National Professional Soccer League (partially found footage of soccer matches; 1967)

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The New York Generals vs the Chicago Spurs at the Yankee Stadium.

Status: Partially Found

The National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) was an early attempt at establishing professional soccer in the United States, and to a lesser extent, Canada. With the first matches occurring on 16th April 1967, the league ultimately proved a disappointment from commercial and critical standpoints, leading towards a merger with the rival United Soccer Association (USA) to form the North American Soccer League. Nevertheless, 21 matches would receive live coverage from CBS in colour.


While the United States had seen the launch of a few professional soccer leagues, including the American Soccer League in the 1920s, it remained a niche sport.[1][2][3] However, the mid-1960s saw America be influenced greatly by British culture, typically referred to as the "British Invasion of the US".[3][1] With satellite television also emerging in the country, the 1966 FIFA World Cup saw a strong American audience for this time period, which culminated in ten million watching England win the Final against West Germany 4-2 on home soil.[1][3][2] Additionally, the release of Goal! The World Cup further showcased soccer within the US, and with the World Cup having been won by an English-speaking nation for the first time, it convinced a group of businessmen of the viability surrounding a professional US league.[4][3][1][2]

However, there was competition to build the professional league, with two rival leagues emerging.[5][3][1][4][2] Led by NFL and MLB franchise owners, the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) was formed in 1966 with the intent to hold professional soccer games within both the United States and Canada.[2][3][1][4][5] However, the league faced competition from the United Soccer Association (USA), which intended to achieve the same goals.[5][3][1][4][2] The NPSL would be considered an outlaw league by FIFA, the United States Soccer Football Association (USSFA), and the Canadian Soccer Football Association over disagreements surrounding paying the USSFA a cut of the tickets and television revenue.[1][5][2][4][3] In contrast, the USA was willing to pay said fee, becoming the sanctioned league by all three organisations after paying $25,000 per franchise to the USSFA.[6][1][2][5]

The NPSL and USA would both launch in 1967.[5][2][1][3][4] The USA initially wanted to start a year later, but because of the NPSL's growth, it opted to launch earlier than expected.[1][4][6] This meant the league had no time to provide no home players or teams of its own.[1][6] Thus, it instead enlisted the assistance of established European and South American teams, who would compete in America under different names.[1][3][4][6] For instance, English clubs Stoke City, Sunderland, and Wolverhampton Wanderers became Cleveland Stokers, Vancouver Royal Canadians, and Los Angeles Wolves respectively.[3][4][1][5] Meanwhile, the NPSL created its own teams like the Atlanta Chiefs and Baltimore Bays, with players willing to join these clubs despite the threat of sanctions by FIFA.[2][3][5]

CBS coverage

The NPSL also gained a competitive advantage, when it signed a contract with CBS to televise 21 matches live on Sundays and in colour.[7][2][1][5] CBS had also approached the USA, but all offers were refused by the latter because of a clause that enabled CBS to drop its partnership at any time.[1] The NPSL saw no qualms with this, signing a 10-year contract worth $1 million the first year, although this would drop over time.[1][2] Despite facing threats from FIFA and a public backlash, the "outlaw" NPSL league now had TV exposure compared to its sanctioned counterpart.[1][2][5]

Thus, on 16th April 1967, the NPSL season officially began, with ten clubs split into two divisions.[5][2][7] Atlanta and Baltimore would compete alongside the Philadelphia Spartans, the New York Generals, and the Pittsburgh Phantoms in the Eastern Division.[5][2] The clash between the pair that day received live CBS coverage, with commentary provided by Jack Whitaker, with former Northern Ireland international Danny Blanchflower fulfilling the role as a pundit.[5][2][7] The match only occurred in front of 8,434 at Memorial Stadium, which was well-below expectations.[5] The home side came out victorious thanks to a goal from forward Guy Saint-Vil.[2][7][5] The scoring system for the NPSL league was unusual; wins enabled teams to score six points, and a draw was worth two.[5][7] Additionally, each goal a team scored resulted in them scoring an additional point, up to a maximum of three per game.[5][7][2] Because of this, Baltimore earned seven points, while Atlanta came away with nothing.[5][7][2]

Ultimately, the NPSL season proved a disappointment commercially and critically.[2][5][3] Among the critics were Blanchflower, who lambasted the low-quality of the games compared to those occurring in Europe and South America.[5][2] CBS was also accused of negatively impacting the games.[5][2] According to referee Peter Rhodes, during a match between Pittsburgh and the Toronto Falcons on 14th May, he was forced to deliberately call for eleven fouls and make players fake injuries so that CBS had enough time to place commercials during its television coverage.[5][2] Attendance dropped overtime to an average of only 4,879, while television viewership also declined.[8][5][2] At the end of the season, Baltimore had won the Eastern Division, facing Western Division winners Oakland Clippers.[7][5][2] The Clippers would defeat the Bays 4-2 on aggregate to claim the Championship in front of 9,037 at Oakland Coliseum on 9th September.[9][5][7][2]

Soon after, CBS terminated its television contract prematurely.[8][4] According to CBS Sports' Bill MacPhail during an interview in 1976, the low stadium attendance made generating excitement difficult, while also believing that the league was overly-reliant on international players that were unknown to most in America.[8] With the USA league also struggling, a merger occurred that led to the formation of the North American Soccer League on 7th December 1967.[7][5][2][3][1] This league would last until March 1985.[10] The NPSL was considered a failure, but it is still cited as being a catalyst for the development of modern professional soccer within America.[2][3]


During the sole NPSL season, CBS would provide live coverage of 21 games. However, none of these match broadcasts have since resurfaced. Nevertheless, a newsreel detailing a match between the Oakland Clippers (referred to as the California Clippers) and the Pittsburgh Phantoms is publicly available.



Newsreel detailing the Oakland Clippers-Pittsburgh Phantoms match.

See Also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 History of Soccer detailing the brief history of the USA league and the CBS contract that went to the NPSL. Retrieved 4th Sep '22
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 The Guardian detailing the NPSL's formation, its lack of success, and its merger with the USA. Retrieved 4th Sep '22
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 BBC News detailing how the influence of British culture in the United States during the 1960s led to professional soccer leagues being established. Retrieved 4th Sep '22
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 SBnation detailing the inspiration behind both leagues' creation and their eventual merger. Retrieved 4th Sep '22
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 5.25 Soccer History USA detailing the ill-fated conflict between the two leagues, CBS' coverage and controversies surrounding it, and the full league results and statistics. Retrieved 4th Sep '22
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Document summarising the USA league's brief history and its results. Retrieved 4th Sep '22
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 This Day in Football History detailing the Baltimore Bays-Atlanta Chiefs match and noting the extent of CBS coverage. Retrieved 4th Sep '22
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Sports Illustrated detailing CBS dropping coverage of soccer after a year and providing MacPhail's comments. Retrieved 4th Sep '22
  9. The New York Times reporting on the Oakland Clippers winning the Championship. Retrieved 4th Sep '22
  10. North American Soccer League detailing the original NASL from 1968 to 1984. Retrieved 4th Sep '22