Every Tuesday fans in the United States and Canada have an opportunity for their article to be featured on the NASL.com website. Every month we will ask fans to vote on social media to determine which of that month’s features was the best and will send the winning writer a NASL Official Match Ball.
By Gabriel Benson
Growing up in Iowa in the late seventies and early eighties, you could say the cupboard was bare when it came to exposure and opportunities to play and watch soccer as a kid. But my family moved Hurst, Texas, a suburb of the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex in the summer of 1984. Much to my great surprise there was a very large and active soccer fan base already in place.
The Dallas Tornado had been in the USA and NASL from 1967 to 1981. It was a team that was also chaired by a man named Lamar Hunt, and as a soccer fan you may have heard of him. The Tornado played for 15 seasons including the Indoor season of NASL.
There were still banners and flags in and around our community flying the Tornado Logo even three years after they had disbanded. In its place the MISL team known as the Dallas Sidekicks started in 1984, which happened coincide with my family moving to town.
It was incredible that not only did fans pack Reunion Arena, the then home of the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA and a future home of the Dallas Stars of the NHL, but the games were also televised on local TV stations - live! It also just so happened that a new player, who had been playing for the Tampa Bay Rowdies from 1982 to 1984 named Antonio Carlos Pecorari from Brazil was picked up by the Sidekicks. You might remember him more clearly as Tatu.
This man was amazing and mesmerized the hometown fans with his goals and celebrations, throwing his soccer jersey into the stands for fans after scoring, a tradition he started while with the Rowdies of the NASL.
What is incredible is that the fan base is still there in Dallas today. They are still going strong in the PASL with a first year average attendance of more than 5,000 and a single-game attendance record of 5,909.
As it happens my life has come full circle, and I am back in Iowa now. During the time I was away, soccer became a sanctioned sport in all high schools in Iowa, in the spring of 1995. The area I live in now has a huge Youth Soccer Academy, along with floodlit fields for both youth and adult soccer leagues.
The opportunity to watch live professional matches is also growing with more exposure of live matches via cable and through media outlets including NASL matches on USTREAM. Soccer is now such an accessible sport for so many. And if you want to play, you only really need a ball to begin.
As we go forward I see Soccer truly becoming a much loved and played sport in the United States. The appeal is massive and I think the generation of kids that get to have exposure to all of the great players and teams will only build a broader and larger fan base for years to come. I am so excited that the Minnesota area has Minnesota United FC so I can have a ‘home team’¬Ěto root for in the NASL.
I am excited for the continued expansion of the league to Indianapolis, Ottawa, Virginia, and of course for the return of the famous New York Cosmos. Exciting things are happening in U.S. Soccer and the NASL will be a major player at the forefront in the years to come.
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|New York Cosmos||14||9||4||1||10||31|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
|Minnesota United FC||14||6||2||6||2||20|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||14||5||3||6||-2||18|
|San Antonio Scorpions||14||3||1||10||-9||10|
|San Antonio Scorpions||12||6||2||4||4||20|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||12||5||3||4||5||18|
|Minnesota United FC||12||4||2||6||-5||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||12||2||2||8||-14||8|