It’s about time Major League Soccer realized local fans have a connection to names and clubs that preceded the formation of MLS. I was appalled when MLS a few weeks ago ruled out the use of the Seattle Sounders name for the new MLS club which will replace the USL Sounders next season.
The Sounders name was restored by an amazing grassroots and net roots campaign, using such vehicles as Facebook, My Space and good old fashioned letter writing. Contrary to the opinions by some in the MLS league office their is a value in embracing the heritage of the NASL, and the very fans in this country who supported the NASL and soccer at every level since. The building blocks of the success of the US National Team and the ability for MLS to even sustain its business were created by the momentum for the game created by the NASL. As the move “Once in a Lifetime” chronicled two summers ago, such legends of world football as Franz Beckenbauer and Johann Cryuff feel without the NASL never would the grassroots youth soccer movement in the United States existed which probably means no World Cup 1994 on US soil, nor any post 1950 World Cup qualification for the red, white and blue.
MLS’ decision to finally relent to the overwhelming fan pressure and sentiment from historians like myself, shows that Commissioner Garber may finally get it. He may finally realize the legacy of franchises that featured such legends as Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Ian Bridge, and many other is to be embraced not ignored. I still maintain all these years later had the original MLS franchise in the Tampa Bay area been named the Rowdies, not the Mutiny, the team would not have been contracted. The Rowdies in their heyday averaged over 27,000 fans a game, in a time where the area had far fewer people and worse transportation infrastructure than it did in the 1990s when the MLS began play.
While MLS’ inability to understand local markets and unwillingness to embrace the better aspects of the NASL legacy were ill conceived, Monday’s reversal is great news. Hopefully the Sounders will be the first in many moves by the league to embrace the pre 1996 history of the game in this country.