It’s being reported that the new breakaway league consisting of several former USL clubs has registered the name North American Soccer League, apparently with the intent of using it at launch next spring.
There are those of us old enough to remember the original NASL (if you’re not, go here). Those who aren’t probably only know enough to say “That league folded. It’s stupid to take the name of a league that folded.” There might be something to that.
But I think enough time has passed that there’s a generation that either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. And, despite what the young knee-jerkers will say, the NASL wasn’t a complete and utter failure. It laid the foundation for a lot of what we have today. It was fun. Funky. Fly-by-night, often.
And this league has enough challenges that whatever it decided to name itself was going to be the least of its worries. As of today, when two more teams (including my beloved Tampa Bay Rowdies – another NASL clone/zombie) jumped from USL to the new league, it has nine teams. Three are pretty strong (Montreal, Carolina, Vancouver), three either haven’t played a game yet or would be restarting after a year’s absence (Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Atlanta), one’s a USL-2 team moving over and up (Baltimore), one’s a complete train wreck (Miami) and one is said to be on the brink of bankruptcy (Minnesota).
Wait….that sounds exactly like the NASL! It’s the perfect name!
Seriously, this just continues the retro trend in American soccer, which has been building for a while now. Here’s a (likely incomplete, you tell me) timeline:
1994 – The American Professional Soccer League’s expansion Seattle franchise takes the name “Sounders” used by the NASL team that played from 1974-1983. The club remained alive through 2008 in the second division before the name (altered a bit to Seattle Sounders FC) wound up on an MLS expansion team.
1998 -The Baltimore Spirit of the National Professional Soccer League changes its name to the Baltimore Blast, the name of the city’s original Major Indoor Soccer League team.
1999 – Major League Soccer’s San Jose club, the Clash, brings back the Earthquakes moniker used by its NASL (and, later, WSL) club from 1974-1988.
2001 – Vancouver 86ers reclaim the Whitecaps name used by the former NASL club. Portland’s A-League expansion club takes the name Timbers used by its former NASL club. It is expected that both will continue to use those names when they join MLS in 2011. The Kansas City Attack indoor team reclaims the Kansas City Comets name used by its original MISL franchise from 1980-1991. The National Professional Soccer League changes its name to the Major Indoor Soccer League.
2002 – The second MISL’s Cleveland Crunch changes its name to the Cleveland Force, the name of the city’s original MISL franchise from 1978-1988.
2008 – A USL expansion team in Tampa announces it will be known as the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the same name as the team that played in the NASL and, later, the ASL, from 1975-1993.
2009 – The National Indoor Soccer League becomes the third indoor league to call itself the Major Indoor Soccer League, changing its name ten days before its season opener. A new outdoor league, comprised largely of former USL-1 clubs, registers the trademark North American Soccer League, apparently with an eye on calling themselves the NASL.
Retro isn’t confined to soccer, as, I’m sure you all know. Pop culture reaches back to past decades cyclically in this country as well. It’s the way of things.
Like my man Billy Joel said “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” The name can come back, but the old days aren’t. I’m as nostalgic as the next guy, but I can’t get myself worked up enough to think the return of the NASL name is either the greatest thing ever or a horrible idea. It is what it is.