The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
goalWA.net is very pleased to introduce a new column that allows writer Doug Thiel a forum to share his memories of our “Original Sounders,” the North American Soccer League (NASL) club that played in the Emerald City from 1974 through 1983. Doug is the author of the 1977 Sounders season highlight book “All the Best,” as well as two new books for youth soccer players, coaches and parents called “The Winners Way.” Click www.cowanparkpress.com to purchase one or both books.
by Doug Thiel
The birth of the NASL began with the 1966 World Cup. For the first time North America could watch the World’s most popular sport on TV. There was no other sports event as big a deal as The Cup and still isn’t.
Here’s what happened. Americans and Canadians were delighted to watch The Cup on TV and said so. That excitement and high level of interest had dollar signs on it. You can guess the rest.
As you would expect some American sports promoters got together and said, “Here’s an opportunity with big bucks hanging from a low limb.” Speculation at its best.
Well, big ideas take more than a speculative big dream. Dear me, here’s what happened. It’s complicated and initially proved to be foolish.
In 1967 two leagues, not one, got underway. Soccer fanatics were ecstatic. So we now had the United Soccer Association (USA) backed by FIFA, USSFA, and the CSFA. But the teams? Where did they come from? Well, not from around here.
Whole teams were imported from Europe much like Parmesan cheese and Cognac. For example: The Shamrock Rovers went to Boston. Stock City landed in Cleveland. Dundee United found a home (temporarily) in Dallas. And so it went. One team, Sunderland, had two towns: Vancouver, BC and Aberdeen, Washington. Really. It’s okay to laugh. Oh yes. All 11 of these European and South American teams became American teams for two months. No green cards required.
So, while the United Soccer Association is beginning to ferment, there suddenly is a new kid on the block, one who has a TV contract with ABC. Wow. What’s next?
This second in line National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) had a TV contract but was outlawed by FIFA meaning all its players could be suspended. Oops. Well, who cares? Both leagues took a nose dive into the turf in 1967. But the story doesn’t end here.
In 1968 the two now out of business leagues kissed and made up and viola, we have our beloved North American Soccer League. And we have 17 teams competing that first season.
And so it went and joy reigned across North America. But the trip was too stormy and finally was overcome by poor management and a shortage of both cash and fans.
In March of 1985 church bells tolled the demise of the NASL. Truly, 17 teams were lost during in the last 4 years. And now there were none.
And we wept and gnashed our teeth. But found some solace with the USL (and the long-lived Sounders) which kept the fire lit until 2009. And that’s when all of us Sounder fans found a new love.
We shouted and screamed and raised our pints and voices loudly in unison and praised the birth of our new child.
The Seattle Sounders FC. Long may they reign.
That was the question. The answer was the Seattle Sounders and boy were they a bunch of greenhorns. Don’t believe it. The forming of and first year of play of our new team was like visiting Lourdes in France. This is a spot where many miracles did and still do happen.
1974, the Sounders first season, was miraculous. No other word could possible fit what happened. And that happening was this: Seattle and the Sounders team literally fell in love with each other. Something undeniably curious was happening. If you were there, you felt it. And laughed when they won (most of the time) and cried when they did not (seldom).
So, away we go with some stories, happenings and events that tell you more than any history of what this team was and did.
I know many of you missed seeing the Sounders those first years but hang in. Treat this as a Disney movie and come along. I’ll do my very best to fill your hearts and minds with the love affair that flooded the homes, streets and air of the Emerald City and its environs.
And tell you of Jack Daley, the Wizard who ran the team and delighted the citizenry with a wonder we had never before seen. Jimmy Gabriel, Harry Redknapp and John Best, the Sounders first coach.
Even before we had many players, every new Sounder body regardless of position was pounding the streets to fan up excitement and recognition. This happened on a daily basis.
So, John was in Bellevue attending a business luncheon. His purpose was to sell season tickets and tell this assembly of Bellevue gentry what soccer players looked like and did.
Time for questions now. John answered a few and things were going well until.
A voice from the back of the room bellowed out, “Hey, Best, where the hell did you get the name Sounders?”
Diplomatically John replied, “Well, Sir, it was selected by a democratic process.”
The dead silence in the room was cracked with a sharp, “Yah, democratic, just like the way they got the name Supersonics. That’s a hell of a name, too.”
“Sir, perhaps you’ll feel better about the name Sounders when we win our first Championship,” John smiled back.
Bravo, John, they were on your side now but: not one bought a season ticket.
There were so many things to do and so few people to do them. But never mind that.
By game time of our first match most of Seattle, Bellevue and the rest of the hinterland knew the name Sounders. And some actually knew that they played soccer.
Next time: John at his Best.
Visit the 1974 Seattle Sounders NASL Museum Page on goalWA.net