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North American Soccer League (1968–84)

North American Soccer League
Country United States
Other club(s) from Canada
Confederation CONCACAF
Founded 1968
Folded 1985 (last season 1984)
Number of teams 24
Levels on pyramid 1
Promotion to None
Relegation to None
Last champions Chicago Sting
Most championships New York Cosmos (5 titles)
Original logo of the NASL 1968-1974

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.

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.[1] The league's most prominent team was the Rodney Marsh.

The league additionally played indoor soccer from 1975–1976 and 1979–1984.


  • History 1
    • Founding 1.1
    • Interest begins to grow 1.2
    • Pele and the New York Cosmos 1.3
    • Expansion and star players 1.4
    • Financial problems and contraction 1.5
    • Decline and demise 1.6
    • Legacy 1.7
    • NASL indoor 1.8
  • NASL champions 2
    • By year 2.1
    • By club 2.2
  • NASL indoor champions 3
    • By year 3.1
    • By club 3.2
  • Teams 4
    • Teams that played indoor seasons (1975–76, 1979–84) 4.1
  • Commissioners 5
  • Annual honors 6
    • MVP, Rookie and Coach of the Year 6.1
  • Teams named after NASL teams 7
  • Players 8
  • Attendance 9
    • Yearly average attendance 9.1
    • Single-game attendance records 9.2
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12



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. It has been suggested that the timing of the creation of these professional leagues was related to the amount of attention given throughout the English-speaking world to the victory by England in the 1966 FIFA World Cup and the resulting documentary film, Goal. The National Professional Soccer League had a national television contract in the U.S. with the CBS television network, and referees were instructed to whistle fouls and delay play to allow CBS to insert commercials.[2] The ratings for matches were unacceptable even by weekend daytime standards and the arrangement with CBS was terminated. Bill MacPhail, head of CBS Sports, attributed NASL's lack of TV appeal to empty stadiums with few fans, and to undistinguished foreign players who were unfamiliar to American soccer fans.[3]

The two leagues merged in December 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. 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 Pele's Santos and against English champions Manchester City.[4] Despite some of the league's successes, the league also had significant problems. The 17 teams included only 30 North American players.[4] 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.[4] Only five of the 17 teams returned for the 1969 season.

The NASL thought it needed to sell to North Americans the sport of soccer, which was then completely foreign to the majority of them. The league modified the rules in an attempt to make the game more exciting, and comprehensible, to the average sports fan. These changes included a clock that counted time down to zero as was typical of other timed American sports, rather than upwards to 90 minutes as was traditional. NASL implemented in 1972 a 35 yd (32 m) line for offside[5] (a rule change designed to reduce prevalent offside traps) rather than the usual half-way line, but in 1982 FIFA put an end to that NASL rule change.[6][7] NASL introduced a penalty shootout in 1974 to decide matches that ended in a draw. The league also carried over the points system used by the NPSL in the previous year in which teams were award 6 points for win and 3 for a draw, plus up to 3 bonus points for each goal scored. On five occasions this nontraditional system gave the regular season title to a team other than the one with the best record.

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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),[13] and former England goalkeeper Peter Bonetti.

Pele 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, Pele'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 Pele was there, and on the road the Cosmos also played in front of huge crowds that came to watch Pelé play.

Pele'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 Pele'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.[2][3] 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.[2][3] By 1976, NASL was being picked up by the mainstream media, with the sports pages of newspapers covering NASL.[3] The NASL was shown on the TVS network during 1977 and 1978, although some games were tape delayed or not carried in certain markets.[2]

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 while, along with Pelé (Brazil), another aging superstar Franz Beckenbauer (Germany) played for them. Although both well past their prime by the time they joined the NASL, 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.

