North American Soccer League (1968–1984)

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North American Soccer League
NASL.png
FoundedDecember 7, 1967 [1]
FoldedMarch 28, 1985;36 years ago (1985-03-28)
CountryUnited States
Other club(s) fromCanada
Confederation CONCACAF
Number of teams24
Level on pyramid1
Promotion toNone
Relegation toNone
Last champions Chicago Sting
(1984)
Most championships New York Cosmos (5 titles)

The North American Soccer League (NASL) was the top-level major professional soccer league in the United States and Canada that operated from 1968 to 1984. It was the first soccer league to be successful on a national scale in the United States. The league final was called the Soccer Bowl from 1975 to 1983 and the Soccer Bowl Series in its final year, 1984. The league was headed by Commissioner Phil Woosnam from 1969 to 1983.

Contents

The league's popularity peaked in the late 1970s. The league averaged over 13,000 fans per game in each season from 1977 to 1983, and the league's matches were broadcast on network television from 1975 to 1980. [2] The league's most prominent team was the New York Cosmos. During the mid-to-late 1970s, the Cosmos signed a number of the world's best players —Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto— and the Cosmos averaged over 28,000 fans for each season from 1977 to 1982 while having three seasons of the average attendance topping 40,000 spectators per game. Other internationally well-known players in the league included Giorgio Chinaglia, Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Gerd Müller, and George Best.

The league additionally sanctioned indoor soccer in various tournament forms in 1971, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979 and 1983, and in a season format in 1979–80, 1980–81, 1981–82 and 1983–84.

History

Founding

Original logo of the NASL (1968-1974) North American Soccer League 1968-1974 logo.png
Original logo of the NASL (1968–1974)

The surprisingly large North American TV audience of over 1 million for the 1966 FIFA World Cup and the resulting documentary film, Goal! , led American sports investors to believe there was an untapped market for the sport in the U.S. and Canada. In 1967, two professional soccer leagues started in the United States: the FIFA-sanctioned United Soccer Association, which consisted of entire European and South American teams brought to the U.S. and given local names, and the unsanctioned National Professional Soccer League. While the USA had FIFA sanction, the foreign teams which were rebranded as American for the summer 1967 season viewed the league as little more than a training exercise for their off-season, and most did not field their best players. The NPSL had a two-year national television contract in the U.S. with the CBS television network. Officials were instructed to whistle fouls and delay play to allow CBS to insert commercials. [3] The ratings for matches were unacceptable even by weekend daytime standards and the arrangement with CBS was soon terminated. Bill MacPhail, head of CBS Sports, attributed NPSL's lack of TV appeal to empty stadiums with few fans, and to undistinguished foreign players who were unfamiliar to American soccer fans. [4]

The two leagues merged on December 7, 1967 to form the North American Soccer League (NASL). NASL began the 1968 season with 17 of the 22 teams that had participated during the 1967 season, folding five redundant teams in cities where both USA and NPSL had operated. The teams relied mostly on foreign talent, including the Brazilian Vavá, one of the leading scorers of the 1958 and 1962 World Cups. International friendlies included victories against Pelé's Santos and against English champions Manchester City. [5]

Though the league had a few successes, the league had significant problems gaining acceptance in the American sports community. The 17 teams included only 30 North American players. [5] The expenses of high salaries for foreign players and renting of large stadiums, coupled with low attendances, resulted in every team losing money in 1968, and investors quickly pulled the plug after their year's commitment ended. [5] At the end of the year, CBS pulled its TV contract, and all but five of the teams folded. The league moved its offices to a basement of Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, and at the end of the sixteen-game 1969 season, the league declared Kansas City the league champions on the basis of most points in the round-robin, and the Baltimore Bays announced they would fold. It appeared top-tier professional soccer would not survive in North America.

Desperate to keep the league afloat, the league approached two American Soccer League teams, the Rochester Lancers and the Washington Darts about transferring to the NASL. Despite coming from the ASL (which had a nearly 40-year history as a semi-pro league), the two teams were immediately the most successful, and won their respective divisions. Rochester beat Washington in a two-game final, and the league survived.

In 1971, NASL added three teams—the New York Cosmos, Montreal Olympique, and the Toronto Metros—each of which paid a $25,000 expansion fee. [6] The Dallas Tornado won the title after a number of multiple overtime playoff games, including a 173-minute marathon against Rochester.

Realizing it needed to sell to North Americans the sport of soccer, which was still foreign to most people, the NASL modified its game rules in an attempt to make its product more exciting, and comprehensible, to the average sports fan. These changes included the following:

Interest begins to grow

The NASL of the early 1970s was, to a large extent, a semi-pro league, with many of the players holding other jobs.

On September 3, 1973, Sports Illustrated featured a soccer player on its cover for the first time — Philadelphia Atoms goalkeeper Bob Rigby. [11] SI profiled the Philadelphia Atoms victory in the NASL championship, the first time an American expansion sports team won a title in its first season. [11] Philadelphia averaged 11,500 fans in 1973, the first time since 1967 that any North American professional soccer team had averaged over 10,000 fans. [12] The cover title declared "Soccer Goes American", as Philadelphia had started six Americans in the championship match. Despite the "Soccer Goes American" title, however, in no season after 1974 did any American player win the MVP award or finish as league top scorer, as the mid-1970s saw an influx of foreign talent. SI predicted continued success for the Philadelphia Atoms, but the Atoms dissolved in 1976. [11]

NASL's average attendance had grown steadily from a low of 2,930 in 1969 to 7,770 in 1974, and by 1974 four teams were averaging over 10,000 attendance. [12] The 1974 NASL Championship game between the Los Angeles Aztecs and the Miami Toros was televised live on CBS, the first national broadcast of a pro soccer match in the United States since 1968. [13]

The 1974 and 1975 seasons saw rapid expansion for NASL. In 1974, eight new teams paid the $75,000 franchise fee and joined the league, although two existing teams folded. [14] The 1974 expansion saw teams on the west coast, giving NASL a national presence for the first time. The west coast expansion was a success, with three of the teams — San Jose, Seattle and Vancouver — averaging over 10,000 fans in 1974. [14] In 1975, five more franchises were added. Two of these five additions — Chicago and Hartford — were in cities that had successful franchises in the Division II American Soccer League, which at the time saw itself as a potential challenger to NASL as the U.S.'s top professional soccer league. [15] The expansions of 1974 and 1975 meant that NASL had grown from 9 teams in 1973 to 20 teams by 1975.

