One of the all-time classic North American soccer rivalries returns August 3 when the New York Cosmos play host to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The highly anticipated match comes nearly 13 months after the Cosmos announced they would be returning to action in the NASL and 30 years since the two teams last squared off in the 1983 NASL regular season.
In 1977, a matchup between these two teams which drew almost 78,000 fans to a playoff game at Giants Stadium. That year Fort Lauderdale had the best regular season record in the NASL while New York was saying farewell to Pelé, and had just welcomed the legendary sweeper Franz Beckenbauer.
In that August playoff game held at Giants Stadium, the Cosmos showed off an attacking prowess that wowed the record crowd; an 8-3 victory was paced by Englishman Steve Hunt’s goal in the 2nd minute. The Cosmos would go on to claim the Soccer Bowl Trophy in Pelé’s final game as a professional footballer.
The Cosmos and Strikers would continue to be dominant forces in the NASL the next few seasons, and in 1980 the teams met at Washington’s RFK Stadium in the Soccer Bowl in front of over 50,000 fans. That game started brightly for the Fort Lauderdale who controlled the first 35 minutes of action despite the score remaining 0-0. Late in the first half, Strikers' forward Gerd Müller, who was until recently the all-time leading goal scorer in European competitions went down injured and subsequently the Cosmos took control of the match. New York struck three times in the second half to claim a 3-0 victory. Giorgio Chinaglia the all-time leading goal scorer in North American professional soccer scored twice in the late stages of the match.
The two teams continued to excel on the pitch in the early 1980s with both teams trading results, including the last meeting between the two teams in May 1983 which Fort Lauderdale won 2-0.
"Starting the fall season off with the renewal of the original NASL rivalry between the Cosmos and Strikers shows our league is looking toward a bright future,” said Strikers head coach Daryl Shore. “The Strikers are excited to be the first opponent for the Cosmos and expect an electric atmosphere as they return to our league."
The legacy of Cosmos-Strikers matchups still evokes passion among fans in both South Florida and the tri-state area. Some of the greatest players to ever play professionally in North America featured in Cosmos-Strikers matchups and a new chapter of this epic rivalry will begin August 3.
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