“I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.’ And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.”
Eduardo Galeano in Soccer in Sun and Shadow
Here are a few interesting quotes about the beautiful game, most of them about American soccer:
“There is no chance (MLS) will survive. Absolutely no chance whatsoever.”
Nye Lavalle, Sports Marketing Group, in The Sporting News, June 27, 1994
“For World Cup soccer worldwide, the World Cup gets a grade A; for staging of the World Cup in America, it gets a grade A. But for the future of soccer in America, the grade is incomplete. If you want a prediction, it seems like the term paper will be turned in and it will get a failing grade.”
Nye Lavalle again, apparently on a roll that summer, in the New York Times, July 19, 1994
“Zero,” says Frank Deford, America’s preeminent sportswriter, when asked about soccer’s chances as a spectator sport in his country. “It has zero chance. Every chance it had, it failed. I can’t conceive of any set of circumstances that would make Americans want to take an interest.
“It’s a very unappealing sport to watch,” Deford continues, “and every time you say that the soccer people all say, ‘You don’t know anything about it; you don’t understand it.’ But it’s a very unappealing sport to watch. I was shocked watching the last World Cup, shocked. I couldn’t believe how dull it was. It was a very boring game.”
The New York Times, October 7, 1992
“To be honest, I just don’t think it’s gonna make it here. Soccer’s a sport a lot of youngsters play and I don’t know that they necessarily become fans when they get older. They watch American football, or baseball or basketball, and we have all that here already. There’s a lot of competition.”
Irv Moss of the Denver Post, quoted in Soccer America, July 29, 1997
“Our goal, 10 years from now, is to be in position where we can be considered a sport on the level, in terms of interest, of the big ones: football, baseball, basketball.”
World Cup chairman Alan Rothenberg, in that same NY Times article, July 19, 1994
“Soccer will be among America’s top four sports in the next five years.”
AEG President Tim Leiweke, January 25, 2004
“Give a coach of the caliber of Ivan Toplak of Oakland, or Phil Woosnam of Atlanta 11 top American high school athletes for five years and a complete new style of soccer will emerge–one based upon speed, power and the American penchant for tactical formations–an exciting and formidable style that could well give America the World Cup by 1974.”
Basil Kane, Soccer for American Spectators, 1969
“Soccer enthusiasts can only wait and hope that the other pro owners will hold out for the four or five years they have admitted it will take them to sell soccer. If they do there is no doubt that they will quickly recoup all their losses. The thousands of boys who today are viewing soccer games at reduced rates (quite often free) represent an enormous source of paying customers – a group that if kept interested by top-grade soccer will guarantee pro soccer’s financial future. Revenue from television, averaging about $100,000 per club in 1968, will rise in direct correlation to the increasing involvement and support of today’s youth.”
“In 10 or 15 years, we see soccer as bigger than football in this country.”
New England Tea Men president Derek Carroll, 1979
“Soccer is going to be the number one sport in this country very soon.”
New York Cosmos president Steve Ross, 1979
“In six or eight years our franchises will be worth more than those in the National Football League.”
The late NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam in 1973
“This sport will take off. There is absolutely no way that it will not bypass everything else. This country will be the center of world soccer. In the 80s there will be a mania for the game here. The NASL will be the world’s number one soccer league. And it will be the biggest sports league in the USA.”
Woosnam, in 1977
“In five years we’re going to be as popular as the NFL is today. And in 10 years we’re going to be the number one sport in America and the biggest league in the world.”
Woosnam, August 29, 1977.
“We’re still going to be the sport of the ’80s. Don’t forget, the ’80s are just one year old. We’ve still got nine years to go.”
Woosnam, quoted in the Washington Post on May 18, 1981. As it turned out, the NASL had fewer than four years to go.
“Losing those teams is not a setback. The credibility will come back next year. We had an average attendance of 14,000 this year. If we can come back to 17,000 or 18,000 next year, that’s instant credibility.”
Woosnam, on September 21, 1981 after five NASL teams folded. Attendance actually dropped slightly the following year and continued to slide until the league folded in 1985.
“The league is in no danger of disappearing. We have a strong foundation in Tampa Bay, New York, Chicago, Montreal, San Diego, Vancouver and Fort Lauderdale.”
Woosnam, on the eve of the 1982 NASL season.
“I still say there is no way soccer cannot become a major sport in this country. We will be third behind football and baseball by the end of the ’80s.”
