- Jan. 6, 2012
The North American Soccer League was not necessarily known for the long-term settling of individual member clubs. Indeed the league featured nearly seventy clubs in various cities and with various names across its seventeen-year run as North America’s top-flight. Yet one club that managed to become a fixture over eleven seasons in the NASL was the Rochester Lancers. Preceded by three seasons in the American Soccer League, the Lancers moved into the NASL in 1970, to great effect.
Though the Lancers finished with the third-best record among just six NASL clubs in 1970, their place atop the Northern Division at season’s end meant a two-game aggregate championship round against the Southern Division champion Washington Darts. Despite winning five fewer games in the twenty-four game season, Rochester destroyed Washington 6-1 on aggregate, winning 3-0 and 3-1, respectively. That 1970 title was the only trophy for the Lancers in their NASL era but it was an important achievement for a club from outside the major cities.
In addition to the famous league championship, Rochester was the only NASL club to ever take part in international competition. The Lancers finished fourth in the 1971 CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, a tournament now known as the CONCACAF Champions League.
Though they averaged 8200 fans over their eleven NASL seasons, the Lancers were forced to fold after the 1980 season.
Before debuting in November 2011, the new Lancers honored the NASL team by creating a Wall of Fame and hosting a celebratory dinner. Original owners and players came back to Rochester to see the origins of the club honored. With an ownership group filled entirely with NASL Lancers fans, keeping a strong connection to old club was a top priority. Indeed, owner Sam Fantauzzo purchased the club name and crest in 2006 as part of a larger collection of soccer memorabilia. Supporters of the original club watch the new Lancers wearing shirts and hats dating to the 1970s while players and owners from the NASL days have lifetime, free season tickets.
All of this rich history is backstory to the creation of a new Rochester Lancers club, now in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Founded ahead of the 2011 season, the new Lancers are an indoor-only team, paying homage to the indoor version of the NASL Lancers while forging their own identity.
The most notable connection between the past and present is the logo – replicating exactly the famous yellow and blue with only the addition of 2011 to denote the MISL version of the club. So too have the bold yellow kits returned, updated for the modern game but instantly recognizable in Upstate New York.
With an exclusively local ownership group firmly based in the traditions of the original Lancers, Rochester is a great example of the preservation of club identity. Though the new Lancers are indoor-only, their explicit expression of the original crest and colors, and aligning their young story with the stars of the past will only help revive fanship and create new supporters. Institutional knowledge is vital to club legacy and the Lancers have that in abundance from the top down.