The 1975 season saw the signing of internationally known players, including Portuguese star Eusébio (who Rhode Island of the Division II ASL had tried to sign), [15] and former England goalkeeper Peter Bonetti.

Pelé and the New York Cosmos

Pelé's arrival created a media sensation and overnight transformed the fortunes of soccer in the United States. From the moment he signed his contract at the 21 Club on June 10, 1975 in front of a crush of ecstatic worldwide media, Pelé's every move was followed, bringing attention and credibility to soccer in America. The New York Cosmos' home attendance tripled in just half the season Pelé was there, and on the road the Cosmos also played in front of huge crowds that came to watch Pelé play.

Pelé's arrival resulted in greater TV exposure for the Cosmos and for the league overall. Ten million people tuned in to watch CBS' live broadcast of Pelé's debut match—a record American TV audience for soccer—with the Cosmos on June 15, 1975 against the Dallas Tornado at Downing Stadium in New York. [3] [4] CBS also televised another Cosmos match plus the 1975 Soccer Bowl championship match, and in 1976 ABC signed a contract to broadcast matches during the 1976 season. [3] [4] By 1976, NASL was being picked up by the mainstream media, with the sports pages of newspapers covering NASL. [4] The NASL was shown on the TVS network during 1977 and 1978, although some games were tape delayed or not carried in certain markets. [3]

The biggest club in the league and the organization's bellwether was the Cosmos, who drew upwards of 40,000 fans per game at their height, during the period that older soccer superstars, like Pelé of Brazil and Franz Beckenbauer of Germany, played for the club. Although both well past their prime by this stage of their careers, the two were considered to have previously been the best attacking (offensive) (Pelé) and defensive (Beckenbauer) players in the world.

Giants Stadium sold out (73,000+) their 1978 championship win. However, the overall average attendance of the entire league never reached 15,000, with some clubs averaging less than 5,000.[ citation needed ]

North American Soccer League Progression
SeasonTeamsGamesAttendanceNetwork TV
(games)
1968 17324,699CBS
1969 5162,930None
1970 6243,163
1971 84,154
1972 144,780
1973 9195,954
1974 15207,770CBS (1)
1975 20227,642CBS (2)
1976 10,295CBS (2)
1977 182613,558TVS (7)
1978 243013,084TVS (6)
1979 14,201ABC (9)
1980 3214,440ABC (8)
1981 2114,084ABC (1)
1982 1413,155None
1983 123013,258
1984 92410,759
TV column includes only network TV.
It does not include cable (ESPN, USA)
or pay-per-view (SportsVision).

Expansion and star players

The Los Angeles Aztecs signed Manchester United star George Best in 1976. NASL had been trying to persuade Best to come to America and place him in a major media market, but once the New York Cosmos had signed Pelé, Los Angeles was the logical placement for Best. [16] Best was traded to Fort Lauderdale in 1978, and in 1979 Los Angeles signed its next big star, Johan Cruyff. [16] Cruyff was an instant success, doubling the team's attendance, and winning the league's MVP award. [17] LA also brought in a new head coach from 1979 to 1980, Rinus Michels, who had coached Ajax Amsterdam, Barcelona, and the Dutch national team, the man credited with the invention of the Dutch playing style of "Total Football" in the 1970s. [18]

The Minnesota Kicks were established in 1976 and quickly became one of the league's more popular teams, drawing an average attendance of 23,120 fans per game in 1976 to the Metropolitan Stadium in a Minneapolis-Saint Paul suburb. [19] The Kicks won their division four years in a row from 1976 to 1979, drawing over 23,000 fans in each of those four seasons (peaking at 32,775 in 1977).

After LA, Cruyff then moved on to the Washington Diplomats. [20] The Washington Diplomats had been purchased by Madison Square Garden Corp. and its Chairman Sonny Werblin in October 1978. Cruyff's presence was a huge boost, as was Wim Jansen, a midfielder who had played for the Netherlands at the 1974 and 1978 World Cups. For the 1980 season, the Diplomats attendance was 19,205 spectators per match. [21]

Despite NASL's apparent success, of NASL's 18 teams in 1977, six were considered franchises that needed to be relocated, bought out, or folded. [22] A planning committee of owners issued a report recommending that NASL strengthen its existing teams, and limit expansion to two franchises for 1978, with one additional franchise per year for the following years. [23] Despite this recommendation, NASL brought in six new teams at $3 million per team, raising the league's teams from 18 to 24 for the 1978 season.

San Diego Sockers President Jack Daley later described NASL's boom years of the late 1970s: "It became fashionable to chase the Cosmos. Everyone had to have a Pelé. Coaches went around the world on talent searches, forcing the prices up." [24] The Portland Timbers tripled their team payroll from 1979 to 1980 in an effort to keep up with the league average. [25]

The league began a college draft in 1972 in an attempt to increase the number of U.S.- and Canadian-born players in the league. The foreign image of soccer was not helped, however, by a league that brought in many older, high-profile foreign players, and frequently left Americans on the bench. This effort was often doubly futile, as while many of the foreign players were perhaps "big names" in their home countries, almost none of them qualified as such in North America, and they quickly absorbed most of the available payroll, such as it was, which could have otherwise been used to pay North American players better. As of 1979, NASL rules required that each squad start two U.S. or Canadian players—often a goalkeeper and an outside defender [25] —and that each 17-man roster carry six native players. [26] The U.S. had lacked sufficient quality youth soccer programs in the 1950s, resulting in the dearth of U.S.-born talent in NASL in the 1970s. [26] NASL suffered a minor blow with a players strike at the start of the 1979 season, but the strike was honored by only one third of the players and lasted only five days. [27]

