Born: 1972 – ASL expansion franchise Folded: Postseason 1975
Stadium: St. Joseph’s Field
ASL Championships: None
Lower division American pro soccer club that operated for four seasons during the early 1970’s. Little information survives about this club into the digital age. Newspaper accounts of the era suggest that the Brewers played out of Newark, but the 1974 Brewers program we were able to dig up (above right) suggest the club played at least some of their matches in Toms River on the Jersey Shore.
The Brewers were sponsored by Schaefer Brewing Company and known as the New Jersey Schaefer Brewers during their inaugural season in 1972. From 1973 until 1975 they went by the shorter “Brewers” moniker. The team folded following the 1975 season. The ASL replaced the Brewers with the New Jersey Americans franchise for the 1976 season.
The Connecticut Wildcats were the first of several pro soccer clubs to set up shop at Hartford’s Dillon Stadium during the mid-1970’s. The club formed in November 1972 as an expansion franchise in the 2nd Division American Soccer League.
Paul Ingram, a former All-American soccer player at UConn, founded the Wildcats and served as General Manager. Fielding a team of mostly American players, the Wildcats put up an 8-3-3 record in their debut season. The club was solid at the box office too. The ‘Cats drew 4,200 fans for their inaugural game in the spring of 1973. 10,000 more showed up for the season finale at Dillon Stadium against the Boston Astros. The ASL named Paul Ingram its Executive-of-the-Year for the 1973 season.
Benny Brewster led the team in scoring in 1973 with 10 goals and 4 assists. The Wildcats best-known player, in retrospect, was the young goalkeeper Tony DiCicco. DiCicco went on to become one of the greatest coaches in the women’s game, leading the U.S. Women’s National Team to Olympic gold in 1996 and the World Cup in 1999.
As the Wildcats second season approached in the winter of 1974, Ingram asked for a renegotiation of the team’s rental agreement at Dillon Stadium. He stated the team’s rental rate and lack of revenue sharing on concessions were among the worst deals in the American Soccer League and that the team might need to relocate to Springfield, Massachusetts. In the event, the Wildcats did end up returning to Dillon in 1974, but it proved to be the club’s final campaign.
Owners: Texas Professional Soccer, Inc. (Bill Spear, et al.)
ASL Championships: None USL Championships: None
The Dallas Americans were a lower division U.S. pro soccer club active for parts of three seasons in the mid-1980’s. The Americans replaced the NASL’s Dallas Tornado (1967-1981) on the local soccer scene. The team played at John Clark Stadium in Plano.
Longtime Tornado star Bobby Moffatt was instrumental in founding the franchise and arranging its entry for its entry in the 2nd Division American Soccer League in February 1983. Ownership group Texas Professional Soccer, Inc. purchased the rights to the ASL’s long-dormant Golden Gate Gales franchise, which had last taken the field in 1980, and shifted it to northern Texas.
On the field, the Americans featured a number of former Tornado players on the roster, including Jeff Bourne, Neil Cohen, Billy Phillips and player-coach Wolfgang Rausch. After a hot start to the 1983 season, the American cooled off somewhat and finished with a 13-12 record. That was good enough for a semi-final playoff berth, where Dallas was eliminated by the Pennsylvania Stoners.
Following the 1983 season, the American Soccer League folded after more than a half century of operation. Several former ASL clubs, including the Americans, spearheaded the formation of a successor organization: the United Soccer League. The USL’s focus was on “Americanization” of the sport. League rules required that seven American players be on the field at all times. Dallas’ pre-season roster for the 1984 USL campaign included fourteen Americans and three foreign players.
The USL entered the spring/summer 1984 season with nine franchises and plans for a winter indoor season to follow. But the league began to collapse in the fall of 1984. The USL limped into the spring of 1985 with just four active teams: Dallas, El Paso, Fort Lauderdale and Tulsa. El Paso and Tulsa quickly ran out of money and the USL shut its doors on June 26th, 1985, taking the Americans down with it.
Dallas Americans Memorabilia
Americans vs. Carolina Lightnin'. June 16, 1983
Americans vs. U.S. Olympic Team. 1983 season
Americans @ Oklahoma City Stampede. May 12, 1984
Americans @ Jacksonville Tea Men. June 15, 1984
Striker Jeff Bourne (Americans ’83) died of ALS on July 31, 2014 at the age of 66.
Arena (Indoor Soccer): The Pontiac Silverdome (16,860)
Team Colors: Orange & Navy Blue
1978-1981: Roger Faulkner, Jimmy Hill, Gordon Preston, et al.
1981-1983: Sonny Van Arnem
Soccer Bowl Championships: None ASL Champions: 1982
The Detroit Express began life as an expansion team in the North American Soccer League in 1978. Express ownership was headed up by British football broadcaster and promoter Jimmy Hill. Hill and the Express gained some national (and international) attention for acquiring English soccer star Trevor Francis on loan from Birmingham City in 1978. Francis was a prolific scorer and the first footballer to earn 1 million pounds sterling per season in England.
Francis played for the Express in 1978 and 1979. It was an era when NASL owners lured numerous aging European stars to America with eye-popping paychecks. Francis was an exception to this NASL retirement plan. He was only 25 years old and at the peak of his powers during his Express seasons. Francis was a prominent attraction for the Express. But one of the club’s general partners eventually soured on this imported superstar approach:
In a 2012 self-published memoir, Harold “Sonny” Van Arnem compared the NASL to “a league full of Harlem Globetrotters, except they player soccer. Now, a lot of people enjoy watching the Globetrotters play, but only about once a year. We need people to come out a dozen times a year, and this all-star approach isn’t working.”
