NASL Retrospective: 1979 Attendances

Ex- Man City great Rodney Marsh Led Tampa Bay to the Soccer Bowl/Image from

The NASL is either romantcised or trashed in contemporary American soccer circles, with little ground in between. It seems everyone has an opinion on the old NASL, whether it is grounded in facts, speculation, or clever spinning by MLS types.

With the desire of a new second division to brand itself as the NASL, a time for a retrospective is in order.

Before we  get to our first installment, I should point out is not all sweetness and light just yet for the new NASL. The prospective league is still unsanctioned by the USSF or CSA  and many NASL purists are unhappy about the name being brought out of retirement.

Nonetheless, popular support for the name still runs high with nostalgia generated partly by the successful “Once in a Lifetime” film fueling much of the positive reaction.

In hindsight, it has been theorized that the NASL hit its high water mark in 1979 and 1980 when attendance peaked and a national TV deal with ABC for weekly telecasts was in place. This came two years after the departure of Pele, and as some of the other big stars the NASL had attracted in the 1975-1977 time period began to return home or retire.

The league was never very stable as evidenced by the 1979 attendances. Unlike MLS whose average attendances are generally within a tight range, NASL’s clubs averaged anywhere from 5k fans on average to 46 k + fans on average. Here are the final average attendances for every club.

Atlanta Chiefs      7,350

California Surf    10,330

Chicago Sting    8,036

Dallas Tornados  9,231

Detroit Express  14, 058

Edmonton Drillers  9,923

Fort Lauderdale Strikers    13,774

Houston Hurricane   6,221

LA Aztecs    14,333

Memphis Rogues    7,137

Minnesota Kicks   24,580

New England         6,526

Cosmos       46,690

Philadelphia Fury          5,560

Portland Timbers  11,172

Rochester Lancers        8,680

San Diego Sockers  11,271

San Jose Earthquakes 15,092

Seattle Sounders     19,001

Tampa Bay Rowdies 27,650

Toronto Blizzard    11,821

Tulsa Roughnecks  16,255

Vancouver Whitecaps  22,962

Washington Diplomats 11,949


Vancouver won the Soccer Bowl defeating Tampa Bay