In 1980, the minimum number of U.S. and Canadian starters was raised to three. [26] The 1980 season was referred to as "the year of the North American player" with a renewed emphasis on "native players." [25] With the increased requirements for teams to field U.S. and Canadian players, demand for quality native players boomed, with Jim McAlister setting a transfer record for an American player at $200,000. [25]

With the end of the 1970s, NASL seemed poised for moderate success. [17] The 1979 season had seen attendance increase by 8%. ABC televised several matches during the 1979 and 1980 seasons. [28] An apparent era of stability seemed to have arrived, with the 1980 season expecting no planned expansion, relocations or failed teams among its 24 franchises, and with most rosters remaining relatively stable. [17]

FIFA Disputes

The NASL was often in dispute with FIFA due to its rules changes. [29] [30] [31] The United States Soccer Federation was often threatened with expulsion by FIFA due to the unsanctioned soccer rule changes by the NASL. [32]

Financial problems and contraction

At the close of the 1980 season, NASL's woes were beginning to mount, as NASL was feeling the effects of over-expansion, the economic recession, and disputes with the players union. [33] In the early 1980s the U.S. economy went into the doldrums, with unemployment reaching 10.8% in 1982, its highest level since World War II. [34] NASL's owners, who were losing money, were not immune from the broader economy.

Perhaps most troubling of all, NASL owners were spending sums on player salaries that could not be covered by league revenue. Whereas NFL owners in 1980 were spending on average 40% of the team's budget on player salaries, NASL owners were averaging over 70% of their budget on player salaries. [33] The Cosmos in particular, owned by Warner Communications, were spending lavish sums on player salaries, and while other teams—such as Los Angeles, Jacksonville, Portland, Toronto, and Montreal—that were owned by major corporations could keep up with the Cosmos, owners without deep pockets could not keep pace with the spending levels. [33] Owners spent millions on aging stars to try to match the success of the Cosmos, and lost significant amounts of money in doing so.

Another headache for NASL was competition from the resurgent Major Indoor Soccer League. [35] The MISL began during the 1978–79 season, grew quickly, and by the early 1980s MISL was averaging over 8,000 fans per game. MISL's growth meant that throughout the early 1980s the NASL and the MISL engaged in a bidding war for U.S. based soccer players, putting further pressure on league salaries and heightening NASL's financial problems. [35] In an effort to vie for MISL's expanding audiences, the NASL operated an indoor soccer league from 1979–80 to 1981–82 and in 1983–84.

As a result, the league ran a collective deficit in 1980 of about $30 million, with each team losing money. [33] The San Diego Sockers lost $10 million from 1978 to 1983, and Tulsa lost $8 million from 1980 to 1983. [24] The Washington Diplomats folded in November 1980, after owners MSG Corp. lost a rumored $5 million on the team in 1979 and 1980. [21]

NASL had also decided to sell TV advertising locally, instead of recruiting national sponsors. [36] During the 1980 offseason, the NASL Players' Association was in dispute with the league over projected payments for the indoor season, causing the players to file a lawsuit against the league. [33]

The 1981 season was even worse for the league, with the league's 24 teams again running a collective deficit of $30 million and every team losing money. [37] Ted Turner's Atlanta Chiefs lost $7 million, the Minnesota Kicks lost $2.5 million, the Calgary Boomers lost over $2 million, and Lamar Hunt's Dallas Tornado had lost $1 million annually. [37] At the close of the 1981 season five teams folded, with another two teams—the L.A. Aztecs and Minnesota Kicks—later folding during the 1981-82 offseason after failing to find buyers. [37] NASL shrank from 21 teams to 14.

Many of these new owners were not soccer savvy, and once the perceived popularity started to decline, they got out as quickly as they got in. Over-expansion without sufficient vetting of ownership groups was a huge factor in the death of the league. [36] Once the league started growing, new franchises were awarded quickly, and it doubled in size in a few years, peaking at 24 teams. Many have suggested that cash-starved existing owners longed for their share of the expansion fee charged of new owners, even though Forbes Magazine reported this amount as being only $100,000.

Decline and demise

With the league declining rapidly in the early 1980s and losing many franchises, the NASL made several changes in an attempt to keep going. Phil Woosnam, who had served as NASL Commissioner since 1969 and had been a strong proponent of expansion during the 1970s, was removed by the league's 14 owners in April 1982 by a reported 11–3 vote. [23] NASL tried to help bring the 1986 World Cup to the United States after Colombia withdrew from its commitment to host, but FIFA decided in 1983 to award the hosting of the 1986 FIFA World Cup to Mexico, rather than the U.S. In early 1984, NASL reached a collective bargaining agreement with the NASL Players Association that included a $825,000 salary cap to be achieved by annual 10% reductions, and a reduction in roster sizes from 28 to 19. [24]

The league lasted until the 1984 NASL season with only nine teams taking the field. On March 28, 1985, the NASL suspended operations for the 1985 season, when only the Minnesota Strikers and Toronto Blizzard were interested in playing. At the time, the league planned to relaunch in 1986. [38]

Of those final nine teams, the Chicago Sting, Minnesota Strikers, New York Cosmos, and San Diego Sockers joined the Major Indoor Soccer League for its 1984–85 season. The Tulsa Roughnecks independently played 11 matches in 1985, before suspending operations on July 17. [39] [40] The Golden Bay Earthquakes and Tampa Bay Rowdies managed to survive as independent franchises until they joined the WSA and AISA respectively. The Rowdies were the last surviving NASL franchise to play outdoor soccer, lasting until February 1994. [41] The Sockers were the final league franchise to dissolve. They survived playing exclusively indoor soccer until 1996.

