EPISODE 130: St. Louis: The Original Soccer City USA – With Dave Lange

On August 20, 2019, the city of St. Louis, MO was officially awarded the 28th franchise in Major League Soccer, with an anticipated inaugural season beginning in 2022.  And while the club begins its efforts to get its team name, new downtown stadium and initial soccer operations in place, we take some time this week to reflect on the city’s deep and rich soccer history – perhaps unmatched by any locale in the United States.

Dave Lange (Soccer Made in St. Louis: A History of the Game in America’s First Soccer Capital) joins the ‘cast to trace the undeniably symbiotic relationship between the Gateway City and the Beautiful Game – as well as its impact on the development of the sport (especially professionally) across America.

As we root for the new St. Louis MLS team (our name suggestion: Gateway FC!) to meaningfully recognize and incorporate this important past, Lange helps tide us over in the interim as he discusses:

  • The St. Louis transplant who help launch both the USA’s first governing body for the sport, as well as its first professional league (the American Soccer League) during the Roaring Twenties;

  • The deep-rooted amateur, scholastic and collegiate landscape that kept the city at the center of the nation’s soccer development (including occasional US national team flashes of brilliance);

  • The seminal, but oft-forgotten St. Louis Stars of the 1967 NPSL and 1968-77 NASL;

  • How “soc-hoc” evolved into a professional indoor soccer explosion in the 1980s & 90s with St. Louis (Steamers, Storm, Ambush) as its epicenter; AND

  • The “invisible hand” of Anheuser Busch executive Denny Long.

PLUS:  There “Ain’t No Stoppin’” our tribute to the MISL’s iconic St. Louis Steamers!

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EPISODE 128: NASL Soccer’s Chicago Sting – With Mike Conklin

Prolific Chicago Tribune sportswriter Mike Conklin (Goal Fever!; Transfer U.) joins the podcast to help us go deep into the story of the North American Soccer League’s twice-champion Chicago Sting – a club he covered extensively and exclusively from its little-noticed launch in late 1974 all the way through its breakthrough Soccer Bowl ’81 title.

The personal passion project of prominent Chicago commodities trader Lee Stern, the Sting came to life as one of five expansion franchises for the NASL’s ambitious 1975 campaign, and the team’s early seasons were heavily British-flavored under coach (and former Manchester United legend) Bill Foulkes. 

Despite winning a division title in 1976, the Sting was largely uncompetitive during its first few seasons – and worse, drew poorly as the team shuffled games between Soldier Field, Comiskey Park, and Wrigley Field each summer.  By 1978 – when they went 0-10 to start the season – the Sting had the worst attendance in the entire 24-team NASL, averaging a mere 4,188 fans per match. 

Things rebounded later that year, however, when assistant coach (and early NPSL/NASL player) Willy Roy was permanently elevated to head coach, and an influx of standout German players like Karl-Heinz Granitza, Arno Steffenhagen, Horst Blankenburg, and Hertha Berlin’s Jorgen Kristensen soon turned “Der Sting” into one of the league’s most exciting and attractive sides.

By 1980, the club had vaulted into the league’s elite – including and especially an uncanny mastery over the oft-dominant New York Cosmos – which ultimately extended into the 1981 NASL final, securing Chicago’s first professional sports championship since the Bears’ NFL title in 1963.

Conklin was there to chronicle all of it as the Tribune’s Sting beat reporter – and we dig in with to recall some of the club’s most memorable moments.

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EPISODE 127: A British View of US Pro Soccer History – With Tom Scholes

UK sportswriter Tom Scholes (Stateside Soccer: The Definitive History of Soccer in the United States) joins host Tim Hanlon to discuss the surprisingly long, colorfully vibrant and regularly misunderstood history of the world’s most popular sport in America.

While even the most erudite of the game’s international scholars mistakenly (though understandably) define the US pro game’s epicenter as the chaotic, post-1966 World Cup launch of the North American Soccer League – the roots of organized soccer actually date as far back as the American Civil War, around the time when the first rules around “American football” were also coming into focus.

In fact, US soccer’s actual first “golden age” can be traced to the Roaring 1920s when immigrant-rich corporate teams in the first American Soccer League rivaled the nascent National Football League in popularity, and US national teams regularly qualified for the first-ever FIFA World Cups in 1930 (finishing third) and 1934.