Van Arnem’s solution was Americanization. Grass roots pro soccer, relevant to the American fan because the American player was the norm rather than the exception. This was just as well because the rest of the Express ownership gave up on Detroit in February 1981. Jimmy Hill moved the NASL franchise to Washington, DC where it met a quick and ugly end in six months.
Van Arnem, meanwhile, retained control of the Detroit Express name and marks. He immediately relaunched a new version of the club in the ramshackle 2nd division American Soccer League in the spring of 1981. The “New” Detroit Express would play in the ASL from 1981 to 1983.
This 1982 season was the high water mark for the New Express. The club posted a league best 19-5-4 record. Both the Express and their opening day opponents from Oklahoma City fielded starting line-ups full of young Americans, but the impact players were still foreign. Detroit’s pair of English forwards, Brian Tinnion and Andy Chapman, finished 1-2 in the ASL in scoring in 1982, with teammate Billy Boljevic (Yugoslavia) 4th.
The Express and the Oklahoma City Slickers met in the best-of-three 1982 American Soccer League championship series. After splitting the first two matches, the teams returned to the Pontiac Silverdome on September 22, 1982 for the deciding game. Sonny Van Arnem, faced with only a few days to promote the game after advancing from the semi-finals, gave away 70,000 tickets to local Dodge dealers. An army of car salesmen offered the duckets for free to anyone who showed up at a dealership. The result: an astonishing crowd of 33,762 that showed up at an NFL stadium to watch what amounted to a minor league soccer game. The Express won the game 4-1 and with it the league title.
The Express played one final season in the summer of 1983. The team went out of business along with the rest of the American Soccer League
Two British stars from the ASL-era Express, Andy Chapman and Brian Tinnion, remain fixtures on the Michigan soccer scene. Both were with the now-defunct Detroit Rockers indoor team in the 1990’s, and are still active in youth soccer in the region.
Detroit Express Memorabilia
Detroit Express Pennant
1978 Express Media Guide
Express vs. Washington Diplomats. June 13, 1979
1979-80 Detroit Express Media Guide
Express vs. Atlanta Chiefs. February 6, 1980
1980 Express Media Guide
1980-81 Express Media Guide (Indoor Season)
Express vs. Carolina Lightnin'. August 9, 1981
1982 Express Pocket Schedule
Express vs. Rochester Flash. July 17, 1982
Express vs. Oklahoma City Slickers. May 15, 1982
1983 Express Pocket Schedule
Express vs. Pennsylvania Stoners. May 7, 1983
Detroit Express Alumni vs. Cleveland Force. July 12, 1986
Head coach Ken Furphy (Express ’78-’81) died on January 17, 2015 at age 83.
Express owner Jimmy Hill passed away on December 19, 2015 at the age of 87 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Daily Mail obit.
Detroit Express Video
Express vs. Dallas Tornado at the Silverdome. June 11, 1978
The Los Angeles Skyhawks were a 2nd Division pro soccer outfit that competed in the American Soccer League during the late 1970’s. The team won a league championship in its debut season under the direction of British coach Ron Newman, who went on to be a highly successful coach in the NASL, MISL and Major League Soccer.
The Skyhawks came into existence in 1976 as part of a major West Coast expansion by the ASL. The ASL traced its roots back to the Depression years, but remained a ragtag assemblage of Northeastern ethnic semi-pro clubs until the early 1970’s. The West Coast experiment last only until 1980, when the league contracted and retreated East back across the Mississippi.
During the ASL’s brief run as a truly national league from 1976 to 1980, the Skyhawks were probably the most successful West Coast club. The team drew decent crowds by 2nd Division standards, including 9,652 for a 1976 exhibition match against the Mexican Olympic Team at L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The club’s normal home grounds were Birmingham Stadium and Pierce College Stadium in the San Fernando Valley.
Team owner Bob Nordskog pulled the Skyhawks out of the ASL following the 1979 season, which helped to hasten the collapse of 2nd Division soccer on the West Coast and the subsequent retreat of the league back to the Eastern U.S. The ASL folded for good in early 1984.
Los Angeles Skyhawks Programs
Skyhawks vs. Tacoma Tides. April 30, 1976
Skyhawks vs. Mexican Olympic Team. July 9, 1976
Tony Whelan – 1976 Los Angeles Skyhawks
Skyhawks vs. Sacramento Spirits. July 16, 1976
Skyhawks vs. Utah Golden Spikers. July 21, 1976
Micky Cave – 1976 Los Angeles Skyhawks
Skyhawks @ Sacramento Spirits. June 8, 1977
Skyhawks @ Cleveland Cobras. May 26, 1978
Skyhawks vs. New York Eagles. August 12, 1978
Skyhawks vs. Southern California Lazers. August 19, 1978
1979 Los Angeles Skyhawks Pocket Schedule
Mal Roche - 1979 Los Angeles Skyhawks
Skyhawks @ New York Apollo. May 28, 1979
Skyhawks vs. Sacramento Gold. June 16, 1979
Jim Rolland - 1979 Los Angeles Skyhawks
Skyhawks vs. Indianapolis Daredevils. July 7, 1979
Skyhawks vs. California Sunshine. August 11, 1979
Skyhawks vs. Las Vegas Seagulls. July 21, 1979
Skyhawks @ Sacramento Gold. August 29, 1979
Midfielder Micky Cave (Skyhawks ’76) died of carbon monoxide poisoning on November 6, 1984 at age 35.
Former Skyhawks owner Bob Nordskog passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage July 15, 1992 at age 79. New York Times obituary.