1979 North American Soccer League season

North American Soccer League
Season 1979
Champions Vancouver Whitecaps
(1st title)
Premiers New York Cosmos
(3rd title)
Matches played 360
Goals scored 1374 (3.82 per match)
Top goalscorer Giorgio Chinaglia
(26 goals)
Biggest home win SEA 9–0 EDM
(August 1)[1]
Biggest away win MEM 0–6 ATL
(July 21)[2]
SJ 0–6 SD
(August 11)[3]
Highest scoring DET 6–5 (SO) CHI
(July 7)[4]
(June 27)[5]
Longest winning run 8, New York
(July 8 – August 12)[6]
Longest losing run 14, Edmonton
(May 26 – July 18)[7]
Highest attendance 76,031 (Tulsa at New York) (August 26)[8]
Lowest attendance 653 (N.E. at Houston) (April 19)[9]
Average attendance 14,201[10]

The 1979 North American Soccer League season was the 67th season of FIFA-sanctioned soccer and the 12th with a national first-division league in the United States and Canada.

Season recap

Compared to the previous season's upheaval, 1979 was a relatively tranquil year. The league format remained unchanged with 24 teams in six divisions and a 16-team playoff. A rule modifications required that each squad play two U.S. or Canadian players and that each 17-man roster carry six such players.[11] A slight modification to the first round of the playoffs, from a single game to the two-game format used in later rounds, was made. Also the minigame, used to decide tied playoff series, no longer ended on a golden goal (sudden death). Instead, the entire 30 minutes was played.[12]

Still, there were issues to be sorted out. There was a brief players' strike on April 14, as the league refused to recognize the newly formed Players Association.[13] However, since the majority of NASL players were foreign and unsure of American and Canadian labor laws, support was minimal.[14] An estimated three quarters of NASL players crossed the picket line once the Justice Department implied that foreign players would be subject to deportation.[15]

The Cosmos decided to put "New York" back into their name after a two-year absence. With a change in ownership, the Toronto franchise was now called the Toronto Blizzard, while Toronto Croatia (who had merged with the Metros back in 1975) returned to their old league, the National Soccer League. The Colorado Caribous moved to Atlanta to become the reborn Atlanta Chiefs in October 1978,[16] while the Oakland Stompers would move to Edmonton just a month before the start of the season.[17] Both teams struggled, finishing last in their respective divisions. The new Edmonton Drillers were particularly bad, setting a record for most consecutive losses in league history with 14.[18]

At the other end of the table, the Houston Hurricane went from worst to first in the American Conference, going undefeated in their 15 home matches at the Astrodome and earning Timo Liekoski Coach of the Year honors.[19] However, the Hurricane were upset in the first round of the ASC playoffs, as the Philadelphia Fury, who were winless on the road during the regular season, won the deciding game in Houston.[20]

That meant the door was opened for the Tampa Bay Rowdies to win their second straight ASC title, sweeping the Fury[21] and outlasting the San Diego Sockers in a minigame at Tampa Stadium.[22] The Rowdies were led by Oscar Fabbiani's 25 goals and a defense that gave up 46 goals, the second-fewest in the league.

The two-time defending champion Cosmos kept rolling, posting another 24-6 record and surpassing their league record for points with 216. Johan Cruyff joined the team in the fall of 1978 for a few exhibitions, but the Los Angeles Aztecs bought out his NASL option for $600,000 to take him to the West Coast.[23] Cruyff scored two goals against the Rochester Lancers on his debut,[24] while leading the Aztecs to a nine-win turnaround. Despite their second-round playoff loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps,[25] he earned league MVP honors for his efforts.

