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. Indonesian clubs concede five own goals in four minutes, may have feared mafia (video)

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:19 AM EDT

    BBC BBC

    PSS Sleman and PSIS Semarang have been disqualified from their country’s playoffs after conceding five own goals in their their match.

  2. VIDEO: Hugely-controversial call sees FC Dallas past Vancouver in playoffs. Your vote?

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT

    Darren Mattocks, Kendall Waston, Ethen Sampson, Mark Geiger AP

    Michel converted the penalty past David Ousted, and FC Dallas hung on for the win in an otherwise fast-paced, fun game in Texas.

  3. Report: Carlos Vela to accept call-up to Mexican National Team

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    Real Sociedad de Futbol v Getafe CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Carlos Vela is set to return to the Mexican National Team making them a much more dangerous side.

  4. Trailer released for ‘Die Mannschaft’, story of Germany’s 2014 World Cup win

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Germany v Argentina: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final AP

    Nothing like a behind-the-scenes World Cup doc to pique the interest.

  5. Vincent Tan ready to invest in Major League Soccer

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:42 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Vincent Tan. Coming to a MLS club near you!

  6. Timbers’ Steve Zakuani announces retirement from professional soccer

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT

    Steve Zakuani AP

    Steve Zakuani. A supremely talented player, forced to call it quits way too early.

  7. Fan slaps Franck Ribery with a scarf, David Alaba hits a belter in Bayern’s win over Hamburg

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT

    Hamburger SV v FC Bayern Muenchen - DFB Cup Getty Images

    Franck Ribery is short but probably not the kind of guy you want to mess with.

  8. League Cup Roundup: Balotelli saves Liverpool, Newcastle defeat Manchester City

    Oct 29, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Swansea City - Capital One Cup Fourth Round

    A late equalizer from Mario Balotelli helps spur the rally that sees Liverpool into the League Cup quarter-finals.

  9. Rio Ferdinand suspended three matches, fined $40,000, for abusive tweet

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Beware, Premier League footballers. The FA is all over Twitter.

  10. Report: Spanish legend Raul signs with the New York Cosmos

    Oct 29, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    FC Schalke 04 - Press Conference Getty Images

    Raul signs with the Cosmos, will head up the youth program upon retirement.

  11. Getafe’s Alexis suspended four months for swipe at Mario Mandzukic

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

    VfB Stuttgart v FC Getafe - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    Mandzukic makes a meal of it and the Royal Spanish Football Federation eats it up.

  12. Kolorov: City have been better than United for ‘five or six years’

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    In the lead up to the Manchester Derby, Aleksander Kolorov believes City have overtaken United as kings of Manchester.

  13. Swansea City to appeal Federico Fernandez red card

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Garry Monk really, really doesn’t like officials.

  14. David Moyes linked with possible move to Spain

    Oct 29, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The former Everton and Manchester United boss has been linked with a possible move to Real Sociedad.

  15. FIFA gives Nigeria deadline to avoid ban

    Oct 29, 2014, 12:23 PM EDT

    Orange AFCON, Morocco 2015 Final Round Qualifier: South Africa v Nigeria Getty Images

    The Nigerian Football Federation faces a seven-month ban if they do not comply with FIFA’s demands.

  16. Ryan Bertrand open to permanent Southampton move

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    The left-back on loan from Chelsea says it makes sense to stay at St. Mary’s.

  17. MLS Playoffs Knockout Round Preview: Win or go home

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

    FC Dallas v Colorado Rapids Getty Images

    It’s all on the line as the knockout round of the MLS Playoffs kicks off tonight.

  18. Men in Blazers podcast: The van Gaal-Mourinho Rom-Com, Jurgen’s unexpected FIFA award and Megan Rapinoe guests

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo break down the Louis van Gaal-Jose Mourinho Rom-Com, Saturday’s El Clásico and Jurgen Klinsmann’s unexpected FIFA award nomination. U.S. women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe guests.

  19. Small pitch at White Hart Lane hindering Spurs’ play

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino believes the small pitch at White Hart Lane is hurting the Spurs style of play.

Featured video

PST Extra: The Manchester derby