Legacy

After the United States' early elimination in 1982 World Cup qualifying, American manager Walt Chyzowych stated the NASL had failed to offer much of a foundation for his team, since the league had largely failed to develop American players. [42] Canada fared better, coming a win short of qualification for the 1982 World Cup with a squad exclusively made up of NASL players. [43] [44] Although the NASL ultimately failed, it did introduce soccer to the North American sports scene on a large scale for the first time, and was a major contributing factor in soccer becoming one of the most popular sports among American youth. On July 4, 1988, FIFA awarded the hosting of the 1994 World Cup to the United States. NASL has also provided lessons for its successor Major League Soccer, which has taken precautions against such problems, particularly a philosophy of financial restraint (mainstream American sports, by the time of MLS' startup in 1996, had adopted financial restraint rules, which MLS adopted). American college and high school soccer still use some NASL-style rules (with shortened halves, although the time does stop for certain reasons).

18 of the 22 players on the Canadian squad at the 1986 World Cup were former NASL players. The United States did not have any former NASL players on their squad at the 1990 World Cup but had three on the 1994 team (Fernando Clavijo, Hugo Pérez and Roy Wegerle) and one on the 1998 team (Wegerle).

Several NASL team names have been reused by teams in later soccer leagues. Currently the Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, and Vancouver Whitecaps are all successor teams in Major League Soccer. Four other well known names (New York Cosmos, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, and Tulsa Roughnecks) have resurfaced in the new NASL and the USL, which are both Division II leagues. Two of the oldest derbies in North American professional soccer (Portland–Seattle and Fort Lauderdale–Tampa Bay) began in the NASL of the 1970s, and continue today via successor clubs.

NASL Indoor Progression
YearParticipationGames played
1971 4 of 8 teams4 games
1975 16 of 20 teams2-4 games
1976 12 of 20 teams
1977
1978 4 of 24 teams4 games
1979 4 of 24 teams4 games
1979–80 10 of 24 teams12 games
1980–81 19 of 21 teams18 games
1981–82 13 of 14 teams
1983 4 of 12 teams8 games
1983–84 7 of 9 teams32 games

NASL indoor

The NASL first staged an indoor tournament in 1971 at the St. Louis Arena with a $2,800 purse. [45] After a couple of years of experimenting, including a three-city tour by the Red Army team from Moscow in 1974, the league again staged tournaments in 1975 and 1976. For many years Tampa Bay owner George W. Strawbridge, Jr. lobbied his fellow owners to start up a winter indoor season, but was repeatedly stone-walled by other owners. [46] [47] For several years, his Rowdies and several other teams used winter indoor "friendlies" as part of their training and build-up to the outdoor season. In the meantime, pressed by the rival Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), which inaugurated play in 1978, two-day mini-tournaments like the Skelly Invitational [48] and the NASL Budweiser Invitational [49] were held with varying degrees of success. The NASL finally started a full indoor league schedule, a 12-game season with 10 teams, in 1979–80. For the 1980–81 season, the number of teams playing indoor soccer increased to 19 and the schedule grew to 18 games. The schedule remained at 18 games, but the teams participating decreased to 13 for the 1981–82 season. The league canceled the 1982–83 indoor season and three teams (Chicago, Golden Bay, and San Diego) played in the MISL for that season. Four other teams (Fort Lauderdale, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Tulsa) competed in a short NASL Grand Prix of Indoor Soccer Tournament in early 1983. [50] The NASL indoor season returned for 1983–84 with only seven teams but a 32-game schedule.

NASL champions

By year

YearWinner (number of titles)Runners-upTop Team in Regular Season (points)Top scorer (points)Winning Coach
1968 Atlanta Chiefs (1) San Diego Toros San Diego Toros (186 points)* Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Janusz Kowalik Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Phil Woosnam
1969 Kansas City Spurs (1) Atlanta Chiefs Kansas City Spurs (110 points)* Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg Kaizer Motaung Flag of Hungary.svg János Bédl
1970 Rochester Lancers (1) Washington Darts Washington Darts (137 points) Flag of Greece (1970-1975).svg Kirk Apostolidis Flag of Italy.svg Sal DeRosa
1971 Dallas Tornado (1) Atlanta Chiefs Rochester Lancers (141 points) Flag of the United States.svg Carlos Metidieri Flag of England.svg Ron Newman
1972 New York Cosmos (1) St. Louis Stars New York Cosmos (77 points) Flag of Bermuda 1910.svg Randy Horton Flag of the United States.svg Gordon Bradley
1973 Philadelphia Atoms (1) Dallas Tornado Dallas Tornado (111 points) Flag of the United States.svg Kyle Rote, Jr. Flag of the United States.svg Al Miller
1974 Los Angeles Aztecs (1) Miami Toros Los Angeles Aztecs (110 points) Flag of the United States.svg Paul Child Flag of Albania (1946-1992).svg Alex Perolli [51]
1975 Tampa Bay Rowdies (1) Portland Timbers Portland Timbers (138 points) Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg Steve David Flag of Italy.svg Eddie Firmani
1976 Toronto Metros-Croatia (1) Minnesota Kicks Tampa Bay Rowdies (154 points) Flag of Italy.svg Giorgio Chinaglia Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg Domagoj Kapetanović
1977 Cosmos (2)# Seattle Sounders Fort Lauderdale Strikers (161 points) Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg Steve David Flag of Italy.svg Eddie Firmani
1978 Cosmos (3)# Tampa Bay Rowdies Cosmos (212 points) Flag of Italy.svg Giorgio Chinaglia Flag of Italy.svg Eddie Firmani
1979 Vancouver Whitecaps (1) Tampa Bay Rowdies New York Cosmos (216 points) Flag of Chile.svg Oscar Fabbiani Flag of England.svg Tony Waiters [52]
1980 New York Cosmos (4) Fort Lauderdale Strikers New York Cosmos (213 points)* Flag of Italy.svg Giorgio Chinaglia Flag of Germany.svg Hennes Weisweiler
Flag of Turkey.svg Yasin Özdenak
1981 Chicago Sting (1) New York Cosmos New York Cosmos (200 points) Flag of Italy.svg Giorgio Chinaglia Flag of the United States.svg Willy Roy
1982 New York Cosmos (5) Seattle Sounders New York Cosmos (203 points) Flag of Italy.svg Giorgio Chinaglia [53] Flag of Brazil (1968-1992).svg Julio Mazzei
1983 Tulsa Roughnecks (1) Toronto Blizzard New York Cosmos (194 points)* Flag of Paraguay (1954-1988).svg Roberto Cabañas Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Terry Hennessey
1984 Chicago Sting (2) Toronto Blizzard Chicago Sting (120 points)* Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg Steve Zungul Flag of the United States.svg Willy Roy

