Between 1978 and 1981, the original North American Soccer League broke ties in playoff series through use of a 30-minute “mini-game.” If the teams split the two (home-and-home) games, they would play the mini-game to determine who advanced. The 1978 mini-games were all sudden death, more akin to MLS’ “Series Overtime” during its “First-to-Five” playoff period. Below is a list of the 17 mini-games played in NASL history:
|Wed||8/16/1978||Pontiac||Ft. Lauderdale||1||Detroit||0||Conference Semifinal|
|Wed||8/16/1978||Tampa||Tampa Bay||1||San Diego||0||Conference Semifinal|
|Wed||8/16/1978||E. Rutherford||New York||1||Minnesota||0||(SO)||Conference Semifinal|
|Wed||8/23/1978||Tampa||Tampa Bay||1||Ft.Lauderdale||0||(SO)||Conference Final|
|Sat||8/25/1979||Vancouver||Vancouver||1||Los Angeles||0||Conference Semifinal|
|Sun||8/26/1979||E. Rutherford||New York||3||Tulsa||1||Conference Semifinal|
|Sat||9/1/1979||E. Rutherford||Vancouver||1||New York||0||(SO)||Conference Final|
|Sun||9/2/1979||Tampa||Tampa Bay||1||San Diego||0||Conference Final|
|Sat||8/30/1980||Chicago||San Diego||2||Chicago||1||(SO)||First Round|
|Sat||8/30/1980||Los Angeles||Los Angeles||2||Washington||0||First Round|
|Sun||8/31/1980||Ft. Lauderdale||Ft. Lauderdale||1||California||0||(SO)||First Round|
|Fri||9/5/1980||Seattle||Los Angeles||2||Seattle||1||(SO)||Conference Semifinal|
|Sat||9/6/1980||Ft. Lauderdale||Ft. Lauderdale||3||Edmonton||0||Conference Semifinal|
|Sun||9/7/1980||Tampa||San Diego||2||Tampa Bay||1||(SO)||Conference Semifinal|
|Sun||9/7/1980||E. Rutherford||New York||3||Dallas||0||Conference Semifinal|
|Sat||9/13/1980||Ft. Lauderdale||Ft. Lauderdale||3||San Diego||0||Conference Final|
Here are a few notes about these tiebreakers:
- Home teams won 12 of the 17 mini-games.
- Six times, a team won on the road to force the mini-game after losing the first game at home. None of them won the mini-game.
- Eleven times, a team won at home to force the mini-game after losing the first game on the road. They won six of those mini-games.
- Seven of the 17 were decided in Shootout. (Only three were won by the home team.)
- A total of 26 goals were scored in the 17 games (1.53 per mini-game).
- The Ft. Lauderdale/Minnesota Strikers won the most mini-games (4), while the Vancouver Whitecaps were undefeated (2-0) and the Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Cosmos were both 3-1. San Diego lost the most mini-games, but damned if they didn’t win the one I attended, the one that probably kept the Rowdies from their third straight trip to Soccer Bowl. (Sigh.)
The NASL discontinued the mini-game after the 1981 playoffs and went to a traditional best-of-three series. (Well, it was traditional for America. Obviously, soccer tradition would have had a two-legged, aggregate goal series.)
The mini-game lives on, though, in indoor1I won’t call it “Arena Soccer.” Please. soccer. Click here to see the results of these tiny tiebreakers in the indoor game.