North American Soccer League Progression
Season Teams Games Attendance Network TV
1968 17 32 4,699 CBS
1969 5 16 2,930 None
1970 6 24 3,163
1971 8 4,154
1972 14 4,780
1973 9 19 5,954
1974 15 20 7,770 CBS (1)
1975 20 22 7,642 CBS (2)
1976 10,295 CBS (2)
1977 18 26 13,558 TVS (7)
1978 24 30 13,084 TVS (6)
1979 14,201 ABC (9)
1980 32 14,440 ABC (8)
1981 21 14,084 ABC (1)
1982 14 13,155 None
1983 12 30 13,258
1984 9 24 10,759
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

Preceded by
American Soccer League
Division 1 Soccer League in the United States
Succeeded by
Major League Soccer
  • North American Soccer League on
  • American Soccer History Archives
  • NASL Attendance Figures on
  • The NASL: It's Alive But On Death Row - A salary cap has saved the soccer league from complete collapse, but its future looks forbidding indeed by Clive Gammon Sports Illustrated May 7, 1984
  • Archived NASL page
  • Complete Results from 1968-1984

External links

  1. ^ NASL TV: A Short History,
  2. ^ a b c d NASL TV: A Short Story,
  3. ^ a b c d Sports Illustrated, Soccer Is Getting A Toehold, August 30, 1976,
  4. ^ a b c The Year in American Soccer - 1968, Steve Holroyd,
  5. ^ "The Year in American Soccer - 1972". Retrieved February 6, 2014. 
  6. ^ The Question: Why is the modern offside law a stroke of genius?, The Guardian
  7. ^ Sports Illustrated, The Nasl: It's Alive But On Death Row, May 7, 1984,
  8. ^ FLYING THE AMERICAN FLAG: THE 1971 ST LOUIS STARS, Chris Nee, April 11, 2013,
  9. ^ a b c This Day In Football History, September 3, 1974 - The SI Cover Jinx Strikes Again, Sep 3, 2010, (There is a typo in the article - should say 1973 instead of 1974)
  10. ^ a b North American Soccer League Players, Stats, Standings,
  11. ^ Fun While It Lasted, August 25, 1974 – NASL Championship Game – Miami Toros vs. Los Angeles Aztecs,
  12. ^ a b The Year in American Soccer - 1974, Steve Holroyd,
  13. ^ a b Steve Holroyd, The Year in American Soccer - 1975,
  14. ^ a b US Soccer Players, George Best In America,
  15. ^ a b c Sports Illustrated, A Modified American Plan, March 31, 1980,
  16. ^ Scholten, Berend (March 3, 2005). "Michels – a total footballing legend". UEFA. Retrieved January 29, 2007. 
  17. ^ Sports Illustrated, Minnesota Had To Eat Croatmeal, Sep 6, 1976,
  18. ^ Football Republik, DEAL OF THE CENTURY – When Leicester City almost signed Johan Cruyff, June 26, 2013,
  19. ^ a b Fun While It Lasted, June 1, 1980 – Washington Diplomats vs. New York Cosmos,
  20. ^ Clive Toye, A Kick in the Grass (2006)
  21. ^ a b New York Times, N.A.S.L. IS LIKELY TO OUST WOOSNAM, April 25, 1982,
  22. ^ a b c Sports Illustrated, The Nasl: It's Alive But On Death Row, May 7, 1984,
  23. ^ a b c d Sports Illustrated, A Modified American Plan, March 31, 1980,
  24. ^ a b c Sports Illustrated, Tea Party Brewing In The Nasl, August 6, 1979,
  25. ^ Big Soccer, What killed the NASL?, August 13, 2012,
  26. ^, NASL TV: A Short History,
  27. ^ a b c d e Sports Illustrated, It's Time For Trimming Sails In The Nasl, Dec 1, 1980,
  28. ^ Hewson, Marillyn A.; Urquhart, Michael A. (1983). "Unemployment Continued to Rise in 1982 as Recession Deepened". Monthly Labor Review (Bureau of Labor Statistics) 106 (2): 3–12. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  29. ^ a b This Year in American Soccer - 1981,
  30. ^ a b Los Angeles Times, WORLD CUP USA '94 : A Model Failure : The NASL's Collapse Serves as a Painful Reminder of What a New League Should Not Do, July 3, 1994,
  31. ^ a b c The Telegraph, Soccer: Is it still the sport of the '80s?, Nov 12, 1981,,2551485
  32. ^ "NASL suspends operations for 1985" page 1D Minneapolis Star and Tribune March 29, 1985
  33. ^,1974145
  34. ^,3078494&dq=indoor+awry&hl=en
  35. ^,3097645&dq=george+strawbridge+cosmos&hl=en
  36. ^,3317860&dq=rowdies+had+to+do+more&hl=en
  37. ^ "TAMPA BAY ROWDIES APPRECIATION BLOG: 01/04/09 - 01/05/09". Retrieved January 2, 2013. 
  38. ^,2148965
  39. ^,4872070&dq=alex+perolli&hl=en
  40. ^ [1]
  41. ^ "The Year in American Soccer - 1982". Retrieved October 16, 2013. 
  42. ^ "The Year in American Soccer - 1969". Retrieved October 16, 2013. 
  43. ^ a b "NASL Owners Vote To Remove Phil Woosnam". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Sarasota Herald-Tribune). April 25, 1982. 
  44. ^ "Nothing But Blue Skies Does Woosnam", Sports Illustrated, May 30, 1977.
  45. ^,1716110&dq=clive+toye&hl=en
  46. ^ "All-time American soccer statistics". Retrieved October 16, 2013. 
  47. ^ "Tampa Bay Rowdies Appreciation Blog". Retrieved October 16, 2013. 