While a heavily ethnic successor ASL and regional semi-pro circuits kept American soccer’s flickering flame alive (not to mention an international headline-grabbing 1950 World Cup upset of then-world power England), the organized game in the United States continued to grow – albeit regionally niche and nationally inchoate – especially at the pro level.

Yet, the Bill Cox-created International Soccer League of the early 1960s proved that American fan interest in top-flight professional soccer played by the world’s premier clubs was real – setting the kindling for the NASL’s eventual wildfire during the following decade, yet eventual flameout in 1984.

Since then, Scholes suggests, the US has finally entered its third golden age of soccer – as the no-longer “new” Major League Soccer closes in on its 24th consecutive season of growth (recently adding history-rich St. Louis as its 28th North American market) – while the women’s national team extends its unprecedented dominance on the international stage.

Still, soccer’s future success in America is by no means guaranteed – and the frequent travails of America’s long history with the game provide ample lessons of what might ultimately lie ahead.

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EPISODE #125: San Jose Sharks Broadcaster Randy Hahn

Before embarking on his incredible 29-year (and counting) run as play-by-play lead for NHL hockey’s San Jose Sharks, NBC Sports California sportscaster Randy Hahn was first known to 1980s pro soccer audiences as the versatile radio and TV voice behind the short-lived Edmonton Drillers of the North American Soccer League as well as the dynastic San Diego Sockers of both the NASL and the Major Indoor Soccer League.

We descend deep into the Good Seats audio archives to revisit some of the more memorable (and sometimes downright forgettable) moments from Hahn’s North American indoor and outdoor soccer broadcasting exploits, including:

  • Covering the original NASL Vancouver Whitecaps at a commercial station while still a college student at the University of British Columbia;

  • Answering the call for a last-minute/first-ever radio play-by-play assignment for a Drillers “outdoor” game in Houston;

  • Learning the differences between calling slower-building outdoor matches vs. the faster-moving indoor game;

  • Winning “One for the Thumb” – and then some - with the indoor Sockers;

  • The coaching genius and indelible legacy of Sockers head coach Ron Newman; AND

  • How Hahn found his “way to San Jose” with the return of pro hockey to the Bay Area.

PLUS:  We dig up the long-forgotten San Diego Sockers official theme song!

Enjoy a FREE MONTH of The Great Courses Plus streaming video service – including the new series “Fundamentals of Photography” – created in conjunction with National Geographic!

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EPISODE #122: Black Pioneers of the NASL – With Patrick Horne

Brooklyn College women’s soccer head coach and former NASL (Memphis Rogues, New England Tea Men) and ASL (New Jersey Americans) pro player Patrick Horne (Black Pioneers of the North American Soccer League) joins the podcast to help shine a light on the largely unrecognized contributions of black players to both the success of North America’s first major foray into pro soccer, and the growth of the sport’s popularity in the US and Canada in the decades since.

While no one disputes the significance of the June 1975 signing of Brazilian superstar Pelé to the league’s flagship New York Cosmos as the watershed that legitimized soccer’s viability as a professional sport in North America (major world-class talent like Portuguese legend Eusebio and Brazilian star defender Carlos Alberto quickly followed), black players from various corners of the globe had already been plying their trade in the fledgling NASL years before – some as early as the competing 1967 leagues (NPSL and USA) that preceded it. 

And many of them were unqualified standouts, despite the league’s early struggles.

Exceptional black talent from places like: Bermuda (1972 MVP Randy Horton; Clyde Best); Trinidad & Tobago (MVPs Warren Archibald [1973] & Steve David [1975]); South Africa (1968 Rookie of the Year Kaizer Motaung; “Ace” Ntsoelengoe); Nigeria (Ade Coker); England (Mark Lindsay; and scores of others (including a number of notables from the US collegiate ranks) all helped to stabilize and strengthen the pro game during the 1970s and early 1980s until the NASL’s unceremonious collapse in 1984. 

Even then, many stayed in their adopted homelands to eventually become coaches and administrators, helping to keep the spirit of the game alive while the US and Canada began its long rebuilding process to get back to top-tier pro soccer.

PLUS: The “Black Pearl” sings!

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EPISODE #120: The Portland Timbers’ Origin Story – With Michael Orr

As the 2019 version of the Portland Timbers celebrates its 10th season in Major League Soccer, we spin the WABAC Machine dial back 44 years earlier to 1975 – when the club’s original namesake became an overnight sensation (figuratively and literally) in the then-20-team North American Soccer League. 