New York proved that they did not need him to score goals, as Giorgio Chinaglia led the league for the third straight year. However, he lost out on the scoring title by a point to Fabbiani.[26] As befitting their status within the league, the Cosmos had the honor of playing in the first game of ABC Sports' three-year TV contract with the league in May;[27] a Soccer Bowl '78 rematch in which they lost 3–2 at Tampa Bay. The network would cover nine regular-season and playoff games per year. This included coverage of the next three Soccer Bowls.[28]

However, the league's dream of the Cosmos hosting another Soccer Bowl in front of a national TV audience went up in smoke when New York lost to Vancouver in a memorable playoff matchup. After the Whitecaps won the first game of the National Conference final in Vancouver,[29] the teams played for three and a half hours at Giants Stadium three days later on ABC. The Cosmos won the regular game in a shootout, tying the series at one. The deciding minigame would also go to a shootout, where Derek Possee gave Vancouver the lead. After the Cosmos' Ricky Davis and the Whitecaps' Alan Ball missed on their chances, New York's Nelsi Morais was unable to beat the five-second clock and his goal was waved off, giving Vancouver the win.[30]

Vancouver went on to beat the Rowdies a week later in the Soccer Bowl. Trevor Whymark scored both Vancouver goals and earned game MVP honors,[31] while Tampa Bay suffered their second straight loss in the championship game.[32] Attendance at Giants Stadium was well below projections, as 50,699 showed up despite 66,843 tickets having been sold.[33] The Whitecaps' Alan Ball was named playoff MVP for his seven-assist effort in Vancouver's championship run.[34] Attendance estimates vary (they range from 60,000 to 150,000 people),[35] but the resulting championship parade is still considered the largest public demonstration in Vancouver civic history.[36]

Another positive sign for the league was that this would be the first offseason in NASL history where no franchises folded or moved.

Regular season

W = Wins, L = Losses, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, BP = Bonus Points, Pts = Point System

6 points for a win, 0 points for a loss, 1 point for each regulation goal scored up to three per game.

American Conference

Eastern Division W L GF GA BP Pts Home Road
Tampa Bay Rowdies191167465516914-15-10
Fort Lauderdale Strikers17137564631659-68-7
Philadelphia Fury102055605111110-50-15
New England Tea Men12184156411108-74-11
Central Division W L GF GA BP Pts Home Road
Houston Hurricane22861465518715-07-8
Chicago Sting16147061631599-67-8
Detroit Express141660564913210-54-11
Memphis Rogues624387437733-123-12
Western Division W L GF GA BP Pts Home Road
San Diego Sockers*15155955501407-88-7
California Surf15155356501409-66-9
Edmonton Drillers 822437840887-81-14
San Jose Earthquakes822417438864-114-11

*San Diego and California finished the season with identical records and point totals. San Diego was awarded the division title due to a better goal differential.[37]

National Conference

Eastern Division W L GF GA BP Pts Home Road
New York Cosmos24684527221613-211-4
Washington Diplomats191168505917212-37-8
Toronto Blizzard14165265491339-65-10
Rochester Lancers151543574213211-44-11
Central Division W L GF GA BP Pts Home Road
Minnesota Kicks21967485818414-17-8
Dallas Tornado17135351501529-68-7
Tulsa Roughnecks141661565513911-43-12
Atlanta Chiefs12185961491219-63-12
Western Division W L GF GA BP Pts Home Road
Vancouver Whitecaps201054345217212-38-7
Los Angeles Aztecs181262475416210-58-7
Seattle Sounders13175852471259-64-11
Portland Timbers11195075461126-95-10

NASL League Leaders


GP = Games Played, G = Goals (worth 2 points), A = Assists (worth 1 point), Pts = Points

Player Team GP G A Pts
Oscar FabbianiTampa Bay Rowdies2625858
Giorgio ChinagliaNew York Cosmos2726557
Gerd MüllerFt. Lauderdale Strikers25191755
David RobbPhiladelphia Fury30162052
Jeff BourneAtlanta Chiefs29181551
Karl-Heinz GranitzaChicago Sting30201050
Teófilo CubillasFt. Lauderdale Strikers30161850
Alan WilleyMinnesota Kicks2921749
Dennis TueartNew York Cosmos27161648
Laurie AbrahamsCalifornia/Tulsa2518945
Johan CruyffLos Angeles Aztecs23131642


