NASL Retrospective: New England/Jacksonville Tea Men

Following the demise of the Boston Minutemen, New England Tea Men owned by Lipton Tea was brought into the NASL, playing its home games first at Nickerson Stadium and then in Foxboro, Mass. The team averaged over 11,000 fans its first season, but 1979 and 1980 playing in Foxboro hurt attendance and the team was re-located after the 1980 outdoor season to Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville TeaMen were coached by experienced Noel Cantwell, an Irishman who had done a credible job in the English Leagues. Arnie Mauser who was the Us National Team goalkeeper, and a former Fort Lauderdale Striker was the most notable American on the team. Alan Green and Archie Gemmill were the biggest names from across the pond along with Ricardo Alonso who left the Minnesota Kicks to join the side.

Green was a star for Coventry, but clearly not good enough for the England squad. He eventually gained US citizenship and played a role in the US’ famous 0-0 draw with World Champion Italy at Giants Stadium in 1984.

I went to the season opener in 1982 which was during my spring break from school. Fort Lauderdale with new signing Brian Kidd was the opponent and the Tea Men won 3-1. The drive back to south Florida was a sad one, but the TeaMen had a poor season and dropped down to the second flight ASL II after the season.

The TeaMen outlived the ASL II, shifting to the newly formed USL, which went out of business midway through the 1985 season. The reigning champion Fort Lauderdale Sun of the USL and Houston Dynamos (note plural Dynamos) were the two best teams in that league with many familiar names. (A post for another day) The NASL also went under in 1985, thanks largely to FIFA’s decision in 1983 to award the 1986 World Cup to Mexico, who had also hosted the 1970 tournament, over the United States.