The last of the NASL’s five newly announced sides for that season (along with Chicago, San Antonio, Tampa Bay, and Hartford), the “Timbers” weren’t even named (via an open “name the team” contest) until March of 1975 – just two months after having been awarded the franchise, and barely a month before its first scheduled pre-season match.

Despite the haste, the Timbers immediately became the toast of both the Rose City and the league during the summer of 1975, as the club compiled the NASL’s best regular season record, earned a trip to the league championship “Soccer Bowl” (losing to the Rowdies 2-0), and regularly drawing 20,000+ crowds to Portland’s venerable Civic Stadium – earning the self-appointed moniker “Soccer City, USA” in the process.

Current MLS Timbers fan and de facto club historian Michael Orr (The 1975 Portland Timbers: The Birth of Soccer City) joins host Tim Hanlon this week to delve deep into the magical first year of Portland’s top-tier pro soccer franchise – including the personalities that made it work, the fans that made it special, and the traditions that still continue today in the team’s since-named (and newly renovated) Providence Park.

PLUS: “Green is the Color” – the long-lost Peter Yeates/Eric Beck/Ron Brady-penned 1975 Timbers theme song!

Enjoy a FREE MONTH of The Great Courses Plus streaming video service – including the just-released 24-chapter lecture series “Play Ball! The Rise of Baseball as America’s Pastime” – created in conjunction with the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum!

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EPISODE #116: A Thinking Man’s Guide to Defunct Leagues – With Stephen Provost

This week, we offer a refresher course in the history of forgotten pro sports leagues with veteran newspaper editor, current long-form author and fellow defunct sports enthusiast Stephen Provost – whose recent book A Whole Different League is an essential primer for anyone seeking an entrée into the genre.

Provost serves up a smorgasbord of highlights gleaned from his personal memories of and research into the various nooks and crannies of what “used-to-be” in professional team sports, including:

  • The curiosity of 9,000 Los Angeles Aztecs NASL soccer fans in a cavernous 100,000-seat Rose Bowl;

  • The oft-forgotten Continental Football League of the late 1960s, operating in the shadows of the mighty NFL and colorful AFL;

  • The enigmatic one-season wonder of the 1961-62 National Bowling League;

  • Jackie Robinson’s almost pro football career;

  • Federal League all-star Benny Kauff and the major league baseball career-ending auto theft he didn’t commit; AND

  • The legend of the World Football League’s Jim “King” Corcoran – the “poor man’s Joe Namath.”

PLUS: we revisit the story of women’s pro basketball pioneer (and “Good Seats” episode #28 guest) “Machine Gun” Molly Bolin (Kazmer), the subject of Provost’s new biography, The Legend of Molly Bolin: Women's Pro Basketball Trailblazer.

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EPISODE #115: The North American Soccer League’s Rochester Lancers – With Michael Lewis

After more than 40 years of covering the “beautiful game,” Newsday sportswriter and FrontRowSoccer.com editor Michael Lewis (Soccer for Dummies) knows more than a thing or two about the evolution of soccer in this country.  A self-professed “Zelig of soccer,” the NYC-based Lewis has covered some of the sport’s most important events, including eight World Cups, seven Olympic tournaments, and all 23 MLS Cups (and counting) – not to mention an endless array of matches and related off-the-field activities across leagues and competitions on both the domestic and international stages over that span.  If it happened in American soccer since his start as a cub reporter at the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle in 1975, Lewis was probably there.

It was in Rochester that Lewis got his first taste of US pro soccer as the assigned beat reporter for the North American Soccer League’s fledgling Rochester Lancers – a team that literally helped save the down-to-four-team league from extinction in 1970 when owner Charlie Schiano moved the club from the regional semi-pro American Soccer League (along with the similarly-situated Washington Darts) where it had played since 1967.

The Lancers promptly won the title in their first NASL season, and featured the circuit’s first breakout star – 5′ 4″ Brazilian scoring sensation Carlos “Little Mouse” Metidieri, who nabbed league MVP honors in both 1970 & 1971. 

By 1973, however, Metidieri had been traded to the expansion Boston Minutemen, and Schiano was forced to sell controlling interest in the club to bolster its finances – and the Lancers promptly descended into mediocrity.  Though Schiano re-acquired majority ownership in late 1976, the team rarely achieved more than middling success thereafter – save for an anomalous 1977 season that saw the small-market Lancers fall one playoff game short of reaching the NASL title game, despite compiling only an 11-15 regular season record. 

