Professional soccer has had a tumultuous history in the United States. While the sport has gained widespread popularity in recent years, it has taken several decades for it to reach its current level of success. One of the most significant moments in the history of American soccer was the creation of the United Soccer Association (USA) in 1967. This league was formed by a group of sports entrepreneurs with the goal of introducing professional soccer to the North American market.
The Birth of the United Soccer Association
The idea for the USA came about after a group of sports enthusiasts, led by Jack Kent Cooke, Lamar Hunt, and Steve Stavro, formed a consortium known as the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1966. The goal of the NASL was to create a professional soccer league in North America, which would introduce the sport to a wider audience and help it gain popularity. However, the NASL was not yet ready to launch a league, and so the group decided to create a temporary league to fill the gap.
The result was the United Soccer Association, which was officially launched in 1967. The league was unique in that it featured imported European and South American clubs, which were then given local names. The hope was that this would help generate interest in the league and create a sense of community among fans.
The Teams of the United Soccer Association
The USA consisted of 12 teams, split into two conferences.
The Eastern Conference featured the Boston Shamrock Rovers, the Detroit Cougars, the New York Skyliners, the Toronto City, the Vancouver Royal Canadians, and the Washington Whips.
The Western Conference included the Chicago Mustangs, the Cleveland Stokers, the Dallas Tornado, the Houston Stars, the Los Angeles Wolves, and the San Francisco Golden Gate Gales.
Each team was an imported club from Europe or South America, and they were all given new names for the duration of the league:
Boston Rovers Shamrock Rovers (Republic of Ireland)
Chicago Mustangs Cagliari Calcio (Italy)
Cleveland Stokers Stoke City (England)
Dallas Tornado Dundee United (Scotland)
Detroit Cougars Glentoran (Northern Ireland)
Houston Stars Bangu AC (Brazil)
Los Angeles Wolves Wolverhampton Wanderers (England)
New York Skyliners C.A. Cerro (Uruguay)
San Francisco Golden Gate Gales ADO Den Haag (Netherlands)
Toronto City Hibernian (Scotland)
Vancouver Royal Canadians Sunderland (England)
Washington Whips Aberdeen (Scotland)
The USA season was short, with each team playing 12 games. The season began on May 26, 1967, and ended on July 14, 1967. The top team from each conference would advance to the championship game, which was held on July 14, 1967, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The championship game featured the Washington Whips, which were actually Aberdeen, and the Los Angeles Wolves, which were Wolverhampton Wanderers. The game was a high-scoring affair, with the Wolves winning 6-5 in extra time.
The USA only lasted one season, but it set the stage for the development of professional soccer in North America. In January 1968, the United States Soccer Football Association (USSFA) voted to formally approve the merger of the USA and the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). The new merged organization was dubbed the North American Soccer League (NASL).
Several teams from the USA and the NPSL joined the new league, including the Chicago Mustangs, the Cleveland Stokers, the Dallas Tornado, the Houston Stars, the Los Angeles Wolves, the Vancouver Royal Canadians, and the Washington Whips. However, most of the other teams from the USA and the NPSL did not survive the transition to the NASL.
The legacy of the USA is complex. On the one hand, it was a significant moment in the history of American soccer, as it introduced the sport to a wider audience and helped pave the way for the development of professional soccer in North America. On the other hand, the league was short-lived, and most of the teams did not survive the transition to the NASL.
Despite this, the USA remains an important part of American soccer history. It was a unique experiment that brought together clubs from around the world and gave them a chance to play in front of American audiences. While it may not have been a long-term success, it helped lay the foundation for the growth of the sport in North America.