See also

Team 40,000+ Highest Single Attendance Notes
New York Cosmos 66 matches 77,691 vs Ft. Lauderdale (1977) playoff game
Tampa Bay Rowdies 12 matches 56,389 vs California (1980) Fourth of July fireworks display after game
Minnesota Kicks 8 matches 49,572 vs San Jose (1976) playoff game
Seattle Sounders 6 matches 58,125 vs New York (1976) first sporting event in Kingdome
Montreal Manic 4 matches 58,542 vs Chicago (1981) playoff game
Vancouver Whitecaps 3 matches 60,342 vs Seattle (1983) first sporting event in BC Place
Soccer Bowl 3 matches 53,326 Tulsa vs Toronto (1983) excludes Soccer Bowl '78
Los Angeles Aztecs 2 matches 48,483 vs Washington (1980) Fourth of July fireworks display after game
Washington Diplomats 1 match 53,351 vs New York (1980) nationally televised on ABC
Minnesota Strikers 1 match 52,621 vs Tampa Bay (1984) Beach Boys concert after game
Team America 1 match 50,108 vs Ft. Lauderdale (1983) Beach Boys concert after game
[47][46]. The table below ranks teams by the number of 40,000+ crowds they attracted.Soccer Bowl '78 in NASL history. Of the 107 games involving NASL clubs that have drawn 40,000+ fans, 66 were Cosmos' matches at Giants Stadium, including top attendance recordsThe New York Cosmos hold 21 of the 24