The Lancers’ final seasons were also marred by internecine warfare between an increasingly cash-strapped Schiano and new investors John Luciani and Bernie Rodin – exacerbated by the team’s off-season moonlighting in the semi-rival Major Indoor Soccer League as the Long Island-based New York Arrows.  The two factions faced off in court during the 1980 NASL season, with the league terminating the franchise at season’s end.

While outdoor soccer soon returned to Rochester in 1981 with the ASL Flash, the indoor Arrows went on to win four consecutive MISL titles with much of the Lancers’ late 1970s NASL outdoor roster, including notables like Branko Segota, Shep Messing, Dave D’Errico, Val Tuksa, Renato Cila, Damir Sutevski, and head coach Dragon “Don” Popovic.

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EPISODE #112: The Once & Future Soccer Legacy of Ft. Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium – With Jeff Rusnak

Long-time South Florida Sun-Sentinel soccer columnist Jeff Rusnak joins to discuss the rich past, transitional present and promising future of one of American pro soccer’s most venerable, yet historically underrated venues – Ft. Lauderdale, Florida’s Lockhart Stadium.

Originally built in 1959 as an American football and track venue for four high schools in the region and named after a former city commissioner, the modest bleacher-constructed Lockhart was unwittingly transformed into the country’s first de facto “soccer specific stadium” when the (original) North American Soccer League’s Miami Toros moved 32 miles north from the cavernous Orange Bowl to become 1977’s Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

The Strikers became a South Florida sports phenomenon during their seven NASL seasons at the crackerbox Lockhart, boasting world-class talent (Gordon Banks, Gerd Müller, Teófilo Cubillas, George Best) and magnetic personalities (Ron Newman, Ray Hudson) that quickly endeared the club and the sport to an adoring fan base.

Numerous lower division clubs kept the soccer flame alive after the Strikers moved (to Minnesota in 1983) and the NASL died – until 1998, when Major League Soccer investor-operator Ken Horowitz debuted the curiously-named “Miami” Fusion expansion franchise at a refurbished Lockhart, featuring Colombian star Carlos Valderrama.  Despite winning the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2001 under the dynamic coaching of former Striker fan-favorite Hudson, the league contracted the Fusion after just four season – and the stadium again became the intermittent home to lower-league teams (and even FAU college football) until 2016.

But Lockhart refuses to give up the ghost, as an aggressive demolition and rebuild of the abandoned facility now becomes the focal point of a new David Beckham/Jorge Mas-owned MLS franchise called Inter Miami CF set to debut in 2020 – sans a permanent home in the city of Miami proper. 

Will Lockhart again rekindle the original Striker magic – perhaps even permanently?

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EPISODE #109: The NASL Players’ Strike of 1979 – With Steve Holroyd

Professional union labor lawyer and Society for American Soccer History sports historian Steve Holroyd returns to the podcast to go deep into one of the more curious rabbit holes in North American Soccer League history.

In early 1977, Ed Garvey, a labor lawyer and head of the newly-formed National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), recruited Washington Diplomats midfielder John Kerr to help gauge interest among his teammates and those of other clubs in forming a similar organization for the suddenly ascendant ten-year-old NASL. 

By the end of that summer, player representatives from all 18 league clubs agreed in principle to create the North American Soccer League Players Association (NASLPA), and on August 29th, 1977 – the day after the New York Cosmos’ dramatic Soccer Bowl victory over the Seattle Sounders in Pele’s US swan song – officially sought recognition by NASL owners to become the players’ collective bargaining entity.

Commissioner Phil Woosnam and league ownership quickly refused, fearing a threat to the still-fragile circuit’s integrity by a group run by a union of the NFL, with whom NASL owners already had a tenuous (and in the cases of Ft. Lauderdale’s Robbie and Dallas’ Hunt families, common ownership) relationship.     

With no progress towards recognition of the union either during the subsequent off-season or the next year, members of the NASLPA finally voted 252-113 to strike against ownership – announcing its intention to do so on April 13, 1979, one day before the league’s second weekend slate of regular season games.

What transpired next was five unprecedented days of confusion (would foreign imports risk deportation by playing during an American player work stoppage?); desperation (coaches Eddie McCreadie [Memphis] and Ron Newman [Ft. Lauderdale] donning uniforms to help their strike-depleted teams); naiveté (unwitting fans seeking Rochester Lancer “player” autographs during last-minute replacement tryouts); and ultimately, miscalculated futility – as player resolve waned almost immediately, especially among the association’s non-US residents, who actually made up the majority of the membership.