Note: GP = Games played; Min - Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; SO = Shutouts

Player Team GP Min SV GA GAA W L SO
Phil ParkesVancouver Whitecaps292704100290.962097
Victor NogueiraAtlanta Chiefs17143279201.26885
Željko BileckiTampa Bay Rowdies17154993221.281255
Mike IvanowSeattle Sounders282517149391.3913152
Bill IrwinWashington Diplomats282603134421.4517114
Paul HammondHouston Hurricane292705215441.462186
Volkmar GrossSan Diego/Minnesota242132137381.6041776
Kevin KeelanNew England Tea Men252242133401.60512132
Colin BoultonLos Angeles/Tulsa302746109491.60616147
Tino LettieriMinnesota Kicks16136895251.631052

NASL All-Stars

First Team   Position   Second Team Honorable Mention
Phil Parkes, Vancouver G Paul Hammond, Houston Alan Mayer, San Diego
Carlos Alberto, New York D Marinho, New York Steve Litt, Minnesota
Bruce Wilson, Chicago D John Gorman, Tampa Bay Bob Smith, San Diego
Wim Rijsbergen, New York D Mihalj Keri, Los Angeles Wim Suurbier, Los Angeles
Mike Connell, Tampa Bay D Bob Lenarduzzi, Vancouver Artur, New England
Franz Beckenbauer, New York M Teófilo Cubillas, Ft. Lauderdale Rodney Marsh, Tampa Bay
Johan Neeskens, New York M Vladislav Bogićević, New York Alan Hudson, Seattle
Ace Ntsoelengoe, Minnesota M Alan Ball, Vancouver Gerry Daly, New England
Johan Cruyff, Los Angeles F Óscar Fabbiani, Tampa Bay Jorgen Kristensen, Chicago
Trevor Francis, Detroit F Karl-Heinz Granitza, Chicago Steve Wegerle, Tampa Bay
Giorgio Chinaglia, New York F Gerd Müller, Ft. Lauderdale Dennis Tueart, New York


The top two teams from each division qualified for the playoffs automatically. The two highest remaining point totaled teams in each conference also qualified for the playoffs as wild cards and were given the lowest first round seeds. Playoff match-ups and home/away status were reset after each round, based on regular season point totals.

In 1979 and 1980, if a playoff series was tied at one victory each, a full 30 minute mini-game was played. If neither team held an advantage after the 30 minutes, the teams would then move on to an NASL shoot-out to determine a series winner.


  Conference Quarterfinals Conference Semifinals Conference Championships Soccer Bowl '79
 Houston Hurricane 1 1 -  
 Philadelphia Fury 2 2 -  
   Philadelphia Fury 2(0) 0 -  
   Tampa Bay Rowdies 3(2) 1 -  
 Tampa Bay Rowdies 3 3 -
 Detroit Express 0 1 -  
   Tampa Bay Rowdies 1 3(3) 1  
   San Diego Sockers 2 2(0) 0  
 San Diego Sockers 4 7 -  
 California Surf 2 2 -  
   San Diego Sockers 2 1 -
   Chicago Sting 0 0 -  
 Fort Lauderdale Strikers 0 0 -
 Chicago Sting 2 1 -  
   Tampa Bay Rowdies 1
   Vancouver Whitecaps 2
 New York Cosmos 3 2 -  
 Toronto Blizzard 1 0 -  
   New York Cosmos 0 3 3
   Tulsa Roughnecks 3 0 1  
 Minnesota Kicks 1 1 -
 Tulsa Roughnecks 2 2 -  
   New York Cosmos 0 3(3) 0(2)
   Vancouver Whitecaps 2 2(1) 1(3)  
 Vancouver Whitecaps 3 2 -  
 Dallas Tornado 2 1 -  
   Vancouver Whitecaps 2(1) 1 1
   Los Angeles Aztecs 3(2) 0 0  
 Washington Diplomats 1 3 -
 Los Angeles Aztecs 3 4 -  