Woosnam, June 16, 1982.
“You can’t tell me there aren’t better opportunities here than in Minnesota and look what they did last year. I don’t see why Hawaii shouldn’t average 10 to 15,000 a game this year.”
Woosnam, after Team Hawaii won its first home game, 1-0 in shootout over Seattle in 1977. Team Hawaii actually averaged just 4,543 fans per game and moved to Tulsa after the season.
“I don’t believe outdoor soccer will ever make it [in the U.S.] professionally. I don’t believe we will ever succeed at the Olympic or World Cup level. Americans just don’t buy the sport.”
Former NY Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing in 1986
“Listen, if I didn’t think this theory of today’s kids being tomorrow’s ticket buyers wasn’t valid, I’d quit tomorrow and I’d tell the NASL owners to pack their bags. But it is true. The NASL is always going to be around.”
North American Soccer League president Howard Samuels in 1984, a year before the league folded
“What we must do, simply, is hang on until today’s kids start buying tickets themselves.”
Tim Robbie, president of the NASL’s Minnesota Strikers, in 1984
“I’ve never been one to delude myself into thinking that all the kids playing soccer are going to be spectators. I don’t think there is a correlation.”
Major Indoor Soccer League Commissioner Bill Kentling, in 1986
“We’re not in this to make a fast dollar, and realize it will take three years, perhaps, to break even.”
Lee Stern after buying an NASL franchise (the Chicago Sting) for $250,000 on October 31, 1974
“In 10 years at the very most, America will be in competition for the World Cup.”
Mercurial star George Best, then of the Los Angeles Aztecs, quoted in Sports Illustrated, July 19, 1976
“Soccer, indoor and outdoor, however it’s packaged, always will be a secondary sport in the United States. Minor league, if you will. Soccer will never be big league in the U.S. for one simple reason. The other sports got here first. Soccer is a super participant sport. It is not, however, a spectator sport. Not in the United States. And that’s the rub. I don’t think it will ever become a popular one. Not even the World Cup Games, soon to be played here, will have any permanent positive effect on it as a sport to watch.”
Hal Lebovitz, Mansfield (Oh.) News-Journal, July 25, 1988
“I am confident a team of American professionals could compete with 75 percent of the teams in the world. And with the proper training and playing at home in 1984, I would not be surprised to see the US reach the final four.”
John Kerr, executive director of the North American Soccer League Players Association, in December 1982, reacting to reports of the creation of what would become Team America in the NASL in 1983. (Team America finished last, while the American Olympic team finished 1-1-1 and did not make the knockout rounds at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.)
“No matter how many American soccer converts were made (by the 1994 World Cup), no matter how many kids were enticed to run off with the circus someday, no matter how much cash the World Cup pumped into the nine host cities, the idea of major-league soccer in this country simply won’t fly anytime soon.”
Steve Wilstein, Associated Press, July 18, 1994
“There’s a better chance of a national health plan being passed by Congress than of a major pro (soccer) league in America.”
Art Spander, San Francisco Examiner, June 5, 1994
“The World Cup, should no one get killed, is a fabulous event. Enjoy it. And enjoy the next one. And if, in between, you patronize any and all pro soccer leagues that begin here, enjoy them too. They’ll be gone faster than the girl over there with the hula hoop.”
Sportswriter Phil Mushnick, New York Post, June 15, 1994
“We all really got ahead of ourselves. I now realize it will take a tremendous amount of time before we soccer people realize our dream of being an established sport in this country.”
St. Louis Steamers midfielder Ricky Davis in 1986. Surprisingly, he was the correct one.
“There will be a merger (of the AISA and MISL) within 12 to 14 months.”
Milwaukee Wave president Ron Creten on May 25, 1988. There was no merger, though four years later, the MISL breathed its last and a handful of its teams joined what had by that point become the NPSL.
“There will definitely be a team next year. I don’t know who the owners will be yet, but there will definitely be a team.”
John Glase, co-owner of the AISA’s Toledo Pride, quoted in the Toledo Blade on April 6, 1987. There was no team in Toledo the next year, nor has there been one since.
“We’re very confident in the ownership group out there and the fan base.”
NPSL Commissioner Steve Paxos, on the launch of the New York Kick, which went 3-37 in its one season (1990-91) in the league. The ownership group of 40 local businessmen was out of the picture 30 games into the season.
