North American Soccer League (1974-1981)
Born: 1974 – NASL expansion franchise.
Died: December 9, 1981 – The Aztecs cease operations.
- 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. During their short stays in L.A., neither Best nor Cruyff was able to replicate the championships or huge crowds enjoyed by their free-spending East Coast counterparts, the New York Cosmos.
The late Northern Ireland superstar George Best on the cover of this 1977 Los Angeles Aztecs media guide from the old North American Soccer League. Best built his legendary reputation – on and off the pitch – with Manchester United between 1963 and 1974. At his peak, he won the Ballon d’Or as European Footballer of the Year in 1968.
Best retired from Manchester United at the young age of 27 in early 1974. In December 1975, the Aztecs lured him out of retirement with a contract to play in America in 1976. Best would not be the only English celebrity lending star power to the Aztecs. Elton John signed on as a minority investor in the club that same year.
Best was still good enough to dominate in the American league. 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.
Best 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. (The Aztecs went to the well again with Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff in 1979, but that also failed to rouse Southern California sports fans out of their apathy for pro soccer).
==Los Angeles Aztecs Programs on Fun While It Lasted==
|1974||5/5/1974||vs. Seattle Sounders||W 2-1||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||4/25/1981||@ 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.