Single-game attendance records

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

Season Lowest Low Team Average Highest High Team 2nd Highest 2nd Team
1968 2,441 Los Angeles Wolves 4,699 8,510 Kansas City Spurs 6,840 Washington Whips
1969 1,601 Baltimore Bays 2,930 4,273 Kansas City Spurs 3,371 Atlanta Chiefs
1970 2,398 Kansas City Spurs 3,163 4,506 Rochester Lancers 3,894 Washington Darts
1971 2,440 Montreal Olympique 4,154 5,993 Toronto Metros 5,871 Rochester Lancers
1972 2,112 Miami Gatos 4,780 7,773 St. Louis Stars 7,173 Toronto Metros
1973 3,317 Atlanta Apollos 5,954 11,501 Philadelphia Atoms 7,474 Dallas Tornado
1974 3,458 Toronto Metros 7,770 16,584 San Jose Earthquakes 13,454 Seattle Sounders
1975 2,641 Baltimore Comets 7,930 17,927 San Jose Earthquakes 16,826 Seattle Sounders
1976 2,571 Boston Minutemen 10,295 23,828 Seattle Sounders 23,121 Minnesota Kicks
1977 3,848 Connecticut Bicentennials 13,558 34,142 *Cosmos 32,775 Minnesota Kicks
1978 4,188 Chicago Sting 13,084 47,856 *Cosmos 30,928 Minnesota Kicks
1979 5,626 Philadelphia Fury 14,201 46,690 New York Cosmos 27,650 Tampa Bay Rowdies
1980 4,465 Philadelphia Fury 14,440 42,754 New York Cosmos 28,435 Tampa Bay Rowdies
1981 4,670 Dallas Tornado 14,084 34,835 New York Cosmos 23,704 Montreal Manic
1982 4,922 Edmonton Drillers 13,155 28,749 New York Cosmos 21,348 Montreal Manic
1983 4,212 San Diego Sockers 13,258 29,166 Vancouver Whitecaps 27,242 New York Cosmos
1984 5,702 San Diego Sockers 10,759 14,263 Minnesota Strikers 13,924 Vancouver Whitecaps

Yearly average attendance


Player Position NASL years NASL club(s) Accolades (Pre-NASL)
Pelé FW 1975-77 New York Cosmos Three World Cup championships with Brazil in 1958, 1962, 1970
Eusébio MF 1975-79 Boston Minutemen;
Toronto; Las Vegas
1965 European Footballer of the Year;
1966 World Cup Golden Boot (top scorer)
António Simões MF 1975-79 Boston; San Jose;
1962 European Cup winner with Benfica;
Member of Portugal's Magriços team that placed 3rd at 1966 World Cup
Juan Carlos Masnik DF 1975 New York Cosmos Captained Uruguay at the 1974 FIFA World Cup;
Captained Nacional de Montevideo on winning the 1971 Intercontinental Cup
and 1972 Copa Interamericana
Geoff Hurst FW 1976 Seattle Scored a hat trick for England at the 1966 World Cup Final;
1968 Euro All-Star Team
Bobby Moore DF 1976; 1978 San Antonio;
Captained England to victory at the 1966 World Cup
George Best MF 1976-82 Los Angeles Aztecs;
Ft. Lauderdale;
San Jose
1968 European Footballer of the Year
Gordon Banks GK 1977-78 Ft. Lauderdale GK for England during their 1966 World Cup championship run;
Six-time FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year
Carlos Alberto DF 1977-82 New York Cosmos;
Captained Brazil to victory at the 1970 World Cup
F. Beckenbauer DF 1977-80; 1983 New York Cosmos Captained Germany to victory at the 1974 World Cup
Johnny Giles MF 1978 Philadelphia Fury Won several titles with Leeds United
Björn Nordqvist DF 1979-80 Minnesota Former world record holder with 115 caps;
Played at the 1970, 1974, and 1978 World Cups
Gerd Muller FW 1979-81 Ft. Lauderdale 1970 European Footballer of the Year;
Scored 10 goals at the 1970 World Cup;
1974 World Cup winner
Johann Cryuff MF 1979-81 Los Angeles Aztecs;
Washington Diplomats
Led the Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final;
European Footballer of the Year award in 1971, 1973, and 1974
Teófilo Cubillas FW/MF 1979-83 Ft. Lauderdale Joint 2nd highest scorer at the 1978 World Cup with 5 goals
Peter Lorimer MF 1979-83 Toronto; Vancouver Scored 255 goals for Leeds United
Johan Neeskens MF 1979-84 New York Cosmos Reached 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 1971-1973
Rob Rensenbrink MF 1980 Portland Winner 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
Ruud Krol DF 1980 Vancouver Whitecaps Captain of the Netherlands team that reached the 1978 World Cup Final
Oscar DF 1980 New York Cosmos Played for Brazil at the 1978 and 1982 World Cups
Elías Figueroa DF 1981 Ft. Lauderdale South American Footballer of the Year in 1974, 1975, and 1976;
Named to the 1974 World Cup All-Star Team
Kazimierz Deyna MF 1981-84 San Diego Sockers Top 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
Roberto Bettega FW 1983-84 Toronto Blizzard Named to the 1978 World Cup All-Star Team;
Ranked third on Juventus' career goals scored (#2 at time of retirement)

