Major Indoor Soccer League (1984-1985)
Born: April 1984 – Memphis Americans relocate to Las Vegas
Folded: July 17, 1985
Arena: Thomas & Mack Center (16,000)
Team Colors: Red, White & Blue
Owner: William “Wildcat” Morris
MISL Championships: None
The Las Vegas Americans were a short-lived attempt by casino & hotel owner Bill Morris to establish a professional indoor soccer franchise in Sin City during the winter of 1984-85. The franchise began life in 1979 as the Hartford Hellions and later relocated to Tennessee’s Mid-South Coliseum, playing as the Memphis Americans for three winters from 1981 to 1984. Morris purchased the struggling club in April 1984 and moved it to his based of operations in Las Vegas, retaining the Americans nickname.
The club was never a contender in Hartford or Memphis, but Morris allowed his new Executive Vice President Burrell Cohen to spend lavishly on a squad of veteran talent. The Americans loaded up by purchasing the contracts of stars Alan Mayer, Martin Donnelly, Juli Veee and Gert Wieczorkowski from the league’s powerhouse San Diego Sockers club. Mayer, a goalkeeper, won league MVP honors during the 1982-83 season with San Diego, was hired as player-coach with a generous $200,000 package. Hungarian scoring star Veee received a four-year $700,000 contract. Other notables of the indoor game enticed to Las Vegas included Chico Borja, Toni Carbognani, Fred Grgurev and Val Tuksa.
While many of these players were perennial All-Stars in the insular world of the Major Indoor Soccer League, they were hardly household names to the good people of Las Vegas. Attendance was weak at the Thomas & Mack Center, as evidenced by the opening shot of the December 1984 telecast of a game against the visiting St. Louis Steamers in our YouTube section below.
Formidable on paper, the Americans got off to a weak start as Mayer split his attention between coaching and playing. Club officials relieved Mayer of his coaching duties in December 1984 after a 4-6 start, but he stayed on to handle the bulk of the goalkeeping duties. The Major Indoor Soccer League’s most decorated coach, Don Popovic, took on the coaching reigns. Popovic had four MISL championships on his resume as coach of the defunct New York Arrows and he promptly turned the Americans’ fortunes around. The American went 26-12 under Popovic and their 30-18 record was 3rd best in the fourteen team MISL. However, the Minnesota Strikers upset the Americans in the playoff quarterfinals, winning the best-of-five series three games to one.
The Americans’ first season in Las Vegas turned out to be their last. Bill Morris, highly leveraged from his struggle to revive Las Vegas’ failing Landmark Hotel, stopped funding the club during the summer of 1985.
The MISL’s board of directors voted to terminate the franchise on July 17th, 1985, adding yet another soccer club to our One-Year Wonders file.
Professional indoor soccer returned to Las Vegas in 1994 with the Las Vegas Dustdevils of the Continental Indoor Soccer League. The club lasted two seasons, first at the MGM Grand Arena and later at Thomas and Mack. But, like the Americans, the Dustdevils drew poorly and folded in 1995 after two seasons.
Las Vegas Americans Memorabilia
Former Americans defender Helmut Dudek died of cancer at age 36 on May 22, 1994.
Former Americans owner Bill “Wildcat” Morris passed away in 1998 at age 70.
Las Vegas Americans Video