First round

Lower seed Higher seed Game 1 Game 2 Mini-game (lower seed hosts Game 1)
Philadelphia Fury - Houston Hurricane 2–1 2–1 x August 14 • Veterans Stadium • 3,337
August 20 • Houston Astrodome • 7,530
Detroit Express - Tampa Bay Rowdies 0–3 1–3 x August 15 • Pontiac Silverdome • 21,539
August 19 • Tampa Stadium • 27,210
Chicago Sting - Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2–0 1–0 x August 15 • Soldier Field • 10,019
August 18 • Lockhart Stadium • 13,691
California Surf - San Diego Sockers 2–4 2–7 x August 16 • Anaheim Stadium • 8,460
August 18 • San Diego Stadium • 10,225
Tulsa Roughnecks - Minnesota Kicks 2–1 (OT) 2–1 (OT) x August 15 • Skelly Stadium • 14,105
August 19 • Metropolitan Stadium • 28,996
Dallas Tornado - Vancouver Whitecaps 2–3 1 –2 x August 15 • Ownby Stadium • 8,829
August 18 • Empire Stadium • 30,328
Los Angeles Aztecs - Washington Diplomats 3–1 4–3 (OT)[38] x August 15 • Rose Bowl • 12,042
August 19 • RFK Stadium • 14,802
Toronto Blizzard - New York Cosmos 1–3 0–2 x August 16 • Exhibition Stadium • 30,356
August 19 • Giants Stadium • 46,531

Conference Semifinals

Lower seed Higher seed Game 1 Game 2 Mini-game (lower seed hosts Game 1)
San Diego Sockers - Chicago Sting 2–0 1–0 x August 22 • San Diego Stadium • 11,561
August 25 • Wrigley Field • 15,379
Los Angeles Aztecs - Vancouver Whitecaps 3–2 (SO, 2–1) 0–1 0–1 August 22 • Rose Bowl • 21,213[39]
August 25 • Empire Stadium • 32,375
Philadelphia Fury - Tampa Bay Rowdies 2–3 (SO, 0–2) 0–1 x August 23 • Veterans Stadium • 10,395
August 25 • Tampa Stadium • 21,112
Tulsa Roughnecks - New York Cosmos 3–0 0–3 1–3 August 23 • Skelly Stadium • 26,011
August 26 • Giants Stadium • 76,031

Conference Championships

Lower seed Higher seed Game 1 Game 2 Mini-game (lower seed hosts Game 1)
Vancouver Whitecaps - New York Cosmos 2–0 2–3 (SO, 1–3) 1–0 (SO, 3–2) August 29 • Empire Stadium • 32,875
September 1 • Giants Stadium • 44,109
San Diego Sockers - Tampa Bay Rowdies 2–1 2–3 (SO, 0–3) 0–1 August 30 • San Diego Stadium • 20,267
September 2 • Tampa Stadium • 38,766

Soccer Bowl '79

Main article: Soccer Bowl '79

September 8
2 pm EDT
Vancouver Whitecaps 2–1 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Whymark  12:37'
Whymark (Ball)  59:37'
Van der Veen (Anderson)  22:25'
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Attendance: 50,699
Referee: Gino D'Ippolito (USA)[40]