The players’ point had been made, however, and by mid-1984 – through a long series of subsequent court rulings – the NASLPA finally prevailed in its mission to collectively represent players at the bargaining table with league ownership.

Ironically, by then, it didn’t matter – the NASL folded in March of 1985.

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EPISODE #103: MISL Indoor Soccer's Origin Story – With Co-Founder Ed Tepper

We celebrate our second anniversary with the intriguing background story of the original Major Indoor Soccer League, with the man who started it all – Ed Tepper. 

A commercial real estate developer by trade, Tepper actually got his start in pro sports ownership as the owner of the original National Lacrosse League’s Philadelphia Wings – only to switch allegiances to an inchoate indoor offshoot of the world’s most popular sport after a chance exhibition (between the 1973 NASL champion Atoms and the Russian CSKA “Red Army” team) at Philadelphia’s Spectrum on February 11, 1974. 

Originally interested in the game’s bespoke Astroturf-covered surface as a potential improvement for his fledgling box lacrosse club, Tepper (along with 11,700+ enthusiastic curiosity-seekers) instead became instantly attracted to the fast-paced action and high scoring of “indoor soccer” – and quickly resolved to make a professional sport out of it.

In this illuminating interview, Tepper recounts some of the notable events and influential people along the journey from concept to the MISL’s official debut kick (by Cincinnati Kids part-owner Pete Rose, no less) on December 22, 1978 at Uniondale, Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum – including:

  • Convincing ABA Virginia Squires owner (and eventual MISL commissioner) Earl Foreman of the game’s potential;

  • The instant credibility boost of signing American superstar goalkeeper Shep Messing;

  • NASL commissioner Phil Woosnam’s on-again, off-again interest in the indoor game;

  • How (and why) NFL owners Carroll Rosenbloom and Al Davis wanted in; AND

  • The unsung role of TV executive Bob Wussler in garnering attention for the fledgling circuit.

PLUS: The untold tale of Tepper’s very own (barely one-season long) MISL franchise – the New Jersey Rockets!

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EPISODE #99: Sports Broadcaster Bob Carpenter

You know him today as the long-time television play-by-play voice of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals. 

But before becoming one of the baseball’s most admired and durable broadcasters, Bob Carpenter cut his professional teeth in the burgeoning (but ultimately fleeting) American pro soccer scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s as the lead “man-behind-the-mic” for such iconic teams as the NASL's Tulsa Roughnecks and the MISL's St. Louis Steamers – as well as some less-than-memorable ones, like 1983’s ill-fated US Soccer/NASL hybrid, Team America.

His springboard into TV sports broadcasting’s “big leagues” – including 15 years of nationally televised baseball with ESPN, plus lead announcing duties for the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, and his hometown St. Louis Cardinals – is rich in anecdotes, and we (naturally!) drag the versatile Carpenter back to some of the more “forgotten” stops made along the way, including:

  • A serendipitous segue from minor league baseball to “big time” pro soccer in Tulsa;

  • The Roughnecks’ gritty road to the 1983 NASL title as the league’s smallest-market team;

  • Leveraging national exposure from the NASL into soccer-centric gigs with the fledgling USA & ESPN cable networks;

  • The “invisible hand” of Anheuser-Busch’s soccer-mad executive Denny Long & his Bud Sports production division;

  • Returning home to call Steamers MISL indoor games at the often-packed St. Louis Arena (aka Checkerdome); AND

  • Masquerading as the “local” voice of the Washington, DC-based Team America – the de facto US National Team that played as an NASL franchise. 

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EPISODE #95: The MISL’s Denver Avalanche – With Former Owner Ron Maierhofer

It was December 1979, and Denver-area IT marketing and sales executive Ron Maierhofer was having what some would consider to be a mid-life crisis.  Just off the heels of an annual work retreat and now vacationing on a British Virgin Islands beach with his wife, Maierhofer – a second-generation German-American immigrant and a former player with a lifelong passion for and recreational involvement in the sport of soccer – mused that his business career just wasn’t doing it for him anymore, and that a radical change of pace might be in order.

His muse was the fledgling professional sport of indoor soccer – and his entrée, the upstart Major Indoor Soccer League – the firecracker circuit that had just debuted a year earlier with its fast-paced play, enthusiastic crowds and a non-stop excitement that offered an alluring anecdote to relatively staid pace of the newly popular outdoor game.  The MISL, Maierhofer reasoned to himself and his wife, was the future of soccer – and his chance to make a profession of his love of the “beautiful game.”

