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For adults of a certain age, it is a memory that may have become submerged under the weight of what we have seen since. In the late 1970s, though, British television viewers would get an occasional view of football from a parallel universe in the form of the North American Soccer League. Football in America was different, that much we know for certain. The teams were called “Cosmos”, “Strikers” or “Rowdies”, rather than City, United or Rangers. They often played matches on what looked like a green carpet rather than grass. They didn’t believe in drawn matches, and ended theirs with a shoot-out of the teams couldn’t be seperated beforehands. They lured some of the biggest names in world football with expansive cheque books. To the average impressionable eight year-old, it was a world of glitz and glamour some way removed from the rotting concrete steps and rusting fences of British football.
From 1975 on, the closing act of the NASL season was the Soccer Bowl, which was the brainchild of NASL commissioner (and former Wales international) Phil Woosnam with American football’s Superbowl in mind, was played out as a single match conclusion to the season. The league’s decline started as long ago as 1980. Various factors contributed to this, including over-expansion, the eagerness of franchise-holders to pull out as soon as the going got tough and the decision by FIFA to award the 1986 World Cup finals to Mexico rather than the United States of America after the withdrawal of Colombia. The truth the matter is that was probably a combination of all of the above, and the league folded in 1984. Ironically, just four years later FIFA decided to give the World Cup finals to the USA in 1984. Had the league hung on, it is possible that this decision may have changed the course of football in that country forever.
The legacy of the NASL lives on, of course, in football in America. The New York Cosmos have reformed, while the names of the San Jose Earthquakes and the Vancouver Whitecaps also hark back to the NASL days. Most notably, however, this legacy can be seen in Major League Soccer’s early decisions not to make the same mistakes that NASL did. Eighteen years after its formation, MLS continues to flourish. This afternoon, though, we’re going to take a step back in time and recall some of the NASL Soccer Bowls of the past. Prior to 1975, the NASL had used several different methods in order to determine its overall champions, including a single match and a best of three series. In 1975, all that changed with Woosnam’s brainchild. Our most sincere thanks, by the way, go to those that have uploaded these matches so that they are not forgotten, and it also worth pointing out that those amongst you that would like more NASL football that the outstanding documentary about New York Cosmos, Once In A Lifetime, is still available to purchase on DVD at a very low price.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.