“The USA are just making up the numbers…they can’t play football for toffee…slow at the back, short on real class up front…should get points off Korea, anything else would be a miracle.”
London Evening Standard, prior to World Cup 2002
“The U.S. will not defeat Portugal. Nothing is impossible, of course, but the speedy, attack-oriented Portugal is precisely the type of team against which the U.S. typically struggles.”
Scott Plagenhoef, Soccer Digest, February 2002
“Anything other than last place will be an achievement for the Americans.”
John Motson, BBC, prior to World Cup 2002
“Portugal at a canter.”
London Daily Telegraph’s prediction for USA/Portugal at World Cup 2002
“I predict the Los Angeles Galaxy will win the (MLS) championship three out of (the) first five years they play in their own stadium and facility.”
ESPN analyst Eric Wynalda, January 2002
“I have a feeling that in five years, people may look back at this day that this is when the Rowdies saved the NASL from going under.”
Tampa Bay Rowdies GM Rodney Marsh, on November 3, 1983 after a deal was reached for the team to play in the NASL’s 1983-84 indoor season. The NASL folded six months later.
“Pele wasn’t going to the United States to play any more than Moshe Dayan would join the Egyptian Air Force.”
Rochester Times-Union sportswriter Bruno Sniders, in 1975, months before Pele signed with the New York Cosmos.
“This is a sucker stadium, not a soccer stadium. We are going to lose our shirts.”
Etobicoke (Can.) councillor (and, somehow, later Mayor of Toronto) Rob Ford on Toronto’s planned soccer stadium that would house an MLS team in 2007. (Spoiler alert: Toronto has not lost its shirts.)
“Our national team is spread out among 10 localities and charged with making us like the game. This would have been like taking the 1980 US Olympic hockey team and starting a whole new league by placing its members around the country. And the ice hockey team did, incidentally, win a gold medal, as well as whip the Red Army. Chances of that working would seem to be better than this.”
Bernie Linciome, Chicago Tribune, April 8, 1996, on the beginnings of MLS
“I think we are going to beat them fair and square at home. We’re going to kick them out. They’re going to lose.”
FC Dallas midfielder Dominic Oduro before an April 24, 2007 match against New York. Dallas lost, 1-0.
“Oh, my goodness, yes. I’ll be most amazed if we don’t sell 10,000 season tickets in St. Louis.”
St. Louis Stars owner Bob Hermann, quoted in the same article. The Stars did lead the league in average attendance, but at just 7,607 per game.
“I’m tickled pink. If we got 10,000 this time, we’re sure to get 15,000-18,000 next time.”
Washington Diplomats co-owner Mike Finci after 10,145 fans came to RFK Stadium to see the expansion Dips lose 5-1 to Philadelphia on May 4, 1974. They did draw 11,887 for their second home match two weeks later, but then the bottom dropped out and the 7-12-1 Dips finished 11th out of 15 teams in average attendance at 4,975 per game.
“We`re looking to make money this year. I think we will be sold out of season ticket plans long before the season starts. Corporations are already ordering. I haven’t even dealt with not selling out or how many people it would take to break even. I don’t feel we have to.”
Chicago Sting co-owner Lou Weisbach, quoted in the Chicago Tribune on July 29, 1987 upon the announcement of a series of 17 concerts that would follow Chicago Sting games during the next MISL season.
“We thought the concert series would work, but it didn’t. I don’t know why and I don’t know if we will ever have an answer.”
Sting President David Rosengard, quoted in the Chicago Tribune on February 21, 1988 after more than half of the scheduled concerts were cancelled and the team’s attendance barely improved. Instead of selling out season ticket packages, the Sting maintained between 900 and 1,000 season ticket holders and folded at season’s end.
“Bradley will last no more than two years. And Jose Mourinho will coach the US to the 2022 World Cup in America.”
Franco Spicciariello of Italy’s Guerin Sportivo, after USA coach Bob Bradley signed a contract extension through 2014. Bradley was fired in 2011, but Mourinho is unlikely to be coaching the US in 2022, when the World Cup will be held in Qatar.
“We are fine. We have more than enough money to run the team.”
Nancy NeSmith, owner of FC Gold Pride in Women’s Professional Soccer, on June 3, 2010. Five and a half months later, the team folded.
“We’re going to sell out every game. I believe it’s very, very doable.”
