Archive for the ‘NASL’ Category

This concludes the two-part “Great Philly Soccer Teams: Philadelphia Atoms.” You can read Part I here.

Before Atoms coach Al Miller took the young team to England to train and to scout for some British players to fill out the roster, back in Philadelphia, Atoms general manager Bob Ehlinger’s marketing skills were put into play. In addition to players,the team needed a name. So a name-the-team contest was held with the winner being awarded an all-expenses paid to the FA Cup Final. Press coverage was cultivated. Given the woeful state of Philadelphia professional sports at the time, the local press enthusiastically covered the new team. Favorable coverage was aided by the fact that throughout the season Miller proved to be a natural with the press.

The Atoms first game was away to the St. Louis Stars. Like the the Atoms, the Stars also fielded a squad filled with Americans, as they had done for years. It proved to be an inauspicious start as the Atoms lost 1-0 in front of a paltry 6,782 spectators. Concerns about whether the Atoms would be any good aside, some wondered if teams filled with Americans would be able to draw fans: with the exception of the Stars and Atoms, only 19 Americans were on the rosters of the other seven teams then in the NASL.

Steve Holroyd writes, “Skeptics around the league expected that the ‘Philadelphia Experiment’ would also fall flat. Philadelphia soccer fans thought otherwise: a league-record 21,700 fans went to the home opener at Veterans Stadium on May 11, “after a parade of 3,000 youngsters in full soccer dress welcomed the team.” The debut home game was against Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Tornado, a team that had won the NASL championship in 1971 and had made it to the semifinals in 1972. Though the match ended as a scoreless draw, the Atoms had shown they could hold their own against the league’s best. Throughout the season the fans kept coming. By the end of the season, attendance at Atoms games would be nearly twice the league average with 11,382 per game. (more…)


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Philadelphia Atoms LogoThe Philadelphia Atoms joined the NASL as an expansion team in 1973. They were the first expansion team to win a championship in its first year in any American professional sport. That they accomplished this with a squad managed by an American coach that was largely made up of Americans – many of whom were local products – led to the first Sports Illustrated cover to feature a soccer player. Their victory was in no small measure responsible for saving a then faltering NASL from dissolution.

Philadelphia soccer history has many important examples of teams that were backed by businesses: the John A. Manz team, who in 1897 became the first team from outside of  Southern New England/Northern New Jersey to win the AFA’s American Cup, was backed by a brewer; Bethlehem Steel FC, the most dominant team in American soccer of the 1910s and 1920s, by the steel company; Uhrik Truckers, winners of two ASL championships in the 1950s, by a trucking company. All of these teams, however, competed in leagues that were either amateur or semi-professional against teams that were largely backed by the kinds of ethnic social clubs that have contributed so much to American soccer history.

The Philadelphia Atoms were part of a new trend in American soccer toward professionalism in which teams, backed by business owners or groups, would have unprecedented media coverage on a national scale. The resulting soccer explosion of the 1970s led to the rapid expansion of youth soccer programs across the country. This in turn led to the movement of soccer into the national sport consciousness, the rise of the US national team as a legitimate power in world soccer, and the eventual establishment of a stable and growing professional league.  (more…)

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The U.S. Soccer Federation has brokered a deal for a single Division 2 soccer league to operate this year.

USSF officials announced the deal Thursday as a one-year compromise between the United Soccer Leagues and the breakaway teams that moved to form their own league, the North American Soccer League.

“This agreement allows us to continue to develop the professional game in many important markets around the country, while at the same time working towards the long-term stability of Division 2 professional soccer,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said.

The league will operate with two six-team conferences, one dubbed the USL Conference and the other named the NASL Conference. The Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, Carolina RailHawks, Crystal Palace Baltimore, Miami FC and Carolina Railhawks will play in the NASL Conference. The USL Conference will include the Portland Timbers, Puerto Rico Islanders, Austin Aztex FC, Rochester Rhinos, Tampa Bay Rowdies and and unnamed Minnesota team to replace the Minnesota Thunder.


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In Part 1 and Part 2 I provided a time-line of events leading up to last week. On Tuesday, The Kartik Report posted an update on the situation which said that “USSF has been working diligently to foster a compromise that will work in the best interests of all the affected clubs” and singled out Secretary General of US Soccer Dan Flynn for providing “remarkable leadership” and doing  “a remarkable job of attempting to build a consensus based solution to the extremely tricky situation.” But, as the report mentions, a gag order is in place so no one really knows what’s going on. In the end, we are left with only speculation: “I believe fans can be assured their teams will play in 2010, even if we don’t know which league they will compete in, just yet.”

So, in the spirit of speculation, what might happen?

The most likely scenario is that both the USL and the NASL will be sanctioned as Division 2 leagues for 2010. It may look a bit like baseball with two leagues and the champion of each league meeting for a national title. The question is whether USL-1 will be able to field enough teams to sustain a viable league. According to Inside Minnesota Soccer, it’s roster of clubs stands at three. IMNS puts eight teams in the NASL camp with one other apparently hedging it’s bets. By size alone it would seem that NASL has a better chance of survival and hence a better chance of becoming the only sanctioned Division 2 league in North America after 2010. (more…)

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On Tuesday I posted a timeline describing the development of the USL  since its origins as an indoor soccer league in 1986, through its absorption of other professional leagues in the 199os and its eventual (incidental?) purchase by Nike in 2008. Creating the time-line was made easier thanks to the hard work already done by Inside Minnesota Soccer and The Kartik Report. The time-line concluded with the sale of the league to NuRock Soccer Holdings at the end of August, 2009. I continue with developments in October, 2009 when things become even more interesting.

  • October 3: Inside Minnesota Soccer (IMNS) reports that five USL-1 teams – Minnesota Thunder, Carolina RailHawks, Miami FC Blues, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact – have not paid the required yearly USL franchise fee. The USL reacts by voiding player contracts.
  • October 5: Brian Wellman, president of the Carolina RailHawks, describes the recent actions of the USL as “unfortunate and unnecessary” . Wellman is elsewhere quoted as saying that such a move “only hurts the players, confuses the fans, alerts the media and worries the sponsors.” (more…)

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