During NASL's peak during the late 1970s and early 1980s, NASL brought some of the world's best soccer players to the United States. The trend was started when the New York Cosmos signed Pele in 1975. At one time, NASL teams 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 1968 to 1976, seven of the nine awards—Best (1968), Muller (1970), Cruyuff (1971, '73, '74), Beckenbauer (1972, '76) —were given to players who went on to play in NASL. The following table shows a select few of the NASL players who had collected international accolades before joining NASL.


The current 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.

Teams named after NASL teams

Year MVP Rookie Coach
1968 John Kowalik Kaizer Motaung Phil Woosnam
1969 Cirilio Fernandez Cirilio Fernandez Janos Bedl
1970 Carlos Metidieri Jim Leeker Sal DeRosa
1971 Carlos Metidieri Randy Horton Ron Newman
1972 Randy Horton Mike Winter Casey Frankiewicz
1973 Warren Archibald Kyle Rote, Jr. Al Miller
1974 Peter Silvester Doug McMillan John Young
1975 Steve David Chris Bahr John Sewell
1976 Pelé Steve Pecher Eddie Firmani
1977 Franz Beckenbauer Jim McAlister Ron Newman
1978 Mike Flanagan Gary Etherington Tony Waiters
1979 Johan Cruyff Larry Hulcer Timo Liekoski
1980 Roger Davies Jeff Durgan Alan Hinton
1981 Giorgio Chinaglia Joe Morrone, Jr. Willy Roy
1982 Peter Ward Pedro DeBrito Johnny Giles
1983 Roberto Cabanas Gregg Thompson Don Popovic
1984 Steve Zungul Roy Wegerle Ron Newman

MVP, Rookie and Coach of the Year

Annual honors

  • 1967: Dick Walsh (USA) - After 18 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was chosen to serve as commissioner of first the United Soccer Association (USA) in 1966, then the North American Soccer League (NASL), which resulted from the merger of the USA and the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) prior to the 1968 season. He served the NASL through its first full season, 1968, then returned to baseball.
  • 1967: Ken Macker (NPSL)
  • 1968: Walsh and Macker co-commissioners
  • 1969–83: Phil Woosnam - He is credited as an important factor in the development of the NASL, and had been a major figure in promoting the league and had secured TV contracts from CBS and ABC.[43] He played a key role during 1970 in recruiting executives at Warner Communications to invest in an expansion team—the New York Cosmos.[44] Woosnam oversaw the westward expansion of NASL in the early 1970s, establishing teams in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, and Vancouver. However, he also guided the league into several poor business decisions, such as over-expansion to 24 teams, and the league's owners had been losing significant money[43] and was removed from his duties as commissioner of the NASL in 1983 following a vote of the club owners.
  • 1983–84: Howard J. Samuels - His pioneering methods in the petrochemical industry and success in the then niche household consumer market translated into posts as Vice President of the Mobil Oil Corporation, Commissioner of the North American Soccer League, and Chairman to Elms Capital Management, Alexander Proudfoot PLC, and Communities In Schools.
  • 1984–85: Clive Toye (acting) - After the sudden death of Howard J. Samuels, Toye was appointed interim president of the NASL in December 1984.[45] The league ceased operations the following Spring.


  • 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 (1975–76, 1979, 1980–81)
  • Detroit Express (1979–81)
  • Edmonton Drillers (1980–82)
  • Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (1979–81, 1983)
  • Golden Bay Earthquakes (1983–84)
  • Hartford Bicentennials (1975)
  • Jacksonville Tea Men (1980–82)
  • Los Angeles Aztecs (1975, 1979–81)
  • Memphis Rogues (1979–80)
  • Miami Toros (1975–76)
  • Minnesota Kicks (1979–81)
  • 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 (1975–76)
  • Saint Louis Stars (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 (1979–84)
  • Washington Diplomats (1975–76)
  • Vancouver Whitecaps (1975–76, 1980–82, 1983–84)

Teams that played indoor seasons (1975–76, 1979–84)

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.

