in the Round of 16 (7 if you count Turkey), and utterly embarrassing performances from Bohemia, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland, all of whom were dispatched in the Round of 32. Europeans hoped that the upcoming FIFA report would enlighten them on what issues Europe was facing when it came to footballing, as many deemed the increasingly poor performances (and the continent being represented by teams like France and Finland in the quarter-finals) unacceptable.

One redeeming factor about all of this, however, was the fact that the 32-team knockout format proved popular and competitive, with crowds far more excited about these matches than some of the borefests witnessed during the 1922 World Cup.
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2nd FIFA Report on the Status of World Football – Europe

2nd FIFA Report on the Status of World Football – Europe​

The 2nd FIFA Report on the Status of World Football released on March 1925, 2 months before the FIFA meeting in Zürich that would decide the World Cup hosts and the fate of the new format. Like the previous report, it was sectioned into continents: Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

The report began with which associations were allowed to join FIFA following the release of the text. Olympic participants Bulgaria, Turkey and the Irish Free State were admitted into FIFA a few days before the start of the Olympic tournament. Another national association admitted during this time was Monaco. Several regional associations had sprung up in Yugoslavia, seeking to become independent members: Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Dalmatia all joined Croatia-Slavonia to represent the Yugoslavian regions in the Federation. The region informally known as Vojvodina also had an association, but it was too decentralized to be allowed into FIFA. Other regional associations had sprung up in various countries, such as:
  • Tyrol (the first regional association to cross borders, specifically between Austria and Italy)
  • Brittany (region of France that had already played a few matches against Luxembourg)
  • Corsica, Provence (both French regions that played a few matches against Spanish teams)
  • Moravia, Slovakia, Subcarpathia (all regions of Czechoslovakia, to go along with Bohemia)
  • Silesia (another border-crossing regional association split between Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia)
  • Bavaria (German region)
  • Jászkunság, AKA Jazygia-Cumania (association representing the Jász and Cuman regions of Hungary)
One last regional inclusion was Cornwall, which was very controversial and led to complaints from the FA, claiming that this was the first step to divide England into weaker federations so that it would no longer be a relevant footballing force. FIFA argued that regional associations did not have more power than national associations, and so if the FA wanted they could take players and teams away from the Cornwall association and into the FA.

The European section of the report then discussed the footballing quality of Europe, pointing out that Europe’s teams haven’t gotten worse, but the rest of the world has gotten better. This portion also clarified that national associations would always take precedence over regional ones, and that FIFA’s intended goal was to better represent footballing across the world, not to fracture teams to make them weaker against the rest of the world.

There were now 62 national teams in Europe. Due to this incredible amount, FIFA decided that Europe should follow South America’s footsteps and make their own continental confederation to better organize matches. European delegates were invited to Brussels to sign the document that would create the Union of European Football Associations, or UEFA for short.
So, if the England team takes precedence over the Cornwall team when it comes to players, does this mean we'll have setups like the one that exists between France and its dependencies, in which players from the latter usually play for the former when they get good enough for it? Of course, in regions such as the Basque Country and Catalonia, where nationalist sentiment is high, top tier players would be much more likely to stick with the local team.
So, if the England team takes precedence over the Cornwall team when it comes to players, does this mean we'll have setups like the one that exists between France and its dependencies, in which players from the latter usually play for the former when they get good enough for it? Of course, in regions such as the Basque Country and Catalonia, where nationalist sentiment is high, top tier players would be much more likely to stick with the local team.
Yes, exactly that. Players do have the free will to choose whether to play for their regional team or national team, but no sane Cornishman would play for their regional team if they were good enough for the England team.
2nd FIFA Report on the Status of World Football – Americas

2nd FIFA Report on the Status of World Football – Americas​

In Central America, the Independence Centenary Games of Guatemala had been played just 4 years earlier, with the hosts, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras participating. The competition was won comfortably by Costa Rica 6-0 over Guatemala. These games caught the attention of FIFA, which would help with the creation of national football associations for the three non-FIFA teams, allowing them to join the Federation. In the Caribbean region, Cuba, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and Bermuda had formed their own national associations, while in South America Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela had jumped onto the football train and began to organize their own official leagues and national teams, all joining FIFA.

When it came to regional associations, many Brazilian states (Alagoas, Amazonas, Ceará, Espírito Santo, Maranhão, Minas Gerais, Paraíba, Paraná, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Sergipe) had formed their own associations. However, FIFA felt like allowing all of them would be too much fracturing, especially because countries like the United States also had many states and regional associations yet played as one team, in comparison to Brazil, which was already fractured into 4 smaller associations. Therefore, it would be put up to a vote with multiple options in the next FIFA meeting, with CONMEBOL nations barred from the voting.

A controversial regional association that was examined was the recently formed Mapuche Nation. The Argentine and Chilean organizations were not huge fans of such an association joining FIFA, but they were powerless to stop it. In the United States, a few regional associations wanted to split off from the main one, namely California, Texas, Alaska and Hawaii. Because California and Texas formed major core parts of the American national league and national football team, the Americans protested this. FIFA gave the regional associations leeway, with Alaska and Hawaii fully joining, but clearly established that Californian and Texan players could choose whether to play for the national team or their regional team.