Skip to content

Real soccer history in the United States: Team America

Jan 20, 2013, 3:35 PM EST

NASL logo

I have written before, here and there, about how the United States does actually have a relevant soccer history – more and more of it every day.

We still tend to see this as a “new” sport, and it is, relatively so.

This morning comes yet another example of the sport’s increasingly rich history, a wonderful piece in The New York Times Goal Blog pegged to the 30th anniversary of a fascinating idea, but one that perhaps fabulously flawed that certainly before its time.

It really was a “mad scientist” of a creation. Perhaps it was always destined to slide off into the soccer abyss along with a league whose business model was cracked to its core. To borrow the words from Jack Bell, author of today’s NYT piece: “It was a noble, novel — some would say naïve — experiment in engineering a soccer project with little precedent before or since in any sport.”

It was Team America. The idea was to form a professional club of American soccer players, which would serve as the league version of the U.S. national team. It was meant to help solve a couple of developmental conundrums, not the least of which was a lack of prime time and of featuring roles for U.S. players. In the NASL construct, they were almost universally second- and third-fiddle to better skilled, more experienced players from, well, pretty much everywhere else.

Team America played in Washington, D.C. – Where else? – as a franchise in the defunct North American Soccer League. It lasted a just a year, for the 1983 season. Team America collapsed as a wee lad; the league, limping along with just nine teams, died off a year later.

Honestly, the Team American concept never had a fighting chance. Between heavy politics within the U.S. national team pool of the time, stumbles of the U.S. Soccer Federation in marketing concept and the general ship sinking of the NASL, Team America was something of a disaster.

Of course, today we know of disasters and fiascos of domestic soccer past as “history.”

Either way, it was a fascinating exercise, worth reading about (if you haven’t hit your NYT limit of 10 stories a month, at least). Said Team America captain Jeff Durgan in the Times story:

The devil was in the details. The league was in serious jeopardy. It was a last-ditch effort to try to feature American players and energize the national team program.

Latest Posts
  1. Darren Bent on loan to Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:35 AM EST

    Aston Villa v FC Dallas - Pre-Season Friendly Getty Images

    The Aston Villa striker will be looking for minutes as he heads down the ranks to the Championship on a one-month loan.

  2. FIFA releases 20-man shortlist of top defenders

    Nov 26, 2014, 7:45 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-LIVERPOOL Getty Images

    Four Premier League defenders found their way onto FIFA’s shortlist for the 2014 FIFPro World XI.

  3. PRO general manager: LA/SEA referee Stott never issued “no second yellows” declaration

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:15 PM EST

    Zach Scott, Gyasi Zardes AP

    There were a lot of fouls in the first leg of Los Angeles and Seattle’s Western Conference final, and some were quite serious.

  4. WATCH: Nani makes Maribor’s defense look silly in Sporting CP’s UEFA Champions League win

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:45 PM EST

    Nani AP

    Like many fun to watch goals, the magic of the shooter is magnified by the mistakes of the defenders.

  5. Jose Mourinho to Schalke after Chelsea’s 5-0 win: “It’s not your fault”

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:00 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-SCHALKE-CHELSEA Getty Images

    “I think they have to accept we were too strong for them,” added Mourinho.

  6. Bob Bradley’s talks with a Swedish club have broken down; Staying at Stabaek?

    Nov 25, 2014, 9:16 PM EST

    Digitalsport.no Digitalsport.no

    We’ll be following who else comes calling for the Princeton man.

  7. Manchester United assistant Ryan Giggs thinks Chelsea’s the top dog, compares Louis van Gaal to Alex Ferguson

    Nov 25, 2014, 8:05 PM EST

    Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Giggs calls the Stamford Bridge club “head and shoulders above the Premier League” on the strength of their back four.

  8. New York City FC rolls out jet black road jersey; How’d they do?

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:13 PM EST

    @NYCFC @NYCFC

    These will be hot in the summer. But are they hot now? What do you think?

  9. Out with the old? Colorado declines options on Buddle, Wynne, LaBrocca, but won’t rule out returns

    Nov 25, 2014, 6:51 PM EST

    Colorado Rapids v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    Eleven players had their options declined on Tuesday, but Colorado says they could be back with the club in January.

  10. UEFA Champions League roundup: Chelsea win group, Man City’s late show, classy PSG

    Nov 25, 2014, 6:03 PM EST

    Recapping all the action from around Europe after a pivotal matchday in UCL play.

  11. West Brom, England striker Saido Berahino arrested for drinking and driving

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:55 PM EST

    Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Berahino scored in the next match after his arrest, but has since gone cold.

  12. VIDEO: Robbie Rogers discusses new book, coming out on NBC’s “Today”

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:32 PM EST

    Robbie Rogers, Micheal Azira AP

    Rogers talked about how working with gay and lesbian youth organizations made him realize the impact he could make as an openly-gay player.

  13. Manchester City ready for almighty clash with AS Roma for last 16 spot

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:22 PM EST

    Frank Lampard Frank Lampard

    City’s late show sets up pulsating clash in the Italian capital next month.

  14. Manchester City 3-2 Bayern Munich: Aguero’s hat trick hands Citizens lifeline

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:46 PM EST

    Sergio Aguero Sergio Aguero

    Citizens grab last-gasp win to boost their chances of making the last 16.

  15. Schalke 0-5 Chelsea: Blues with an untouchable performance against old boss

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:33 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Champions League AP

    Five different players netted as Chelsea picked up its largest road Champions League win since 1999.

  16. VIDEO: Luis Suarez scores first goal for Barcelona

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:10 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-APOEL-BARCELONA FBL-EUR-C1-APOEL-BARCELONA

    Suarez is off and running for Barca with a goal of exceptional class. What else did you expect?

  17. Lionel Messi breaks Raul’s record for Champions League goals (video)

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:46 PM EST

    FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The only other active players in the Top Ten are Chelsea’s Didier Drogba (44) and Thierry Henry (50), who obviously isn’t active with a UEFA Champions League club.

  18. João Moutinho reportedly hands in transfer request at Monaco

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Moutinho Getty Images

    With top-quality players hardly ever available in January, the Portguese international could be a hot commodity in England.

  19. Pele returns to the hospital days after kidney surgery

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:33 PM EST

    Pele AP

    A urinary infection has Pele in the hospital just 10 days after being released following surgery.

  20. LIVE – Champions League: Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich, Chelsea to Schalke

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:55 PM EST

    Can Toure shine against Chelsea? AP

    Follow the latest batch of UEFA Champions League matches, right here.

Featured video

Week 12: Premier League recap