United Soccer Association (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968)
Born: 1967 – USA founding franchise.
Died: 1968 – The Mustangs cease operations
Stadium: Comiskey Park
Owner: Arthur Allyn Jr.
The Chicago Mustangs soccer club was a charter member of the United Soccer Association, a mid-1960’s effort to launch a first division professional league here in the States. There were 12 member franchises representing 10 U.S. cities, plus Toronto and Vancouver. Most of the clubs were backed by heavy-hitter investors from Major League Baseball, the NFL and the National Hockey League. The owner of the Mustangs was Chicago White Sox boss Arthur Allyn Jr. and the soccer club played in Allyn’s South Side baseball stadium, Comiskey Park.
The founders of the United Soccer Association intended to begin play in 1968, but they felt compelled to bump their plans up a year when a rival circuit, the National Professional Soccer League, signed a TV contract with CBS and decided to start play in 1967. With the accelerated timetable, the USA decided to import entire foreign clubs from Europe and South America to represent the league’s 12 cities in 1967. The Chicago Mustangs were actually Cagliari Calcio, from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. Cagliari was enjoying a run of success in the Italian Serie A at the time – they would win their only Scudetto in 1970. However, the Italians did not bring all of their stars to Chicago. Gigi Riva, the greatest player in club history and the all-time leading scorer for the Italian National Team, stayed home.
The Mustangs/Cagliari struggled through their only season in the United Soccer Association. The club finished out of the postseason hunt with a 3-7-2 record. Attendance was dismal too, with an announced match average of just 4,207 at Comiskey. A bright spot was 23-year old striker Roberto Boninsegna, who led the circuit in scoring with 10 goals in 9 appearances. Boninsegna would go on to score Italy’s only goal in the 1970 World Cup final against Brazil.
After the 1967 season concluded in financial ruin for both the USA and the NPSL, the former rivals merged to form the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1968. That meant the contraction of one franchise in Chicago, as both leagues fielded a Windy City franchise in 1967. The NPSL’s Chicago Spurs, based out of Soldier Field, moved to Kansas City, so the Mustangs continued on for a second season in 1968. Cagliari and the other foreign ringer clubs would not return. In 1968, all of the NASL clubs built their own rosters.
The all-new, multi-ethnic Mustangs were much improved in 1968. Polish émigré Janusz Michalik led the NASL with 30 goals and 9 assists and won league MVP honors. The club improved to 13-10-9, but this wasn’t quite good enough for playoff spot. Attendance continued to be terrible though, dipping to under 2,500 fans per game at 45,000-seat Comiskey Park.
The NASL nearly folded after the 1968 season. Membership shrunk for 17 clubs in 1968 to just 5 survivors for 1969. The Mustangs were one of the casualties, withdrawing from the league in late 1968. A semi-pro version of the Mustangs reportedly continued to play into the 1970’s.
Don’t miss Vadim Furmanov’s “A Sardinian Summer: the Forgotten Story of the Chicago Mustangs” over at Café Futbol.
==Chicago Mustangs Matches on Fun While It Lasted==
- Roberto Boninsegna
- Janusz Kowalik
Former Mustangs owner Arthur Allyn Jr. passed away on March 22, 1985 at age 71.
“A Sardinian Summer: the Forgotten Story of the Chicago Mustangs“, Vadim Furmanov, Café Futbol, August 7, 2013.
“From Amateur to MVP: Janusz Kowalik and the Chicago Mustangs“, Grant Czubinski, A Moment of Brilliance, February 11, 2014
North American Soccer League Media Guides
North American Soccer League Programs