The NPSL 50 Years On
The 50th anniversary of the first National Professional Soccer League passed quietly this past weekend. The league is understood by many, including myself, as a precursor to the NASL and the modern era of soccer in the United States. The league was made up of clubs from around the world playing in the US under assumed names. For example the Detroit Cougars were represented by Ireland’s Glentoran F.C.
If you are looking for a concise history of the league, check out Michael Lewis’ recent article for The Guardian:
Fifty years ago on Sunday, on 16 April 1967, professional soccer took its first bold steps in the US as the National Professional Soccer League made its debut. Unlike today’s game, fans did not exactly swarm to the stadiums. Some 45,210 spectators attended five games, equivalent to a decent crowd for the modern day Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
Still, you have to start somewhere. Ten owners decided to test what would become choppy waters. Soccer wasn’t totally foreign to this country. Amateur and semi-pro leagues, stocked mostly with ethnic-backed teams and players, had been around for decades. Bill Cox popularized the game in New York City with his International Soccer League. Then, people with deep pockets caught soccer fever while watching the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany, which was televised in the US.