Syracuse Silver Knights president Tommy Tanner before the expansion MISL team averaged 2,951 fans per game in the 5,300-seat Oncenter in the 2011-2012 season.
“For me, the 6,500 (average attendance projection) is aggressive, but if they get that, they will make it.”
Rob Vogel, CEO Bonham Group, referring to WUSA’s attendance goals at startup, in USA Today, February 16, 2000. WUSA actually averaged 7,246 fans per game over its lifetime and folded anyway, in 2003.
“America’s ranked 80 places above us and I promise you now we’re beating them in Antigua. I promise you that now, we’re beating them in Antigua.”
Antigua Barracuda FC CEO Mark Bowers, quoted in the Harrisburg Patriot-News on July 21, 2012, six weeks before the USA’s 2-1 win in a World Cup qualifying match.
“The more we look and compare Phoenix FC’s roster to that of the Los Angeles Blues’ (sic), the more we see Phoenix winning. The Wolves have more experience and on paper, that should bode well in their first ever match.”
Arizona Republic preview of Phoenix FC’s first-ever USL Pro match on March 23, 2013. The Wolves lost 2-0 at Los Angeles.
“Mark it down, write it down, film it. We’re going to turn TFC around and we’re going to make the playoffs next year.”
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment boss Tim Leiweke, at an Empire Club luncheon speech in October 2013. Toronto FC finished eight points out of a playoff spot in 2014.
“I just don’t see it being the big splash they think it’s going to be or that they want it to be.”
Former Indiana Blast owner Kim Morris, quoted in the Indianapolis Star about the Indy Eleven of the NASL on the eve of the team’s inaugural match. The Eleven drew more in its first two home games than the Blast did in its entire first season.
“For the millionth time, JK (Juergen Klinsmann) will lose the job when the USMNT fails to qualify (for the 2018 World Cup) and not one day before.”
New York Times writer Andrew Das, on Twitter, ten days before Klinsmann was actually fired with the US far from eliminated from qualifying.
“Any rational person who looks at the range of real challenges facing the Portland metropolitan area – from the rickety Sellwood Bridge to seriously deteriorating mental health services to reductions in fire and police services to the city’s mounting list of unrepaired potholes – understands the derelict nature of this project. It’s as toxic to our future health and well-being as the assets still residing on the balance sheets of the nation’s zombie banks.”
Mark Zusman in Willamette Week, April 28, 2009, on the proposed plan to renovate then-PGE Park into a soccer-specific stadium for MLS’ Portland Timbers, which has worked out pretty well.
“But now MLS starts to sound like a pyramid scheme. You can fund a loss-making enterprise from the entrance fees of new buyers for a while, but without making money, the only reason for doing this would be glory, not profits. Americans constantly tell me that owners of sport franchises in the US will insist on making money. If that really is the case, then I predict that MLS will collapse, and probably sooner rather than later.”
Author and supposed economist Stefan Szymanski in a blog post on April 23, 2015. Still going.
“Anticipating attendance during an inaugural season is very difficult. However, we believe that with our very reasonably priced tickets, along with the support for local charities, we can easily see between 1,000 to 2,000 fans on average.”
Kevin Hickling, team president of the Tampa Marauders of the NPSL, quoted in the Tampa Bay Times on April 12, 2013. Suffice to say, they didn’t get anywhere near that level of support and they are no more.
“Ray Klivecka will be here forever. Ray Klivecka will not have to worry about his job.”
New York Cosmos vice president Rafael delaSierra on June 2, 1979 after the club fired Eddie Firmani and hired Klivecka. You can probably guess what happened. Klivecka resigned seven months later to “pursue other interests,” wound up as the coach of the Rochester Lancers in 1980 and lasted all of seven games there before being fired.
“I don’t expect the U.S. to make the Olympics in my lifetime.”
US National Team coach Walt Chyzowych after the Olympic team’s elimination from contention for the 1980 Games (which the U.S. boycotted anyway) in a 2-0 loss to Mexico on June 3, 1979. After automatically qualifying for Los Angeles in 1984 as the host country, the Americans qualified for the 1988 Games in Seoul, when Chyzowych was 51. (He passed away in 1994 at age 57.)
“We’ve been trying to get them all along. They escaped us twice. They will not escape again.”
