Skip to content

A little history to consider re MLS and the wonderful old NASL

Nov 2, 2012, 3:35 PM EDT

NASL ball

Assuming the unthinkable doesn’t darken our world, or somehow trouble our soccer world, Major League Soccer will return for its 18th season next year.

And that will be something of a milestone to celebrate.

I had not thought of this before, and recently needed Marc Stein, the co-host of our Soccer Today weekly radio show and podcast, to point out that reaching season No. 18 represented a fairly significant if slightly obscure milepost. Why?

Because the previous incarnation of top tier American soccer, the ill-fated and probably “before its time” North American Soccer League reached only 17 seasons.

I suppose you could quibble that top-tier professional soccer lasted 18 seasons here previously, before the NASL shuttered for good in 1984. That’s because two competing organizations operated in 1967; they merged in 1968 to form the North American Soccer League. The NASL’s rise and fall – it dwindled to a paltry nine teams for that final, bleak campaign – was told over 17 seasons.

That league was clearly, fatally flawed. Sometimes it got pretty ridiculous. But it was glorious in some ways, and it beat the trail for so much that would follow. At some point, all those fantastic crowds in Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia and elsewhere, every splendid free kick off David Beckham’s right boot, every single MLS memory ever made for any living soul, all of it, owes the debt to NASL and its architects.

That’s why when so many people of a certain age think back on the old NASL, they remember the romance of it all rather than the chalk marks, pockmarks and the outright disaster zones it sometimes left behind.

There’s plenty of information available on the old NASL and everyone’s favorite bellwether, the Cosmos. It’s all out there on the answer webs; go ye and discover.

But as the 17th MLS playoff season reaches full speed, with MLS franchise No. 20 inching nearer every day, know this:

Major League Soccer has already accomplished so very much – and now it’s got an extra link of solid history on an increasingly durable chain.

Latest Posts
  1. Jose Mourinho, Eden Hazard win Premier League Manager, Player of the Year awards

    May 22, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    After already winning two trophies this season, Chelsea cleaned up once again.

  2. Brendan Rodgers insists Raheem Sterling will remain at Liverpool

    May 22, 2015, 8:20 AM EDT

    Liverpool Training Session Liverpool Training Session

    After Sterling’s agent says his client will not sign a new deal at Liverpool, Reds boss is adamant he will remain at Anfield.

  3. MLS preview: Sounders vs. Sporting KC, Revs vs. D.C. United headline Week 12

    May 22, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT

    Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City

    The MLS weekend is upon, and that means just one thing, Americans: It’s time to support your domestic league.

  4. Agent: Rafa Bentiez “would be truly happy” to manage Real Madrid

    May 22, 2015, 12:02 AM EDT

    Rafael Benitez, SSC Napoli Rafael Benitez, SSC Napoli

    Firing one of the world’s elite managers, so you can hire a good-but-not-great replacement? Not smart, Real Madrid, not smart at all.

  5. Scholes: If De Gea leaves, Manchester United should sign Petr Cech

    May 21, 2015, 10:57 PM EDT

    Petr Cech, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    According to Scholes, the solution to Man United’s goalkeeping problem is a no-brainer.

  6. Emmanuel Adebayor given compassionate leave after revealing suicidal thoughts

    May 21, 2015, 9:47 PM EDT

    Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur FC Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur FC

    Well done to Tottenham Hotspur for showing the necessary compassion and taking care of one of their own.

  7. US Open Cup draw: Sounders-Timbers, NYCFC-NY Cosmos highlight possible 4th-round clashes

    May 21, 2015, 8:24 PM EDT

    US Open Cup trophy Getty Images

    The draw for the 4th round of the 2015 US Open Cup tossed up a couple of absolute doozies on Thursday night.

  8. Hodgson: England very happy to take Jack Grealish from Ireland, if he so chooses

    May 21, 2015, 7:23 PM EDT

    Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC

    Jack Grealish has a big decision to make in the not-so-distant future, and it’s going to affect the course of the rest of his career.

  9. War of words: Henry, Giroud trading jabs over Thierry’s “dull” punditry comments

    May 21, 2015, 5:29 PM EDT

    Olivier Giroud, Arsenal FC Olivier Giroud, Arsenal FC

    Thierry Henry is riding Olivier Giroud very hard these days, claiming Arsenal will never win a PL title with him leading the line.

  10. Poland federation president calls for Russia to be stripped of 2018 World Cup

    May 21, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    ZbigniewBoniek Getty Images

    Qatar isn’t the only World Cup host to make others upset.

  11. Trio of corporate sponsors denounce FIFA for migrant worker conditions in Qatar

    May 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    FIFA World Cup trophy Getty Images

    Sponsors hold the one true key to change in Qatar, and strong words are a start.

  12. Final day looming in Spain, France to decide Champions League places

    May 21, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    Gignac Getty Images

    Many European leagues have spots in the big dance still up for grabs.

  13. Young Liverpool pair signs new contract extensions

    May 21, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    Ibe Getty Images

    Jordon Ibe and Jon Flanagan both will stick around Anfield for a while longer.

  14. Hours after Van Praag drops out of FIFA presidential race, Figo does the same

    May 21, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT

    LuisFigo Getty Images

    Only one candidate remains to battle Sepp Blatter, and it doesn’t look good.

  15. One candidate drops out as Blatter’s re-election looks more and more certain

    May 21, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - MAY 20: FIFA President Sepp Blatter delivers a speech during an opening ceremony of a football stadium in Dura el Qar village, West Bank city of Ramallah, on May 20, 2015. (Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The man who’s been investigated by the FBI and green lit loads of allegedly corrupt ideas will continue to rule your favorite sport.

  16. Xavi’s tearful goodbye: Legend confirms move to Al Saad, ending Barca run at 17 years

    May 21, 2015, 10:41 AM EDT

    150521-xavi-ARTICLE Getty Images

    The announcement is the final touch of a poorly-kept secret, and comes with the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League on the horizon.

  17. Vancouver joins Montreal in Canadian final; CONCACAF Champions League berth decided in August

    May 21, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Matias Laba, Benoit Cheyrou AP

    The Impact will be looking for their third-straight Canadian Championship, having defeated TFC and Vancouver in recent campaigns.

  18. Agent: Sterling wouldn’t sign new Liverpool deal, even for $1.4 million a week

    May 21, 2015, 9:03 AM EDT

    (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT)  of Liverpool during the Liverpool Player of the Year Awards on May 19, 2015 in Liverpool, England. Getty Images

    Ward said every club in the Premier League would bid for Sterling (who has already reportedly turned down an offer worth $235,000 a week).

  19. Leicester, QPR, Burnley players earn England call-ups for June matches

    May 21, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Austin Getty Images

    Phil Jones and Chris Smalling make it a trio of Manchester United players on the roster, while Arsenal paces all Premier League squads with four call-ups.

  20. US Open Cup second round wrap: Several USL sides clipped by “minnows”

    May 21, 2015, 7:46 AM EDT

    http://www.rhinossoccer.com/ http://www.rhinossoccer.com/

    There’s a guarantee that a fourth-tier side or lower will see the fourth round, thanks to a pair of surprise wins.

Featured video

Championship Sunday: 10 games, 10 channels