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North American Soccer League (NASL) was a professional soccer league with teams in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker that operated from 1968 to 1984.


In 1967 two professional soccer leagues started in the United States: the FIFAmarker-sanctioned United Soccer Association, which consisted of entire European and South American teams brought to the US and given local names, and the unsanctioned National Professional Soccer League. The National Professional Soccer League had a national television contract in the U.S. with the CBS television network, but the ratings for matches were unacceptable even by weekend daytime standards and the arrangement was terminated. The leagues merged in 1968 to form the North American Soccer League (NASL). It has been suggested that the timing of the merge was related to the huge 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 league lasted until the 1984 NASL season when it suspended operations. 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 NASL itself operated an indoor soccer league from 1979-80 to 1981-82 and in 1983-84.

The biggest club in the league and the organization's bellwether was the New York Cosmos, who drew upwards of 40,000 fans per game at their height while aging superstars Pelé (Brazilmarker) and Franz Beckenbauer (Germanymarker) 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 Stadiummarker (actually in East Rutherford, New Jerseymarker) 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 fewer than 5,000.

The NASL faced obstacles in regard to selling the sport of soccer to Americans, which was then completely foreign to the majority of them. The league "Americanized" the rules in the attempt to make the game more exciting, and comprehensible, to the average American 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, a 35 yard line for offsides rather than the usual half way line, and a shootout to decide matches that ended in a draw. The league began a college draft in 1972 in an attempt to increase the number of US- 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.

Over-expansion was a huge factor in the death of the league. 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. This resulted in the available personnel being spread too thinly, among other problems. Additionally, many of these new owners were not "soccer people", and once the perceived popularity started to decline, they got out as quickly as they got in. They also spent millions on aging stars to try to match the success of the Cosmos, and lost significant amounts of money in doing so.

Also, FIFA's decision to award the hosting of the 1986 FIFA World Cup to Mexico after Colombia withdrew, rather than the U.S., is considered a factor in the NASL's demise.

While 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. In the late-1980s, FIFA did award the World Cup to the U.S., which would be staged in 1994. It has also provided lessons for its successor Major League Soccer, which has taken precautions against such problems. American college and high school soccer still use some NASL-style rules.

NASL indoor

The NASL began playing indoor soccer as well as "outdoor" soccer in the mid-70s with a series of tournaments. The NASL started a full 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, but three teams (Chicago, Golden Bay, and San Diego) played in the MISL for that season. The NASL indoor season returned for 1983-84 with only seven teams but a 32-game schedule.

NASL champions

Year Winner (number of titles) Runners-up Top Scorer
1968 Atlanta Chiefs (1) San Diego Toros John Kowalik
1969 Kansas City Spurs (1) Atlanta Chiefs Kaizer Motaung
1970 Rochester Lancers (1) Washington Darts Kirk Apostolidis
1971 Dallas Tornado (1) Atlanta Chiefs Carlos Metidieri
1972 New York Cosmos (1) St. Louis Stars Randy Horton
1973 Philadelphia Atoms (1) Dallas Tornado Kyle Rote, Jr.
1974 Los Angeles Aztecs (1) Miami Toros Paul Child
1975 Tampa Bay Rowdies (1) Portland Timbers Steve David
1976 Toronto Metros-Croatia (1) Minnesota Kicks Giorgio Chinaglia
1977 New York Cosmos (2) Seattle Sounders Steve David
1978 New York Cosmos (3) Tampa Bay Rowdies Giorgio Chinaglia
1979 Vancouver Whitecaps (1) Tampa Bay Rowdies Oscar Fabbiani
1980 New York Cosmos (4) Fort Lauderdale Strikers Giorgio Chinaglia
1981 Chicago Sting (1) New York Cosmos Giorgio Chinaglia
1982 New York Cosmos (5) Seattle Sounders Giorgio Chinaglia
Karl-Heinz Granitza
1983 Tulsa Roughnecks (1) Toronto Blizzard Roberto Cabañas
1984 Chicago Sting (2) Toronto Blizzard Steve Zungul

NASL indoor champions

Year Winner (number of titles) Runners-up Top Scorer
1975 San Jose Earthquakes(1) Tampa Bay Rowdies Paul Child
1976 Tampa Bay Rowdies (1) Rochester Lancers
1979-80 Tampa Bay Rowdies (2) Memphis Rogues David Byrne
1980-81 Edmonton Drillers (1) Chicago Sting Karl-Heinz Granitza
1981-82 San Diego Sockers (1) Tampa Bay Rowdies Juli Veee
1983-84 San Diego Sockers (2) New York Cosmos Steve Zungul

Teams of NASL 1968-1984


Teams in NASL indoor 1979-84

  • Atlanta Chiefs (1979-81)
  • Calgary Boomers (1979-81 as Memphis Rogues in 1979-80)
  • California Surf (1979-81)
  • Chicago Sting (1980-82, 1983-84)
  • Dallas Tornado (1980-81)
  • Detroit Express (1979-81)
  • Edmonton Drillers (1980-82)
  • Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (1979-81)
  • Golden Bay Earthquakes (1980-84 as San Jose Earthquakes in 1980-82)
  • Jacksonville Tea Men (1979-82 as New England Tea Men 1979-80)
  • Los Angeles Aztecs (1979-81)
  • Minnesota Kicks (1979-81)
  • Montreal Manic (1981-82)
  • New York Cosmos (1981-82, 1983-84)
  • Portland Timbers (1980-82)
  • San Diego Sockers (1980-82, 1983-84)
  • Seattle Sounders (1980-82)
  • Tampa Bay Rowdies (1979-82, 1983-84)
  • Tulsa Roughnecks (1979-82, 1983-84)
  • Toronto Blizzard (1980-82)
  • Vancouver Whitecaps (1980-82, 1983-84)


Annual honors

MVP, Rookie and Coach of the Year

Year MVP Rookie Coach
1968 John Kowalik Kaizer Motaung Phil Woosnam
1969 Cirilio Fernandez Siegfried Stritzl Janos Bedl
1970 Carlos Metidieri Jim Leeker Sal de Rosa
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

Average attendance

  • 1968: 4,747
  • 1969: 4,699
  • 1970: 2,930
  • 1971: 3,163
  • 1972: 4,159
  • 1973: 4,780
  • 1974: 5,954
  • 1975: 7,770
  • 1976: 7,642
  • 1977: 10,295
  • 1978: 13,558
  • 1979: 13,084
  • 1980: 14,201
  • 1981: 14,084
  • 1982: 13,155
  • 1983: 13,258
  • 1984: 10,759

Teams named after NASL teams

See also


External links

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