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers head coach Ron Newman, looking ahead to a potential 1978 NASL playoff matchup with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who had defeated them twice during the regular season. (The Rowdies actually did escape the Strikers again, winning a mini-game shootout to deny Ft. Lauderdale a trip to Soccer Bowl.)
“In five years, my goal is that the United States will see San Diego 1904 FC as the model and best point of reference for American soccer.”
Co-owner and Real Madrid player Eden Hazard, quoted on ESPN.com on September 10, 2019. (You don’t need to wait until 2024 to tell if this one comes true.)
“Don’t judge us on this performance. We’ll have a good side. We’ll win the division and then we’ll challenge for the championship.”
Chicago Sting coach Bill Foulkes after a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies on April 16, 1977. The Sting finished fourth in the NASL’s Northern Division and did not make the playoffs.
“This is my season and the Rochester Lancers’ season. I’m sure I’ll be top scorer in the league. I can guarantee it.”
Rochester Lancers forward Mike Stojanovich, in Feb. 1977. He finished fifth in league scoring with 14 goals, 12 goals behind actual scoring leader Steve David.
“I have made promises to my players, staff and fans that we will always be around even if it takes us 30 years to get to the highest pro levels.”
Cincinnati Saints President & CEO David Satterwhite, quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Jan. 8, 2014. If you are reading this prior to 2044, you likely already know the Saints are no more.
“Please respect my frankness, but the Americans are not World Cup material.”
Trinidad & Tobago coach Roderick Warner after the USA beat T&T 1-0 on a Paul Caligiuri goal in a World Cup Qualifier on May 19, 1986…no, not THAT goal.
“Indianapolis should not even be allowed to play in this building, and we let them play here.”
Washington Warthogs coach Jim Gabarra after an 8-3 loss to the Indianapolis Twisters in a Continental Indoor Soccer League game on September 21, 1996.
“We should have won the game a long time ago. You have to give them credit – they are a good team, but I still think we are a better team than them.”
Arizona Thunder coach LeRoy DeLeon after losing in overtime to Monterrey in a WISL game on September 30, 2000. DeLeon was fired a month later with a career record of 10-13.
“If that is the top team, they stink. If that’s the way soccer is run in this country, it’s going to be bad.”
Pittsburgh Riverhounds coach Ricardo Iribarren, after his team lost 2-0 to the Charlotte Eagles in USL 2nd Division action on June 4, 2005.
“A freak result against a clearly inferior team.”
Portugal captain Luis Figo, describing his team’s 3-2 loss to the US at World Cup 2002, in the May 2004 issue of FourFourTwo magazine.
“I didn’t hear them. They were pretty weak. The adult fans are pretty weak. The kids are good, but the adult fans were pretty weak. They’re a weak, weak bunch.”
Colorado Rapids midfielder Kyle Beckerman after a 3-1 loss in Dallas on April 20, 2007.
“That was unacceptable. We played against a team that practices two times a week.”
Missouri Comets forward Byron Alvarez after a 14-13 loss to the Chicago Riot, a Major Indoor Soccer League expansion team, on December 19, 2010.
“You may be surprised to hear me say this, but soccer-wise, we were better than our opponent.”
FC Edmonton coach Harry Sinkgraven, after a 5-0 home loss to the Montreal Impact on May 1, 2011.
“We deserved better and we were certainly not five goals worse than Atlanta.”
Ottawa Fury owner John Pugh, after his team lost the 2011 W-League Championship match, 6-1 to the Atlanta Silverbacks Women.
“They have players, but I think we found who the better soccer-playing team was.”
FC Hastental coach Eric Warner, after a 3-2 loss to the Ventura County Fusion in the 1st round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on May 14, 2013.
“I think as far as football we played better than them throughout the whole field.”
Atlanta Beat head coach James Gallanis after a 6-1 loss to FC Gold Pride in a WPS match on August 29, 2010.
“I don’t like Lee Stern, I don’t like Willy Roy and Chicago’s fans are ignorant of the rules. They even booed Mr. T.”
Tampa Bay Rowdies coach Rodney Marsh, after a 3-2 loss to the Sting in Chicago on June 3, 1984.
“They have a system they believe in, but they aren’t going to win a championship. They won today, but they won’t in the long haul.”
Wichita Wings player-head coach Kim Roentved, after losing 16-9 to the Milwaukee Wave on February 11, 1997. The Wave didn’t win the NPSL title that season, but did in 1998, their first of six league titles under coach Keith Tozer.
