- Aug. 23, 2010
On August 24, 1975 the North American Soccer League hosted its first Soccer Bowl. The championship game of the seven-year old league was rebranded the Soccer Bowl in an attempt to create a neutral site extravaganza similar to that of the NFL’s Super Bowl, first appearing in 1967 in Los Angeles. The NASL’s version was hosted by San Jose, whose Earthquakes were the worst in their division in 1975. The clubs that battled for the Soccer Bowl ’75 crown were two first-year clubs, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Portland Timbers.
The Timbers and Rowdies finished the regular season with nearly identical records. Both clubs went 16-6, the best record in the league, both allowed only 27 goals in 22 games, but the Rowdies scored 46 goals compared to 43 for the Timbers. Had the Timbers not used substitutes in their final game, away to Los Angeles Aztecs on August 9, Portland likely would have bested Tampa in all categories.
Portland used a 2-1 overtime win against Seattle Sounders and a 1-0 defeat of St. Louis Stars to reach the championship from the Western Conference while Tampa Bay beat Toronto Metros-Croatia 1-0 and Miami Toros 3-0 to claim the Eastern Conference title.
When it came to the game itself, the Rowdies and the Timbers battled through a scoreless first half. Only when Arsène Auguste scored on a thunderous volley from a John Sissons cross did the Rowdies take the lead on 66 minutes. Clyde Best doubled the advantage for Tampa Bay on 87 minutes and left Portland no hope of a late equalizer.
The original Soccer Bowl was played in front of 17,483 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose and aired live on CBS as one of only three NASL games to appear on television in 1975 (and the only game not involving the Cosmos).
After their success against the Timbers in Soccer Bowl ’75, Portland signed goal-scoring hero Clyde Best and Stewart Scullion away from the Rowdies for the 1977 season. But the success of the initial season was the best either side would ever muster. The trip to Soccer Bowl ’75 was the Timbers’ only chance at an NASL championship during their eight-year run in the league, only ever even reaching the semi-finals once more in 1978. Tampa Bay returned to the Soccer Bowl in 1978 and 1979 but lost to New York Cosmos and Vancouver Whitecaps, respectively.