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1984-1988 Minnesota Strikers

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Minnesota StrikersNorth American Soccer League (1984)
Major Indoor Soccer League (1984-1988)

Born: November 30, 1983 – Ft. Lauderdale Strikers relocate to Minnesota
Folded: June 22, 1988

Stadium: The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (62,220)

Arena: The Met Center (15,184)

Owners: Joe & Elizabeth Robbie

Soccer Bowl Championships: None
MISL Championships: None

 

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers (1977-1983) of the North American Soccer League moved to Minneapolis in December 1983. Strikers owner Elizabeth Robbie wanted a city with a suitable building for indoor soccer and hoping to rekindle the tremendous fan support generated by the NASL’s Minnesota Kicks (1976-1981) during the late 1970’s. The Robbie family had deep pockets – patriarch Joe Robbie also owned the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

The Kicks averaged over 30,000 fans per match in 1977, making the club one of the most popular in the history of American professional soccer.  But that was at the old outdoor Metropolitan Stadium, which closed in 1981 shortly after the Kicks went out of business.  The Strikers would play their “outdoor” soccer indoors, in the much maligned Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.  The Strikers drew an average of 14,263 for twelve outdoor (ahem) matches in the summer of 1984. That was the second best figure in the floundering NASL, but a far cry from the glory years of the Kicks.

Tino Lettieri Minnesota StrikersIn August 1984, the Strikers accepted an invitation to switch to the Major Indoor Soccer League, along with the three other NASL clubs.  The NASL folded a few months later.  The Strikers were now an indoor soccer-only club and they would play in the wintertime at The Met Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars.

The Strikers high point came in the spring of 1986, when the club made a run to the MISL championship series.  A bandwagon formed during the team’s playoff run, and the team briefly became a hot ticket in Minneapolis, packing large crowds into the Met Center during the postseason.  The Strikers ultimately lost the championship series to the MISL’s dynasty club, the San Diego Sockers.

Indoor soccer really never drew in Minnesota. The Strikers lasted in the MISL for four seasons, but the team was perennially among the league’s worst box office performers.  The Robbies publicly considered folding the club on several occasions. They finally did so in June of 1988.

Much of the Strikers’ national publicity during their Minnesota years came thanks to eccentric goalkeeper and bird enthusiast Tino Lettieri.  Lettieri, who played for the Kicks from 1977 to 1981, owned quite a few real parrots. But he was best known for “Ozzie” (pictured with Tino above left). Lettieri kept the stuffed toy parrot he kept tucked inside his goal during games, first outdoors in the NASL and later indoors in the MISL.  The tradition continued until 1985, when an otherwise entirely forgettable MISL Commissioner named Francis Dale earned the league national headlines by banning Ozzie from the league’s nets.

 

Minnesota Strikers Shop

Minnesota Strikers Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max


The Met Center Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

Minnesota Strikers Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Joe Robbie passed away on January 7, 1990 at the age of 73.

Elizabeth Robbie passed a year after her husband in November 1991.

English defender Barry Wallace, who played from the Strikers from 1984 to 1985, passed away of cancer at age 47 in 2006.

 

Minnesota Strikers Video

Strikers vs. San Diego Sockers. 1986 MISL Championship Series

 

 

Downloads

1984 Minnesota Strikers NASL Results & Attendance

1987-88 MISL Rule Book & Schedule

 

Links

Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

January 22, 1988 – Chicago Sting vs. Minnesota Strikers

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Frank Klopas Chicago StingChicago Sting vs. Minnesota Strikers
January 22, 1988
The Rosemont Horizon
Attendance: 5,134

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
48 pages

 

Late era match between two long-time North American Soccer League (1968-1984) outdoor clubs, both very much on their last legs playing indoors in the winter of 1988.  The Chicago Sting beat the Minnesota Strikers 3-2 on this night at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago.

Chicago favorite Frank Klopas is pictured on the program cover.  Just 21 years old at the time, he was already in his fourth pro season with the Sting, having signed with the club directly out of Chicago’s Mather High School in 1984.  Klopas would later join the U.S. National Team and would return to Chicago a decade later to finish his career as a member of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire in 1998 and 1999.