“They are a good team, but, really, players on this team [Seattle], they think they are better than everybody and, personally, I think they have a couple of good guys but nothing special. They play like they already won the league, or like they’ve played, I don’t know where. They are good, but not better than we are, and the game shows it.”
Davide Chiumiento of the Vancouver Whitecaps after a 2-2 draw with Seattle on May 19, 2012.
“They are not as good as we made them look. They’re not that good. They were very fortunate on a lot of plays. I don’t think the scoreline was reflective of the game.”
Atlanta Silverbacks’ coach/not coach Eric Wynalda, after a season-opening 4-0 loss to the New York Cosmos on April 13, 2014.
“We were not impressed with Argentina. They are an ordinary team.”
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots after his team was eliminated from the 2014 World Cup by Argentina.
“It’s become clear these calls are not going to ‘even themselves out’ over the remainder of the year. The officiating was disgusting. It was the last straw in what I believe to be a season full of inconsistent, incompetent and unprofessional refereeing. And while it’s easy to dismiss it as ‘just a game,’ these bad calls can affect the lives and livelihoods of everyone associated with the club.”
Tampa Bay Rowdies Chairman Bill Edwards during the 2016 NASL season. Edwards would pull his team out of the NASL and into the USL after the season.
“If you look at the won-loss record, yeah, let’s fire everybody and start again, but look at the credibility we’ve brought to this league. This team has brought three world-class coaches to MLS, and it’s fair to say I had a hand in the (Roberto) Donadoni and (Lothar) Matthaeus negotiations. If you look at it fairly, those are probably the five hardest signings this league has ever had.”
Then-MetroStars GM Charlie Stillitano, in Sports Illustrated during his team’s 7-25 season of 1999.
“I don’t think we were the underdog, I just don’t think people expected us to win.”
Brek Shea of FC Dallas after the Hoops beat the Los Angeles Galaxy on November 15, 2010 to win MLS’ Western Conference.
“The game is currently on the 1-yard line with 99 yards to go. But it is a definite possibility.”
A “soccer source” telling the Chicago Tribune about a potential game at Wrigley Field involving Manchester United. “Definite possibility?” Really?
“Soccer is like chess, only without the dice.”
German national teamer Lukas Podolski.
“(Soccer) has every ingredient to appeal to the American people. It’s fast; there is physical contact; women can understand it.”
Atlanta Chiefs owner Bill Bartholomay, quoted on February 21, 1967, a couple of months before the launch of the new National Professional Soccer League.
“I made my decision quick. I think I’m not someone to mix my words.”
Former Everton Star Tim Cahill upon signing with the New York Red Bulls on July 30, 2012.
“This is better than sex.”
Memphis Rogues General Manager Rudi Schiffer, after a 3-2 overtime win over the Minnesota Kicks in an NASL indoor game on Dec. 29, 1979.
“The league gave us the toughest schedule to begin the season. It’s a punishment for having good crowds. You know that’s why we end up playing the opener and we have to go again on the road. It would have been nice to only play one game, but it is what it is and we know we are a better team.”
Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, lamenting having to play a road game four days after a home game. Unlike their opening-night opponent, who played its second game five days after its first.
“He’s very positive for the development of soccer, obviously. What he has brought to the area is a fantastic product, what I call the Barcelona of women’s soccer, the best team in the world, probably.”
Dr. Joe Meeroff, chairman of the coaching committee for the Florida State Soccer Association, on WPS’ magicJack club’s owner Dan Borislow and the team that finished third in the league (9-7-2) and lost in the playoff semifinal.
“I’m disappointed that I overreacted a bit.”
Columbus Invaders (NPSL) coach Drago Jaha after getting four misconduct penalties and an ejection in a 24-22 overtime loss to Cincinnati on November 9, 1996.
“It’s not soccer anymore. It’s a war. We have to win it and the team that wants it the most will win the game. I’m very happy we’re with the last eight in America.”
Dayton Dutch Lions coach Ivar Van Dinteren, after a 2-1 overtime win over the Michigan Bucks put the USL Pro side in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup on June 5, 2012.
“It’s a downer; it’s a dagger in the heart. It’s so difficult to come back from that.”
Orlando City forward Matt Luzunaris, on a Wilmington Hammerheads goal with just 87 minutes to play in a playoff game Orlando would lose 4-3 on August 31, 2012.
