The original NASL lasted from 1968 to 1984. In that period of time, high level soccer was brought to North America by world class superstar players including Pele, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, George Best, Gordon Banks, Geoff Hurst, Eusiebo, Giorgio Chinaglia, Teofilo (Nene) Cubillas and Bobby Moore, among others.
World Soccer Columnist, Brian Glanville who has written about the game for over fifty years listed five former NASL players (Pele, Banks, Cruyff, Beckenbauer and Moore) in his all time world best XI.
Letter from Phil Woosnam to the NASL when the NASL was making plans to return in its present form. Former Commissioner Woosnam sadly passed away at the age of 80 in July 2013.
“It is a great honor to welcome all of you, owners and club executives of the new NASL, to this meeting. What an exciting time for soccer in this country. To think that you are here to renew and continue the legacy of the NASL, and to connect past with present, is indeed a wish fulfilled for me.
It was a long road, but a short time, from our office in the basement of the Atlanta Braves Stadium in 1969 with five teams, to our New York accommodations where the NASL ultimately became twenty-four teams in 1978. My hope for all of you is to repeat and, in the near future, surpass that success.
It was not all easy but definitely worthwhile. Our challenge was to find players, coaches, management and yes, fans who would understand and appreciate our great game. You now have a National Team that will be playing England in round one of the World Cup and, has the skill to win! I'm proud of the many foreign players who helped build our league and even prouder of the many North Americans who learned their skills by playing alongside those talented players. They have passed those skills down the line. You will have a great talent pool and perhaps still, as Europe is now doing, import a limited number of fine players from other countries, on a loan basis. That combination will bring fans to your stadiums just as it did for the first NASL.
Good luck with your meeting and plans for the future. With very best wishes, Phil”
Phil Woosnam played a leading role in the development of the sport in the United States beginning in the 1960s. After a successful playing career in England, the Welshman emigrated the United States in 1966, and became coach of the Atlanta Chiefs in 1968, winning the inaugural NASL Coach of the Year honor.
That year, Woosnam became the Head Coach of the US Men's National Team as well as the Commissioner of the NASL. He remained the commissioner of the NASL until 1982. During his tenure, Woosnam oversaw unprecedented growth in the game including the signing of several top international stars, expansion to several new markets that had never experienced professional soccer previously, and the securing of the first national network television contract for soccer.
Woosnam is an inductee in the National Soccer Hall of Fame and sadly passed away in July 2013, aged 80.