Sting owner Lee Stern formed the club way back in 1975 as an NASL expansion franchise.  13 seasons was an almost unfathomable level of commitment for an American pro soccer owner of the era.  The Sting never drew particularly well outdoors during the NASL era, when they moved all over Chicago from game to game, splitting time between Comiskey Park, Soldier Field and Wrigley Field.  But the team did experience a renaissance playing in the NASL’s wintertime indoor league in the early 1980’s at the old Chicago Stadium downtown.  Between 1981 and 1985, the Sting drew ten game crowds in excess of 15,000 .

When the NASL folded in 1984, Stern was one of four league owners who took his club over to the Major Indoor Soccer League to continue as an indoor-only team.  Fan interest tailed off noticeably in 1985 and then nosedived in 1986 when Stern moved the Sting out of downtown to the suburban Rosemont Horizon.  Average attendance for the 1986-87 season was 5,879 per match – barely half of the average crowds just two years earlier (10,628).

The Sting made one last all-in bet on indoor soccer heading into the 1987-88 season.  Lee Stern brought on an investment partner in advertising executive Lou Weisbach and a new front office CEO in former Chicago Bulls VP of Marketing David Rosenberg.  The Sting bolstered the front office to an all-time high of 21 full-timers.  The centerpiece of Weisbach and Rosenberg’s plan for “The New Chicago Sting” was a $1 million investment in post-game concerts for seventeen of the Sting’s twenty-eight home matches.  In July 1987, the ad men unveiled a Branson-esque line-up of white-bread entertainment acts, including Marie Osmond, Chubby Checker & Fabian, Suzanne Somers,  Buddy Hackett and Jeffrey Osborne.

The gambit was a bust.  One month into the season, the Sting began dropping concerts from the schedule, citing poor sound at the Rosemont Horizon and lack of fan interest in many of the acts.  This particular match against the Strikers on January 22, 1988 was originally supposed to feature a post-game show from Susan Anton (zzzz…) but this was one of the first shows to get the axe.  By early 1988, attendance was languishing back around the 6,000 mark, no better than the year before.  A losing team under Head Coach Erich Geyer didn’t help matters.

Meanwhile, in the upper Midwest, the Minnesota Strikers limped into the 1987-88 MISL season basically against the better judgment of its owners, the Robbie Family.  Like Stern, the Robbies were long-time owners dating back to the NASL days.  The family originally operated the club in their home state of Florida as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (1977-1983), before relocating to Minnesota in November 1983.  Like the Sting, the Strikers joined the MISL in August 1984 with the NASL about to collapse.  Indoor soccer did not capture the hearts of Minnesotans.  From 1984 to 1987, the Strikers perennially were among the worst draws in the MISL, with attendance hovering between 5,000 and 6,000 per match.  The Robbies lost a reported $5.5 million on the Strikers indoor team from 1984 to 1987 and considered shutting down the franchise in each of the prior two seasons.  The Robbies also explored permission to sit out a year in August 1987.  But each time Joe Robbie was persuaded to return for one more go round.

During the same week that the Strikers traveled to Chicago for this January 1988 match, the Robbies were negotiating the sale of the Strikers to a Saudi oil billionaire named Yehia Ben Sead.   Sead talked a big game and reportedly printed up promotional bumper stickers for the acquisition (“Strikers and Soccer: It’s Sheik”)  but nothing ever came of the talks.

Five months to the day after this match, the Strikers went out of business at the MISL’s annual league meetings on June 22, 1988.  Lee Stern followed suit two weeks later, folding the Chicago Sting on July 8, 1988 after a last gasp effort to move the team to Denver fell through.  At the time, the Sting were the oldest professional soccer franchise in the United States.

 

==Downloads==

1-22-1988 Chicago Sting vs. Minnesota Strikers article sources

 

==Links==

Chicago Sting Home

Minnesota Strikers Home

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Written by AC

January 10th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

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