* Due to the NASL's nontraditional points system, in 1968, 1969, 1980, 1983 & 1984 the team with the best win-loss record did not win the regular season. [54]
# The New York Cosmos dropped "New York" from its name for the 1977 and 1978 seasons, then returned to the full name.

By club

ClubWinnerRunner-UpSeasons WonSeasons Runner-Up
New York Cosmos 51 1972, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982 1981
Chicago Sting 20 1981, 1984
Atlanta Chiefs 12 1968 1969, 1971
Tampa Bay Rowdies 12 1975 1978, 1979
Toronto Metros/Blizzard 12 1976 1983, 1984
Dallas Tornado 11 1971 1973
Kansas City Spurs 10 1969
Rochester Lancers 10 1970
Philadelphia Atoms 10 1973
Los Angeles Aztecs 10 1974
Vancouver Whitecaps 10 1979
Tulsa Roughnecks 10 1983
Seattle Sounders 02 1977, 1982
San Diego Toros 01 1968
Washington Darts 01 1970
St. Louis Stars 01 1972
Miami Toros 01 1974
Portland Timbers 01 1975
Minnesota Kicks 01 1976
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 01 1980

# The New York Cosmos dropped "New York" from its name for the 1977 and 1978 seasons, then returned to the full name.

NASL indoor champions

By year

YearWinner (number of titles)Runners-upTop Team in Regular SeasonTop scorerWinning Coach
1971 Dallas Tornado (1) Rochester Lancers Dallas Tornado 2–0 *(tournament only) Flag of the United States.svg Mike Renshaw
Flag of the United States.svg Jim Benedek
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Dragan Popović
Flag of England.svg Ron Newman
1975 San Jose Earthquakes (1) Tampa Bay Rowdies San Jose Earthquakes 4–0 *(tournament only) Flag of the United States.svg Paul Child Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg Ivan Toplak
1976 Tampa Bay Rowdies (1) Rochester Lancers Tampa Bay Rowdies 4–0 *(tournament only) Flag of the United States.svg Juli Veee Flag of Italy.svg Eddie Firmani
1978 Tulsa Roughnecks (1) Minnesota Kicks Tulsa Roughnecks 2–0 *(tournament only) Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg Nino Zec Flag of England.svg Bill Foulkes
1979 Dallas Tornado (2) Tampa Bay Rowdies Dallas Tornado 2–0 *(tournament only) Flag of Scotland.svg Jim Ryan Flag of the United States.svg Al Miller
1979–80 Tampa Bay Rowdies (2) Memphis Rogues Atlanta Chiefs 10–2 Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg David Byrne Flag of England.svg Gordon Jago
1980–81 Edmonton Drillers (1) Chicago Sting Chicago Sting 13–5 Flag of Germany.svg Karl-Heinz Granitza Flag of Finland.svg Timo Liekoski
1981–82 San Diego Sockers (1) Tampa Bay Rowdies Edmonton Drillers 13–5 Flag of the United States.svg Juli Veee Flag of England.svg Ron Newman
1983 Tampa Bay Rowdies (3) Montreal Manic Montreal Manic 4–2 *(double round-robin stage) Flag of England.svg Laurie Abrahams
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Dale Mitchell
Flag of the United States.svg Al Miller
1983–84 San Diego Sockers (2) New York Cosmos San Diego Sockers 21–11 Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg Steve Zungul Flag of England.svg Ron Newman

By club

ClubWinnerRunner-UpSeasons WonSeasons Runner-Up
Tampa Bay Rowdies 33 1976, 1979–80, 1983 1975, 1979, 1981–82
Dallas Tornado 20 1971, 1979
San Diego Sockers 20 1981–82, 1983–84
San Jose Earthquakes 10 1975
Tulsa Roughnecks 10 1978
Edmonton Drillers 10 1980–81
Rochester Lancers 02 1971, 1976
Minnesota Kicks 01 1978
Memphis Rogues 01 1979–80
Chicago Sting 01 1980–81
Montreal Manic 01 1983
New York Cosmos 01 1983–84

Teams

Outdoor season

Legend

  – existed before 1968 NASL formation.   – continued after 1984 NASL demise.   – existed before 1968 and after 1984