*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.

Team NASL Seasons NASL Evolution of Franchise Other Leagues
Atlanta Apollos 1973 Chiefs→Apollos
Atlanta Chiefs 1968-1972 Chiefs→Apollos NPSL
Atlanta Chiefs (1979) 1979-1981 Caribous→Chiefs (1979)
Baltimore Bays 1968-1969 NPSL
Baltimore Comets 1974-1975 Comets→JawsQuicksilversSockers
Boston Beacons 1968 USA
Boston Minutemen 1974-1976
California Surf 1978-1981 Stars→Surf
Calgary Boomers 1981 Rogues→Boomers
Caribous of Colorado 1978 Caribous→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 1974-1975 Dynamos→Kicks
Detroit Cougars 1968 USA
Detroit Express 1978-1981 Express→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 1975-1976 Bicentennials→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 1978-1980 Rogues→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 Olympique 1971-1973
Montreal Manic 1981-1983 Fury→Manic
New England Tea Men 1978-1980 Tea Men→Jacksonville
New York Cosmos 1971-76, 1979-84 New 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 1978-1980 Fury→Manic
Portland Timbers 1975-1982
Rochester Lancers 1970-1980 ASL
Saint Louis Stars 1968-1977 Stars→Surf NPSL
San Antonio Thunder 1975-1976 Thunder→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 1974-1982 Earthquakes→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 1978-1984 MetrosMetros-Croatia→Blizzard
Toronto Falcons 1968 NPSL
Toronto Metros 1971-1974 Metros→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 1970-1971 Darts→GatosTorosStrikersMinnesota ASL
Washington Diplomats 1974-1980
Washington Diplomats (1981) 1981 Express→Diplomats (1981)
Washington Whips 1968 USA

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



Club Winner Runner-Up Seasons Won Seasons Runner-Up
Tampa Bay Rowdies 3 3 1976, 1979–80, 1983 1975,1979, 1981–82
San Diego Sockers 2 0 1981–82, 1983–84
San Jose Earthquakes 1 0 1975
Dallas Tornado 1 0 1979
Edmonton Drillers 1 0 1980–81
Rochester Lancers 0 1 1976
Memphis Rogues 0 1 1979–80
Chicago Sting 0 1 1980–81
Montreal Manic 0 1 1983
New York Cosmos 0 1 1983–84

By club

Year Winner (number of titles) Runners-up Top Team in Regular Season Top Scorer Winning Coach
1975 San Jose Earthquakes (1) Tampa Bay Rowdies San Jose Earthquakes 4-0 * (tournament only) Paul Child Ivan Toplak
1976 Tampa Bay Rowdies (1) Rochester Lancers Tampa Bay Rowdies 4-0 * (tournament only) Julie Veee Eddie Firmani
1979 Dallas Tornado (1) Tampa Bay Rowdies Dallas Tornado 2-0 * (tournament only) Jim Ryan Al Miller
1979–80 Tampa Bay Rowdies (2) Memphis Rogues Atlanta Chiefs 10-2 David Byrne Gordon Jago
1980–81 Edmonton Drillers (1) Chicago Sting Chicago Sting 13-5 Karl-Heinz Granitza Timo Liekoski
1981–82 San Diego Sockers (1) Tampa Bay Rowdies Edmonton Drillers 13-5 Juli Veee Ron Newman
1983 Tampa Bay Rowdies (3) Montreal Manic Montreal Manic 4-2 * (double round-robin stage) Laurie Abrahams
Dale Mitchell
Al Miller
1983–84 San Diego Sockers (2) New York Cosmos San Diego Sockers 21-11 Steve Zungul Ron Newman

