USA on the soccer field #2 - NASL: resurfaced from the ashes like Phoenix and went bankrupt again
Art by Izabelle França via VAVEL

From 1968 to 1984, the North American Soccer League (NASL) was the main soccer league played by teams from the United States and some teams from Canada. The tournament peaked during the 70's, when it had an average audience near to 13 thousand people and received athletes with Pele, Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and others.

Knowing the past to know the future

The truth is that there were already two leagues in the United States, however, they weren’t considered entirely professional. The United Soccer Association (USA) and National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) were created in 1967, but decided to merge next year and formed the North American Soccer League (NASL), making it the only major league in the country. However, in the debut period, the clubs suffered a series of losses due to the high costs of the stadiums and the amounts invested in players. 

It was only in the 70s, when the New York Cosmos and other new teams were founded, with the arrival of semi-professional players and world players that the championship started to gain visibility. So much so that, for example, with the arrival of Pelé and Beckenbauer the stadiums started to have a larger audience and the matches started to be televised. Remember that TV hasn’t broadcast a soccer match since 1968, that’s, it has been about six years without broadcasts.

It was an extremely positive point in the short term to hire these soccer legends. Over time, the clubs needed to buy more quality players to balance the competition and went to seek the international market. It ended up becoming a snowball. The teams started to have a very large payroll, faced a huge recession, the owners of these teams had little experience in the industry and ended up collapsing in the 80s. Not all clubs went bankrupt, but it was enough to decree the end of the league and the going of some teams for the indoor soccer.

A Phoenix in the “Modern Era” of Soccer

In 2009, the North American Soccer League (NASL) returns to the map of American soccer. However, without any connection to the previous management, the league wouldn’t be the main competition in the country and would be below the Major League Soccer (MLS) that was founded in 1996. 

During the seasons, the “new NASL” attracted the investment of Ronaldo Nazario who bought part of Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Maldini who is one of the owners of Miami FC and Eden Hazard who is one of the owners of San Diego 1904. In addition, inside the soccer field, drew the attention of several athletes, among them: Joe Cole (ex-Liverpool), Léo Moura (ex-Flamengo) and Dagoberto (ex-São Paulo and Internacional). Remember that Dagoberto, when he wore the San Francisco Deltas jersey in the last season of the league, was champion of the championship and later returned to Brazil.

Even with a good soccer scenario in the United States, the league managed to go from “bad to worse”. Poor management, clashes with the federation and MLS, poor choices and much more were decisive for the end of the league again. Both the San Francisco Deltas lasted about a year because it was operating under loss. Other clubs and even NASL itself have added up to several debts over the years.

In 2016, US Soccer determined that the NASL and United Soccer League (USL) would be considered second-tier tournaments temporarily. In 2017, due to not meeting all the prerequisites determined, it was defined that the North American Soccer League wouldn’t be considered a competition of the “second division” of the pyramid. After a huge and resourceful battle in justice in 2018, the league decided to cancel the season and hoped to return next year, but some clubs went bankrupt and others looked for other leagues to compete.

How were the teams after leaving NASL?

Three franchises went bankrupt and never returned to the soccer map, they are: Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Rayo OKC and San Francisco Deltas. The Edmonton FC come out of business at the time, but how did the Canadian Premier League has just entering this tournament in 2019. 

The San Diego 1904, which would debut on the NASL in the season that was canceled, went to the USL and later moved to NISA. In addition, the New York Cosmos is also in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA).

The only team that came out, went straight to MLS and established itself was Minnesota United. Tampa Bay Rowdies, North Carolina, Ottawa Fury and Indy Eleven were assigned to the USL Championship and currently remain in the championship.