Within months, Maierhofer was back home in Denver: hustling up an investment group (including his investment banker brother); working municipal politicians (securing hard-to-get dates and benefits from the city’s McNichols Arena); devising clever marketing hooks (like dash-board rumble seats and a new home for the popular Denver Broncos cheerleaders); and schmoozing the MISL’s top brass during the 1980 All-Star Game and Championship Playoffs in St. Louis – to eventually land what would become one of three new franchises (along with the Chicago Horizons and Phoenix Inferno) in the fall of 1980.

Maierhofer (No Money Down: How to Buy a Sports Franchise; Memoirs of a Soccer Vagabond) joins host Tim Hanlon to discuss the heady rise, against-all-odds success, and (ultimately) rapid fall of his two-year “dream job” owning and running the Denver Avalanche – including life lessons learned from his adventure, and the fans that still fondly remember his efforts to this day, nearly 30 years later.

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EPISODE #93: National Soccer Hall of Famer Bobby Smith

We close out an amazing second season of episodes with a special year-end conversation featuring the US pro soccer pioneer who is, at least indirectly, responsible for the creation of this little podcast.  

Just weeks after signing with the fledgling New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League in January 1976, league All Star Bobby Smith (along with fellow Philadelphia Atoms teammate Bob Rigby) was already out pounding the promotional pavement in support of his new club – including (unwittingly) a stop at host Tim Hanlon’s then-elementary school in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey to hand out recreational league trophies and sign autographs. 

The seeds of life-long pro soccer fandom were quickly sown, soon blossoming into an obsession with America’s most famous and successful franchise – and, over time, morphing into an enduring fascination with professional teams and leagues across all sports which, like the Cosmos and the NASL, ultimately came and went.

Defender extraordinaire Smith joins the podcast to discuss his remarkable American pro soccer career before, during and after winning back-to-back NASL titles (1977, 78) with the Cosmos – including:

  • Winning his first league championship with the inaugural 1973 Philadelphia Atoms;

  • A skills-enhancing off-season loan to Irish first division side Dundalk in 1974-75;

  • Playing alongside world’s-best talent like Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia, and Carlos Alberto during his time in New York;

  • Post-Cosmos stops with the NASL’s San Diego Sockers, Philadelphia Fury and Montreal Manic;

  • Indoor soccer adventures with the MISL’s 1980-81 Philadelphia Fever;

  • 18 caps with the US National Team during the 1970s; AND

  • Induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007.

A big thank you to all of our great sponsors this past year – SportsHistoryCollectibles.com, OldSchoolShirts.com, 503 Sports, and Audible!

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EPISODE #91: NASL Soccer Video Archeology – With Dave Brett Wasser

The images are grainy, the commentary earnestly naïve, and the theme music disco-infused, but the bigger picture is clear – it’s American soccer history, in all its VHS videotape glory.

Gleaned from a simpler, pre-HD media landscape of the 1970s and early 1980s – much of it before even the mass consumer adoption of the VCR – the roughly 900 hours of TV broadcast match coverage that still survives from the pioneering North American Soccer League is a veritable time machine of pro soccer’s coming-of-age.   And one man has been chiefly responsible for compiling and preserving it.

De facto soccer video anthropologist Dave Brett Wasser has spent over two decades tracking down virtually every known snippet of NASL game footage – more than 450 league and exhibition matches in all – for what is arguably the most comprehensive collection of vintage soccer Americana anywhere.

Meticulously (and sometimes just plain luckily) sourced from a myriad of former players, coaches, TV network vaults, and even garage sales – Wasser’s now-digitized trove has become the go-to source for some of the NASL’s most memorable competitive moments for today’s generation of soccer broadcast producers and documentarians.  Including even the newly-rechristened National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco, TX.

In this revealing conversation with host Tim Hanlon, Wasser talks about: his childhood memories of local WOR-TV/New York broadcasts of Cosmos games; the impetus to rediscover them as an adult in the early 1990s lead-up to World Cup USA 1994; the people he’s met along the way of amassing his collection; and the tenuous relationship with the Hall of Fame in his quest to comprehensively digitize and permanently house the entire set of videos for current and future generations of American fans of the “beautiful game” to enjoy and learn from.

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