“It sends a shock throughout the league.”
Pennsylvania Roar head coach Eric Puls, after his 0-11 team defeated the St. Louis Ambush 16-0 on January 19, 2014 for its first-ever victory. (And, as it would turn out, their only victory ever. The Road folded after that 1-19 season in 2013-2014.)
“Three teams out of eight for a playoff means we’re not at 50 per cent, which some might say is too much for our league, but the reality is there’s twice as many teams in the playoff this year. “
Canadian Premier League Commissioner David Clanachan, announcing the league’s second-season schedule and playoff format. Three teams were to make the 2020 playoffs. Up from two teams in 2019. Which is somehow twice as many teams.
“He understands the little things that it takes, is not afraid to get dirty, and he’s not afraid to get dirty.”
LA Blues coach Charlie Naimo, speaking about midfielder Josh Tudela (who apparently was not afraid to get dirty) in 2011.
THE GREAT INDOORS
“I’m more than ever convinced that if soccer is to make it big in the U.S., it will have to be the indoor brand, where scoring action is furiously suited to American taste.”
Sportswriter Dick Young, New York Daily News, 1980.
“If a guy is a good indoor player he’s going to make a lot of money. This is where soccer’s future is in America.”
MISL spokesman Doug Verb, quoted in the (St. Petersburg, Fla.) Evening Independent, March 5, 1982.
“There’s no way pro soccer can survive anymore in this country without indoor soccer.”
Chicago Sting (NASL) owner Lee Stern, in 1983.
“I’m convinced now that indoor will be what makes soccer in the US.”
San Diego Sockers (NASL) owner Bob Bell, in 1983
“Tell the rest of the world to go on playing in the mud and rain. We’ll get rich while staying clean. The future of American soccer is indoors.”
San Diego Socker Julie Veee, in 1984.
“Just remember, I assisted on the first goal. You see who keys this offense, don’t you?”
Cleveland Crunch defender Tim Tyma, after a 52-18 win over the Columbus Invaders on March 15, 1997.
“I haven’t seen so much spin since a Phil Niekro knuckleball!”
Max Bretos, Fox Sports World, April 3, 2004, apparently not realizing that the beauty of a knuckleball is that it doesn’t spin at all.
“We think soccer has finally arrived. It has been building very carefully, very solidly, over the years. We see soccer becoming ‘the summer sport’ in the future.”
CBS Sports President Clarence Cross, announcing a three-year TV contract with the North American Soccer League on May 20, 1976. CBS ditched the contract after one year.
“This is a very tough situation, and I sympathize wholeheartedly with Chicagoans interested in the game, but it’s the feeling of ABC that WLS-TV would be serving its viewers better with the regular entertainment planned for that night.”
ABC Senior Vice President for Sports Jim Spence on the network’s decision to air a Love Boat re-run instead of live coverage of Soccer Bowl ’81 between the Chicago Sting and the Cosmos.
“We love it whenever ABC does soccer. We just wish the soccer season went all year.”
An unnamed NBC Sports executive, quoted by Fred Rothenberg of the Associated Press, May 31, 1980 after ABC’s first NASL telecast drew a 2.1 national rating.
“I’ve tried to watch soccer on TV, but it bores me. I simple (sic) don’t appreciate the game enough to appreciate the beauty of a 1-0 score.”
Astoria, Long Island computer analyst JV Tyler, quoted in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times on September 8, 1979.
“In 10 years, TV and soccer will be the same as TV and professional football are now.”
NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam, in 1977. Still waiting.
“If you give soccer a little television exposure, it will be off and running.”
Woosnam in Sports Illustrated, August 30, 1976
“So the red card is an ejection, correct?”
Colorado Rapids announcer Chris Marlowe, after a New England Revolution player was sent off for a tackle in an MLS match on July 23, 2011.
THIS AND THAT
“It’s inconceivable to me that he would remain in the head coaching job beyond the end of the season, and he knows that. He understands that.”
DC United President Kevin Payne on interim coach Ben Olsen, in 2010. A month later, Payne hired Olsen as United’s new head coach, where he remained for another 10 years.
“We had 30 kids there, and he split through them like a knife through butter for an hour and-a-half. I’m going, ‘Holy sh**, who is this kid?'”