By year

NASL indoor champions

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

Club Winner Runner-Up Seasons Won Seasons Runner-Up
New York Cosmos/Cosmos# 5 1 1972, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982 1981
Chicago Sting 2 0 1981, 1984
Atlanta Chiefs 1 2 1968 1969, 1971
Tampa Bay Rowdies 1 2 1975 1978, 1979
Toronto Metros/Blizzard 1 2 1976 1983, 1984
Dallas Tornado 1 1 1971 1973
Kansas City Spurs 1 0 1969
Rochester Lancers 1 0 1970
Philadelphia Atoms 1 0 1973
Los Angeles Aztecs 1 0 1974
Vancouver Whitecaps 1 0 1979
Tulsa Roughnecks 1 0 1983
Seattle Sounders 0 2 1977, 1982
San Diego Toros 0 1 1968
Washington Darts 0 1 1970
St. Louis Stars 0 1 1972
Miami Toros 0 1 1974
Portland Timbers 0 1 1975
Minnesota Kicks 0 1 1976
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 0 1 1980

By club

* 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.[42]
# The New York Cosmos dropped "New York" from its name for the 1977 and 1978 seasons, then returned to the full name.

Year Winner (number of titles) Runners-up Top Team in Regular Season (points) Top Scorer (points) Winning Coach
1968 Atlanta Chiefs (1) San Diego Toros San Diego Toros (186 points) Janusz Kowalik Phil Woosnam
1969 Kansas City Spurs (1) Atlanta Chiefs Kansas City Spurs (110 points) Kaizer Motaung Janos Bedl
1970 Rochester Lancers (1) Washington Darts Washington Darts (137 points) Kirk Apostolidis Sal DeRosa[38]
1971 Dallas Tornado (1) Atlanta Chiefs Rochester Lancers (141 points) Carlos Metidieri Ron Newman
1972 New York Cosmos (1) St. Louis Stars New York Cosmos (77 points) Randy Horton Gordon Bradley
1973 Philadelphia Atoms (1) Dallas Tornado Dallas Tornado (111 points) Kyle Rote, Jr. Al Miller
1974 Los Angeles Aztecs (1) Miami Toros Los Angeles Aztecs (110 points) Paul Child Alex Perolli[39]
1975 Tampa Bay Rowdies (1) Portland Timbers Portland Timbers (138 points) Steve David Eddie Firmani
1976 Toronto Metros-Croatia (1) Minnesota Kicks Tampa Bay Rowdies (154 points) Giorgio Chinaglia Domagoj Kapetanović
1977 Cosmos# (2) Seattle Sounders Fort Lauderdale Strikers (161 points) Steve David Eddie Firmani
1978 Cosmos# (3) Tampa Bay Rowdies Cosmos# (212 points) Giorgio Chinaglia Eddie Firmani
1979 Vancouver Whitecaps (1) Tampa Bay Rowdies New York Cosmos (216 points) Oscar Fabbiani Tony Waiters[40]
1980 New York Cosmos (4) Fort Lauderdale Strikers New York Cosmos (213 points) Giorgio Chinaglia Hennes Weisweiler
& Yasin Özdenak
1981 Chicago Sting (1) New York Cosmos New York Cosmos (200 points) Giorgio Chinaglia Willy Roy
1982 New York Cosmos (5) Seattle Sounders New York Cosmos (203 points) [41] Julio Mazzei
1983 Tulsa Roughnecks (1) Toronto Blizzard New York Cosmos (194 points) Roberto Cabañas Terry Hennessey
1984 Chicago Sting (2) Toronto Blizzard Chicago Sting (120 points) Steve Zungul Willy Roy

By year

NASL champions

The NASL indoor season returned for 1983–84 with only seven teams but a 32-game schedule. [37] in early 1983.NASL Grand Prix of Indoor Soccer Tournament for that season. Four other teams (Ft. Lauderdale, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Tulsa) competed in a short Major Indoor Soccer League 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 went 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 [36] was played in January 1979 before a full arena over two days.Budweiser Invitational For the following few 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 the four-team [35][34] The NASL began playing indoor soccer as well as "outdoor" soccer in

