North American Soccer League (1974-1981)
Born: 1974 – NASL expansion franchise.
Folded: December 9, 1981.
- 1974: East Los Angeles College Stadium
- 1975-1976: El Camino Junior College
- 1977: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
- 1978-1980: The Rose Bowl
- 1981: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
- 1974: Dr. Jack Gregory
- 1975-1977: John Chaffetz, Elton John, et al.
- 1977-1980: Alan Rothenberg, Larry Friend & Donald Reynolds
- 1980-1981: Televisa Corp
The Aztecs were L.A.’s intermittently glam soccer club of the 1970’s. The club won the North American Soccer League championship in their expansion season of 1974. At various times, the Aztecs had ties to everyone from George Best to Elton John to the Dutch midfield genius Johan Cruyff. But the club also bounced from one ill-fitting stadium to another every year or two and suffered from revolving door ownership. Each new regime swiftly jettisoned the favored European superstar of its predecessor.
Best arrived first and was still good enough to dominate in the American league. He was arguably the biggest name signed by the NASL other than the Brazilian superstar Pele, who came to the league a year earlier with the New York Cosmos in 1975. Like Pele, Best came to the NASL after a brief retirement and joined a team in a major media market. Unlike Pele, Best’s presence in Los Angeles didn’t spark a wave of soccer mania. While Pele’s Cosmos averaged 34,000 fans per game at Giants Stadium in 1977 (with some crowds in excess of 70,000), the Aztecs failed to crack 10,000 in average attendance at the massive L.A. Coliseum during either of Best’s full seasons with the team in 1976 and 1977.
In 1976, Best scored 15 goals in 23 matches and finished tied for sixth in the NASL in scoring. In 1977, Best handed off the bulk of the goal scoring duties to teammate Steve David, who led the NASL with 26 goals, many courtesy of Best, who tied a league record with 18 assists.
Best eventually wore out his welcome in L.A. during his third season in 1978, thanks to his alcoholism and the related lifestyle issues that so frustrated his managers at his previous stops. He was suspended without pay early in the 1978 season for missing practices and player poorly when he did show up. The Aztecs dealt their mercurial 32-year old star to the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers in June 1978.
The Aztecs went to the well again in 1979, importing the Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff along with his famed coach from Ajax and the Dutch National Team, Rinus Michels. Cruyff was an artist on the field and won the NASL’s Most Valuable Player award in 1979. But the team was sold again in the offseason of 1979-80 to the Televisa broadcasting concern in Mexico. The new owners immediately sold Cruyff off to the Washington Diplomats in early 1980. The Aztecs stayed relevant for one final season, reaching the NASL quarterfinals in 1980 on the strength of 28 goals from Brazilian striker Luis Fernando.
In 1981, the Aztecs’ final season, attendance dropped more than 50% from 1980 and Televisa folded the club shortly after the season.
==Los Angeles Aztecs Programs on Fun While It Lasted==
|1974||5/5/1974||vs. Seattle Sounders||W 2-1||Program|
|1974||7/6/1974||@ Dallas Tornado||L 3-0||Program|
|1974||8/17/1974||vs. Boston Minutemen||W 2-0||Program|
|1974||8/25/1974||Miami Toros||W 4-3 (PK)||Program|
|1975||5/16/1975||@ Chicago Sting||L 1-0||Program|
|1975||8/9/1975||vs. Portland Timbers||W 1-0||Program|
|1977||5/20/1977||@ Portland Timbers||L 1-0||Program|
|1978||5/14/1978||@ Chicago Sting||W 2-1 (OT)||Program|
|1978||6/28/1978||@ New York Cosmos||L 2-1||Program|
|1978||7/12/1978||@ Seattle Sounders||L 3-0||Program|
|1979||8/19/1979||@ Washington Diplomats||W 4-3 (OT)||Program|
|1979||10/15/1979||@ Birmingham City F.C.||T 1-1||Program|
|1979||10/17/1979||@ Chelsea||L 2-0||Program|
|1980||9/10/1980||vs. New York Cosmos||L 2-1||Program|
|1980-81||2/5/1981||@ Seattle Sounders||W 5-4||Program|
|1980-81||2/19/1981||@ Edmonton Drillers||L 10-6||Program|
|1981||4/11/1981||@ Vancouver Whitecaps||L 3-0||Program|
|1981||4/25/1981||@ San Diego Sockers||L 2-0||Program|
|1981||5/20/1981||@ California Surf||W 1-0||Program|
|1981||6/21/1981||@ New York Cosmos||L 3-0||Program|
George Best scores against the Dallas Tornado, 1977.
Aztecs booster and (briefly) part-owner Elton John talks up the Aztecs & George Best in this 1977 interview…
The Aztecs host the Atlanta Chiefs in a near-empty Rose Bowl. July 19, 1980.
Claudio Coutinho (’81), the last Head Coach of the club, drowned in a scuba diving accident on November 27, 1981. Coutinho was 42. The Aztecs went out of business two weeks later.
Former Dutch National Team manager and Aztecs coach Rinus Michels (’79-’80) passed away March 3, 2005 at age 77.
George Best (Aztecs ’76-’78) died on November 25, 2005 at age 59 from complications of hard living.