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?

WE THANK our tremendous sponsors for their continued support of the show: Streaker Sports, Audible, 503 Sports, OldSchoolShirts.com, and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com!

EPISODE #22: The Life of George Best with Documentary Filmmaker Daniel Gordon

Award-winning British documentarian Daniel Gordon (Hillsborough; 9.79*; The Game of Their Lives) joins Tim Hanlon from London to discuss his new ESPN Films 30 for 30 feature George Best: All By Himself – and the enigmatic soccer star whose life story it depicts.   Gordon reveals:

  • Why he was attracted to the story of George Best, despite others’ previous attempts to tell it;
  • How Best’s early-career interviews with the British media while at Manchester United became a hauntingly predictive narrative device for the film;
  • Why the vibrantly ascendant mid-1970s North American Soccer League became an attractive alternative to Best’s post-ManU European wanderings;
  • How the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of the NASL itself became a metaphor for Best’s life and career – including the irony of his Budweiser-sponsored NASL “Goal of the Year” in 1981; AND
  • The complex legacy Best left behind, despite his later-life admonitions to “remember the football.”

This week’s episode is sponsored by Audible!

ESPN Films 30 For 30: George Best: All By Himself - view trailer here; viewing information here

ESPN Films 30 For 30: Hillsborough - buy DVD here

ESPN Films 30 For 30: 9.79* - buy DVD here

ESPN Films 30 for 30: Season 2 (including Hillsborough & 9.79*) - buy digital video here

ESPN Films 30 for 30: Season 2 (including Hillsborough & 9.79*) - buy DVD here