TeamNASL SeasonsNASL Evolution of FranchiseOther Leagues
Atlanta Apollos 1973 Chiefs→Apollos
Atlanta Chiefs 1968–1972Chiefs→Apollos NPSL
Atlanta Chiefs (1979) 1979–1981 Caribous→Chiefs (1979)
Baltimore Bays 1968–1969 NPSL
Baltimore Comets 1974–1975Comets→JawsQuicksilversSockers
Boston Beacons 1968 USA
Boston Minutemen 1974–1976
Calgary Boomers 1981 Rogues→Boomers
California Surf 1978–1981 Stars→Surf
Caribous of Colorado 1978Caribous→Chiefs (1979)
Chicago Mustangs 1968 USA
Chicago Sting 1975–1984 MISL
Cleveland Stokers 1968 USA
Connecticut Bicentennials 1977 Bicentennials→Connecticut→StompersDrillers
Cosmos 1977–1978 New York→Cosmos→New York
Dallas Tornado 1968–1981 USA
Denver Dynamos 1974–1975Dynamos→Kicks
Detroit Cougars 1968 USA
Detroit Express 1978–1981Express→Diplomats (1981)
Edmonton Drillers 1979–1982 BicentennialsConnecticutStompers→Drillers
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1977–1983 DartsGatosToros→Strikers→Minnesota
Golden Bay Earthquakes 1983–1984 San Jose Earthquakes→Golden Bay MISL, WSA
Hartford Bicentennials 1975–1976Bicentennials→ConnecticutStompersDrillers
Houston Hurricane 1978–1980
Houston Stars 1968 USA
Jacksonville Tea Men 1980–1982 Tea Men→Jacksonville ASL, USL
Kansas City Spurs 1968–1970 NPSL
Las Vegas Quicksilvers 1977 CometsJaws→Quicksilvers→Sockers
Los Angeles Aztecs 1974–1981
Los Angeles Wolves 1968 USA
Memphis Rogues 1978–1980Rogues→Boomers
Miami Gatos 1972 Darts→Gatos→TorosStrikersMinnesota
Miami Toros 1973–1976 DartsGatos→Toros→StrikersMinnesota
Minnesota Kicks 1976–1981 Dynamos→Kicks
Minnesota Strikers 1984 DartsGatosTorosStrikers→Minnesota MISL
Montreal Manic 1981–1983 Fury→Manic
Montreal Olympique 1971–1973
New England Tea Men 1978–1980Tea Men→Jacksonville
New York Cosmos 1971–76, 1979–84New York→Cosmos→New York MISL
New York Generals 1968 NPSL
Oakland Clippers 1968 NPSL
Oakland Stompers 1978 BicentennialsConnecticut→Stompers→Drillers
Philadelphia Atoms 1973–1976
Philadelphia Fury 1978–1980Fury→Manic
Portland Timbers 1975–1982
Rochester Lancers 1970–1980 ASL
St. Louis Stars 1968–1977Stars→Surf NPSL
San Antonio Thunder 1975–1976Thunder→Team HawaiiRoughnecks
San Diego Jaws 1976 Comets→Jaws→QuicksilversSockers
San Diego Sockers 1978–1984 CometsJawsQuicksilvers→Sockers MISL, CISL
San Diego Toros 1968 NPSL
San Jose Earthquakes 1974–1982Earthquakes→Golden Bay
Seattle Sounders 1974–1983
Tampa Bay Rowdies 1975–1984 AISA, ASL, APSL
Team America 1983
Team Hawaii 1977 Thunder→Team Hawaii→Roughnecks
Toronto Blizzard 1979–1984 MetrosMetros-Croatia→Blizzard
Toronto Falcons 1968 NPSL
Toronto Metros 1971–1974Metros→Metros-CroatiaBlizzard
Toronto Metros-Croatia*1975–1978 Metros→Metros-Croatia→Blizzard NSL, CISL, CSL
Tulsa Roughnecks 1978–1984 ThunderTeam Hawaii→Roughnecks
Vancouver Royals 1968 USA
Vancouver Whitecaps 1974–1984
Washington Darts 1970–1971Darts→GatosTorosStrikersMinnesota ASL
Washington Diplomats 1974–1980
Washington Diplomats (1981) 1981 Express→Diplomats (1981)
Washington Whips 1968 USA

*Operated as Toronto Croatia from 1956 until they merged with the NASL's Toronto Metros in 1975, and then again after they sold out of the NASL in 1979.

Of the 67 teams that played in the NASL over the course of its 17 seasons, many represent relocated franchises, and a handful represent the same franchise in the same location with changed names such as the Apollos, Cosmos and Earthquakes. The total number of unique clubs was 43.

Teams that played indoor seasons or tournaments (1971, 1975–76, 1978–84)

  • Atlanta Chiefs (1979–81)
  • Baltimore Comets (1975)
  • Boston Minutemen (1975–76)
  • Calgary Boomers (1980–81)
  • California Surf (1979–81)
  • Chicago Sting (1976, 1980–82, 1983–84)
  • Dallas Tornado (1971, 1975–76, 1979, 1980–81)
  • Detroit Express (1979–81)
  • Edmonton Drillers (1980–82)
  • Fort Lauderdale Strikers (1979–81, 1983)
  • Golden Bay Earthquakes (1983–84)
  • Hartford Bicentennials (1975)
  • Houston Hurricane (1978)
  • Jacksonville Tea Men (1980–82)
  • Los Angeles Aztecs (1975, 1979–81)
  • Memphis Rogues (1979–80)
  • Miami Toros (1975–76)
  • Minnesota Kicks (1978–81)
  • Montreal Manic (1981–82, 1983)
  • New England Tea Men (1979–80)
  • New York Cosmos (1975, 1981–82, 1983–84)
  • Philadelphia Atoms (1975)
  • Portland Timbers (1980–82)
  • Rochester Lancers (1971, 1975–76)
  • St. Louis Stars (1971, 1975–76)
  • San Diego Jaws (1976)
  • San Diego Sockers (1980–82, 1983–84)
  • San Jose Earthquakes (1975–76, 1980–82)
  • Seattle Sounders (1975, 1980–82)
  • Tampa Bay Rowdies (1975–76, 1979–84)
  • Toronto Blizzard (1980–82)
  • Toronto Metros-Croatia (1975–76)
  • Tulsa Roughnecks (1978–84)
  • Vancouver Whitecaps (1975–76, 1980–82, 1983–84)
  • Washington Darts (1971)
  • Washington Diplomats (1975–76, 1978)