NASL indoor

NASL Indoor Progression
Year Participation Games Played
1975 16 of 20 teams 2-4 games
1976 12 of 20 teams
1977 - -
1978 - -
1979 4 of 24 teams 4 games
1979-80 10 of 24 teams 12 games
1980-81 19 of 21 teams 18 games
1981-82 13 of 14 teams
1983 4 of 12 teams 8 games
1983-84 7 of 9 teams 32 games

Several of the NASL team names have been later reused for teams in later soccer leagues. The Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, and Vancouver Whitecaps names have all been used for successor teams in Major League Soccer, with other team names (New York Cosmos, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers) used in the Division II NASL that began play in 2011.

Although the NASL ultimately failed, it introduced 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).


However, four NASL teams (Chicago Sting, Minnesota Strikers, New York Cosmos, and San Diego Sockers) joined the Major Indoor Soccer League for its 1984–85 season. The Golden Bay Earthquakes and Tampa Bay Rowdies managed to survive as independent franchises until they joined the WSA and AISL respectively. The Rowdies were the last surviving NASL franchise to play outdoor soccer, lasting until February 1994.[33] The Sockers' were the final league franchise to dissolve. They survived playing exclusively indoor soccer until 1996.

The league lasted until the 1984 NASL season. 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.[32]

With the NASL declining rapidly in the early 1980s and losing many franchises, NASL made several changes in an attempt to keep the league 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.[21] 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.[22]

Decline and demise

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.[30] 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.

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.[31] 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.[31] 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.[31] NASL shrank from 21 teams to 14.

NASL had also decided to sell TV advertising locally, instead of recruiting national sponsors.[30] 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.[27]

As a result, the league ran a collective deficit in 1980 of about $30 million, with each team losing money.[27] The San Diego Sockers lost $10 million from 1978 to 1983, and Tulsa lost $8 million from 1980 to 1983.[22] The Washington Diplomats folded in November 1980, after owners MSG Corp. lost a rumored $5 million on the team in 1979 and 1980.[19]

Another headache for NASL was competition from the resurgent Major Indoor Soccer League.[29] The MISL began during the 1978-79 season, grew quickly, and by the early 1980s MISL was averaging over 8,000 fans per season. 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.[29] 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.

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.[27] 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.[27] Owners spent millions on aging stars to try to match the success of the Cosmos, and lost significant amounts of money in doing so.

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.[27] In the early 1980s the U.S. economy went in the doldrums, with unemployment reaching 10.8% in 1982, its highest level since World War II.[28] NASL's owners, who were losing money, were not immune from the broader economy.

Financial problems and contraction

With the end of the 1970s, NASL seemed poised for moderate success.[15] The 1979 season had seen attendance increase by 8%. ABC televised several matches during the 1979 and 1980 seasons.[26] 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.[15]

In 1980, the minimum number of U.S. and Canadian starters was raised to three.[24] The 1980 season was referred to as "the year of the North American player" with a renewed emphasis on "native players."[23] 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.[23]

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[23]—and that each 17-man roster carry six native players.[24] 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.[24] 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.[25]

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."[22] The Portland Timbers tripled their team payroll from 1979 to 1980 in an effort to keep up with the league average.[23]

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.

After LA, Cruyff then moved on to the Washington Diplomats.[18] 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.[19]

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 the suburbs of Minneapolis.[17] The Kicks won their division four years in a row from 1976–79, drawing over 23,000 fans in each of those four seasons (peaking at 32,775 in 1977).

[16]" in the 1970s.Total Football, the man credited with the invention of the Dutch playing style of "Dutch national team, and the Barcelona, Ajax Amsterdam, who had coached Rinus Michels LA also brought in a new head coach from 1979-1980, [15] Cruyff was an instant success, doubling the team's attendance, and winning the league's MVP award.[14].Johann Cruyff in 1978, and in 1979 Los Angeles signed its next big star, Fort Lauderdale Best was traded to [14]

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