1979 NASL Champions: Vancouver Whitecaps

Post season awards


  1. "Whitecaps still making waves". The Leader-Post. August 2, 1979. p. 35. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  2. NASL: A Complete Record Of The North American Soccer League. 1989. p. 213.
  3. "NASL sets playoff matchups". Edmonton Journal. August 13, 1979. p. D3. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  4. "Francis' Goal Spurs Express". Toledo Blade. July 8, 1979. p. D4. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  5. "Prati pays off for Lancers immediately". The Leader-Post. June 28, 1979. p. 26. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  6. NASL: A Complete Record Of The North American Soccer League. 1989. p. 225.
  7. NASL: A Complete Record Of The North American Soccer League. 1989. p. 218.
  8. "Fiery Cosmos demolish Roughnecks". St. Petersburg Times. August 27, 1979. p. 6C. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  9. "Houston overcomes flooding, Tea Men". St. Petersburg Times. April 20, 1979. p. 4C. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  10. "Attendance Project: NASL". Kenn Tomasch. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  11. http://www.nasl.com/page/slug/a-review-of-the-golden-era#.Uzqzk4WAfY0
  12. "NASL Playoffs Open Tonight". The Hour. August 14, 1979. p. 49. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  13. "NASL Strike Expected". The Evening Independent. April 13, 1979. p. B3. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  14. Dorman, Larry (April 14, 1979). "NASL Strike Support Minimal". Palm Beach Post. p. B3. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  15. Soccer in a Football World. 2008. p. 197.
  16. "Sale Of NASL Caribous Approved". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. October 4, 1978. p. 4-D. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  17. "NASL owners okay move to Edmonton". Lewiston Morning Tribune. February 23, 1979. p. 7B. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  18. "Edmonton drills itself into NASL record book". The Leader-Post. July 19, 1979. p. 16. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  19. KICK Magazine: Soccer Bowl '79. 1979. p. 14.
  20. "Rowdies to face Fury in playoffs". St. Petersburg Times. August 21, 1979. p. 5C. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  21. Curtis, Jim (August 26, 1979). "Rowdies shut off Fury 1-0". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. p. 1C. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  22. Tierney, Mike (September 3, 1979). "On to Soccer Bowl: Rowdies win!". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1C. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  23. Soccer in a Football World. 2008. p. 194.
  24. "Los Angeles Goes Dutch". The Evening Independent. May 24, 1979. p. 5-C. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
  25. "Fiery Cosmos demolish Roughnecks". St. Petersburg Times. August 27, 1979. p. 6C. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
  26. Tierney, Mike (August 13, 1979). "Fabbiani wins title; Rowdies lose again". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1C. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  27. Gillespie, Bob (May 12, 1979). "What It Was... Was Soccer". The News and Courier. p. 12-D. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  28. "TV deal set for U.S. pro soccer loop". Montreal Gazette. November 15, 1978. p. 12-D. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  29. "Whitecaps Capsize Cosmos Again". The Hour. August 30, 1979. p. 30. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  30. "Cosmos Ousted From NASL Playoffs". Reading Eagle. September 2, 1979. p. 83. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  31. "Vancouver Champion: Whymark Soccer Bowl Hero". Toledo Blade. September 9, 1979. p. E7. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  32. Beard, Randy (September 10, 1979). "Rowdies Go Grumbling". The Evening Independent. p. 1-C. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  33. "At 3,000 miles from home, Whitecaps win Soccer Bowl". Morning Record and Journal. September 9, 1979. p. 13. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  34. Chick, Bob (September 10, 1979). "A Painful Past Grates On A Great Scot". The Evening Independent. p. 3-C. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  35. "Frenzied welcome for 'Caps". Edmonton Journal. September 10, 1979. p. C1. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  36. "Whitecaps Wyn Big With Owen". Certified General Accountants Association of British Columbia. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  37. "NASL sets playoff matchups". Edmonton Journal. August 13, 1979. p. D3. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  38. "NASL: Johann Cruyff LA Aztecs Playoff Goal 1979". Archived from the original on 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
  39. "NASL: Vancouver at Los Angeles 8/22/1979". Retrieved 2013-07-08.
  40. Soccer Bowl '79 Media Guide. 1979. p. 8.

Soccer Bowl '79 Media Guide. New York, NY: North American Soccer League. 1979. 

KICK Magazine: Soccer Bowl '79. New York, NY: North American Soccer League. 1979. 

1980 Official North American Soccer League Guide. New York, NY: North American Soccer League. 1980. 

Jose, Colin (1989). NASL: A Complete Record of the North American Soccer League. Derby, England: Breedon Books. 

Jose, Colin (2003). North American Soccer League Encyclopedia. Haworth, NJ: St. Johann Press. 

Wangerin, David (2008). Soccer In A Football World. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. 

External links

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