Commissioners

Annual honors

MVP, Rookie, and Coach of the Year

YearMVPRookieCoach
1968 Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Janusz Kowalik Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg Kaizer Motaung Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Phil Woosnam
1969 Flag of Uruguay.svg Pepe Fernández Flag of Uruguay.svg Pepe Fernández Flag of Hungary.svg János Bédl
1970 Flag of the United States.svg Carlos Metidieri Flag of the United States.svg Jim Leeker Flag of Italy.svg Sal DeRosa
1971 Flag of the United States.svg Carlos Metidieri Flag of Bermuda 1910.svg Randy Horton Flag of England.svg Ron Newman
1972 Flag of Bermuda 1910.svg Randy Horton Flag of the United States.svg Mike Winter Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Kazimierz Frankiewicz
1973 Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg Warren Archibald Flag of the United States.svg Kyle Rote, Jr. Flag of the United States.svg Al Miller
1974 Flag of England.svg Peter Silvester Flag of the United States.svg Doug McMillan Flag of Scotland.svg John Young
1975 Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg Steve David Flag of the United States.svg Chris Bahr Flag of England.svg John Sewell
1976 Flag of Brazil (1968-1992).svg Pelé Flag of the United States.svg Steve Pecher Flag of Italy.svg Eddie Firmani
1977 Flag of Germany.svg Franz Beckenbauer Flag of the United States.svg Jim McAlister Flag of England.svg Ron Newman
1978 Flag of England.svg Mike Flanagan Flag of the United States.svg Gary Etherington Flag of England.svg Tony Waiters
1979 Flag of the Netherlands.svg Johan Cruyff Flag of the United States.svg Larry Hulcer Flag of Finland.svg Timo Liekoski
1980 Flag of England.svg Roger Davies Flag of the United States.svg Jeff Durgan Flag of England.svg Alan Hinton
1981 Flag of Italy.svg Giorgio Chinaglia Flag of the United States.svg Joe Morrone, Jr. Flag of the United States.svg Willy Roy
1982 Flag of England.svg Peter Ward Flag of the United States.svg Pedro DeBrito Flag of Ireland.svg Johnny Giles
1983 Flag of Paraguay (1954-1988).svg Roberto Cabañas Flag of the United States.svg Gregg Thompson Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg Dragan Popović
1984 Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg Steve Zungul Flag of the United States.svg Roy Wegerle Flag of England.svg Ron Newman

Teams named after NASL teams

The Heritage Cup in Major League Soccer was developed as a way to remember the NASL's heritage by having teams named after NASL teams to participate for a special trophy. Today, two MLS teams, San Jose and Seattle, play for this trophy, although Portland and Vancouver are both eligible for the trophy if they decide to participate in this derby. NASL clubs' names still active in some form today are listed in bold.

Players

The NASL brought some of the world's best soccer players to the United States. The trend started early as players such as Vavá, Peter McParland, Rubén Marino Navarro, Co Prins and Juan Santisteban appeared in the league in 1968. However, after the Cosmos signed Pele in 1975, the number of famous names increased during the NASL's peak during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, 20 of the 44 World Cup Best XI selections between 1966 and 1978 spent time in the NASL. At one time NASL squads fielded the captains of the past three World Cup-winning teams—Beckenbauer (1974), Alberto (1970), and Moore (1966). Of the European Footballer of the Year awards from 1965 to 1976, eight of the twelve awards—Eusébio (1965), Best (1968), Muller (1970), Cruyff (1971, '73, '74), Beckenbauer (1972, '76) —were given to players who went on to play in NASL. In addition, several players went on to greater acclaim after leaving the NASL, among them Peter Beardsley, Bruce Grobbelaar, Julio César Romero, Hugo Sánchez and Graeme Souness. Two players appeared in both the NASL and MLS, spanning a 12-year gap in North American professional soccer: Hugo Sánchez and Roy Wegerle. [58]

PlayerPositionNASL yearsNASL club(s)Accolades (pre-NASL)
Flag of Brazil.svg Pelé FW1975–1977New York CosmosThree World Cup championships with Brazil in 1958, 1962, 1970;
1973 South American Footballer of the Year
Flag of Brazil.svg Carlos Alberto DF1977–1982New York Cosmos;
California
Captained Brazil to victory at the 1970 World Cup
Flag of Chile.svg Elías Figueroa DF1981Fort LauderdaleSouth American Footballer of the Year in 1974, 1975, and 1976
Flag of England.svg Alan Ball, Jr. MF1978–1980Philadelphia;
Vancouver
Set up two Hurst goals at the 1966 World Cup Final;
Played at the 1970 World Cup
Flag of England.svg Gordon Banks GK1977–78Fort LauderdaleGK for England during their 1966 World Cup championship run;
Six-time FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year
Flag of England.svg Geoff Hurst FW1976SeattleScored a hat trick for England at the 1966 World Cup Final;
1968 Euro All-Star Team
Flag of England.svg Bobby Moore DF1976; 1978San Antonio;
Seattle
Captained England to victory at the 1966 World Cup
Flag of England.svg Peter Beardsley FW1982–83Vancouver WhitecapsEngland International
Flag of Germany.svg Franz Beckenbauer DF1977–1980; 1983New York CosmosCaptained West Germany to victory at the 1974 World Cup
Flag of Germany.svg Gerd Müller FW1979–1981Fort Lauderdale1970 European Footballer of the Year;
Scored 10 goals at the 1970 World Cup;
1974 World Cup winner
Flag of Italy.svg Roberto Bettega FW1983–84Toronto BlizzardNamed to the 1978 World Cup All-Star Team;
Ranked third on Juventus' career goals scored (#2 at time of retirement)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Johan Cruyff MF1979–1981Los Angeles Aztecs;
Washington Diplomats
Led the Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final;
European Footballer of the Year award in 1971, 1973, and 1974
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Ruud Krol DF1980Vancouver WhitecapsCaptain of the Netherlands team that reached the 1978 World Cup Final
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Johan Neeskens MF1979–1984New York CosmosReached World Cup finals with the Netherlands in 1974 and 1978;
Named to the 1974 World Cup All-Star Team;
Won 3 European Cups with Ajax from 1971 to 1973
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Rob Rensenbrink MF1980PortlandWinner of the 1976 Onze d'Or;
Reached World Cup finals with the Netherlands in 1974 and 1978;
Second leading scorer at the 1978 World Cup
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Wim Suurbier DF1979–1983Los Angeles Aztecs;
San Jose Earthquakes
Reached World Cup finals with the Netherlands in 1974 and 1978;
Won 3 European Cups with Ajax from 1971 to 1973
Ulster Banner.svg George Best MF1976–1982Los Angeles Aztecs;
Fort Lauderdale;
San Jose
1968 European Footballer of the Year
Flag of Paraguay.svg Julio César Romero MF1980–1983New York Cosmos1979 Copa América winner with Paraguay;
1985 South American Footballer of the Year
Flag of Peru.svg Teófilo Cubillas FW/MF1979–1983Fort LauderdaleNamed Best Young Player of 1970 World Cup;
1972 South American Footballer of the Year;
Scored 5 goals in two different World Cups (1970, 1978)
Named to 1978 World Cup All-Star Team
Flag of Poland.svg Kazimierz Deyna MF1981–1984San Diego SockersTop scorer at the 1972 Olympics;
Member of Poland team that finished 3rd at the 1974 World Cup;
Won the Bronze Ball as the 3rd best player at the 1974 World Cup
Flag of Portugal.svg Eusébio MF1975–1979Boston Minutemen;
Toronto; Las Vegas
1965 European Footballer of the Year;
1966 World Cup Golden Boot (top scorer)
Flag of Portugal.svg António Simões MF1975–1979Boston; San Jose;
Dallas
1962 European Cup winner with Benfica;
Member of Portugal's Magriços team that placed 3rd at 1966 World Cup
Flag of Scotland.svg Peter Lorimer MF1979–1983Toronto; VancouverScored 255 goals for Leeds United
Flag of Sweden.svg Björn Nordqvist DF1979–80MinnesotaFormer world record holder with 115 caps;
Played at the 1970, 1974, and 1978 World Cups

Attendance

Yearly average attendance

SeasonLowestLow TeamAverageHighestHigh Team2nd Highest2nd Team
19682,441Los Angeles Wolves4,6998,510Kansas City Spurs6,840Washington Whips
19691,601Baltimore Bays2,9304,273Kansas City Spurs3,371Atlanta Chiefs
19702,398Kansas City Spurs3,1634,506Rochester Lancers3,894Washington Darts
19712,440Montreal Olympique4,1545,993Toronto Metros5,871Rochester Lancers
19722,112Miami Gatos4,7807,773St. Louis Stars7,173Toronto Metros
19733,317Atlanta Apollos5,95411,501Philadelphia Atoms7,474Dallas Tornado
19743,458Toronto Metros7,77016,584San Jose Earthquakes13,454Seattle Sounders
19752,641Baltimore Comets7,93017,927San Jose Earthquakes16,826Seattle Sounders
19762,571Boston Minutemen10,29523,828Seattle Sounders23,121Minnesota Kicks
19773,848Connecticut Bicentennials13,55834,142*Cosmos32,775Minnesota Kicks
19784,188Chicago Sting13,08447,856*Cosmos30,928Minnesota Kicks
19795,626Philadelphia Fury14,20146,690New York Cosmos27,650Tampa Bay Rowdies
19804,465Philadelphia Fury14,44042,754New York Cosmos28,435Tampa Bay Rowdies
19814,670Dallas Tornado14,08434,835New York Cosmos23,704Montreal Manic
19824,922Edmonton Drillers13,15528,749New York Cosmos21,348Montreal Manic
19834,212San Diego Sockers13,25829,166Vancouver Whitecaps27,242New York Cosmos
19845,702San Diego Sockers10,75914,263Minnesota Strikers13,924Vancouver Whitecaps

*Cosmos dropped "New York" from name for 1977 and 1978 seasons

Single-game attendance records

The New York Cosmos hold 21 of the 24 top attendance records in NASL history. Of the 107 games involving NASL clubs that have drawn 40,000+ fans, 65 were Cosmos' home matches at Giants Stadium (excludes Soccer Bowl '78). The table below ranks teams by the number of 40,000+ crowds they attracted. [59] [60]

Team40,000+Highest Single AttendanceNotes
New York Cosmos65 matches77,691 vs Fort Lauderdale (1977)playoff game
Tampa Bay Rowdies12 matches56,389 vs California (1980) Fourth of July fireworks display after game
Minnesota Kicks8 matches49,572 vs San Jose (1976)playoff game
Seattle Sounders6 matches58,125 vs New York (1976)first sporting event in Kingdome
Soccer Bowl 4 matches74,901 [61] Cosmos vs Tampa Bay (1978)played in Giants Stadium
Montreal Manic4 matches58,542 vs Chicago (1981)playoff game
Vancouver Whitecaps3 matches60,342 vs Seattle (1983)first sporting event in BC Place
Los Angeles Aztecs2 matches48,483 vs Washington (1980)Fourth of July fireworks display after game
Washington Diplomats1 match53,351 vs New York (1980)nationally televised on ABC
Minnesota Strikers1 match52,621 vs Tampa Bay (1984) Beach Boys concert after game
Team America1 match50,108 vs Fort Lauderdale (1983)Beach Boys concert after game

See also

Related Research Articles

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The New York Cosmos were an American professional soccer club based in New York City and its suburbs. The team played home games in three stadiums around New York before moving in 1977 to Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, where it remained for the rest of its history. Founded in December 1970, the team competed in the North American Soccer League (NASL) until 1984 and was the strongest franchise in that league, both competitively and financially – based largely around its backing by Warner Communications President Steve Ross, which enabled it to sign internationally famous stars such as the Brazilian forward Pelé, Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia and the West German sweeper Franz Beckenbauer. The acquisition of these foreign players, particularly Pelé, made the Cosmos into what Gavin Newsham called "the most glamorous team in world football", and contributed to the development of soccer across the United States, a country where it had previously been largely ignored.

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Preceded by
American Soccer League
Division 1 Soccer League in the United States
1967–1984
Succeeded by
Major League Soccer