Chicago Fire coach Dave Sarachan, then a DC United assistant, on the first time he saw Freddy Adu as a 10-year-old.
“I give the NASL two years. You can’t say that soccer’s arrived anymore. It’s here. But you can’t claim that it’s a major sport either. It’s on some sort of plateau, and if it doesn’t get up and dance this time I don’t think the public will stay interested.”
Memphis Rogues (NASL) forward Paul Cannell, in 1980.
“Trying to use Branko Segota in the air is like having Ursula Andress as a waitress. Ursula would make a fine waitress, but she’s obviously meant for greater things. Branko can go in the air, but his forte is his shot.”
Rochester Lancers coach Ray Klivecka, in 1980.
“I have a good looking girlfriend. She’s also 25 years younger than I am. That’s a good comment.”
LA Galaxy coach Lothar Osiander, asked for a comment after his team’s 2-0 loss at DC United in 1997.
“I’ve been selling tickets as long as I can remember, and I’ve never run into anything like soccer. We haven’t been able to sell what we thought we could.”
Andy Shlenker, VP of the Denver Desperados, an MISL expansion team that never played, 1988
“You can market all you want, but sports must follow people’s moods, not create them.”
Dallas Tornado GM Dick Berg in 1977
“I don’t even know how many men there are on a soccer team.”
Dick Walsh, Los Angeles Dodger vice-president, accepting a five-year contract at $50,000 a year to be commissioner of the new North American Soccer League, January 16, 1967
“It seems to me the Cosmos have to get their priorities straight. They should worry about being dominant in the NASL and not worry about being the bloody Harlem Globetrotters. What are they trying to prove?”
Keith Eddy, coach of the NASL’s Toronto Blizzard, after the Cosmos fired coach Eddie Firmani, partially because Firmani balked at an abundance of exhibition games.
“The Sting hasn’t folded. We may not have any players or a league to play in, but we expect to continue with clinics and summer camps.”
Chicago Sting owner Lee Stern after pulling his team out of the MISL, July 18, 1988
“Terry Fisher is 0-7, the San Jose Earthquakes are 0-7. But I think people better understand I’m gonna do things the way I want to do them. I’m sorry if that upsets anyone, but I know I’m 3,000 percent right.”
San Jose Earthquakes coach Terry Fisher after a 5-1 home loss to the Washington Diplomats in an NASL game on July 15, 1978. Fisher was 3,000 percent fired the following May when the ‘Quakes started 0-8, making Fisher’s San Jose record 3-17 in less than a year.
“What our guys have to realize is that we’re at home. This is our place, this is where we earn our bread. These guys are coming here to take our bread and we have to go for it and not let them take the bread out of (our) hands.”
New York Kick (NPSL) coach Afrim Nezaj, November 20, 1990. Nezaj went 2-10 before being fired.
“We are 100% behind Mike Custer.”
Milwaukee Wave owner Ron Creten, discussing his head coach on December 15, 1987. Custer was fired a month later with an 8-11 record.
“Right now we have two guys standing on top of a billboard at the busiest intersection in Memphis, and they’ll be there until we’re sold out.”
John Durham, upon taking the President/GM job with the AISA’s Toledo Pride on Dec. 10, 1986. The Storm never did sell out. And Durham was arrested less than three months later for writing bad checks to cover the team’s travel expenses.
“If someone can convince me that people in this country can understand a home-and-home (playoff) series, I’m all ears.”
MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a USA Today online chat in 2000, two years before the league went to a home-and-home first-round playoff format. Garber, however, is still all ears.
“There are still very good players in this league but I guarantee you no one in Atlanta, Ga. has ever heard of Francois Van der Elst or Rob Rensenbrink. The marketing can only do so much for so long. You can only bring the players in on the back of a fire truck so many times.”
Atlanta Chiefs vice president Terry Hanson, quoted in the Washington Post, May 18, 1981
“When you win a championship, everybody wants you. And you make more money. That’s what I’m trying to make everybody understand. If you don’t make the playoffs, you go home early and then you are all pissed off and thinking about what you can do about it. For the last three years, I didn’t make the playoffs. I try to tell my teammates how good it is to win a championship because it’s so good to have a ring. And then you will see for the rest of your life that you were the best team for that one year.”
Indiana Twisters forward Mirko Castillo, on September 6, 1997 as his team closed in on a CISL playoff berth. They did not get a ring that year.
“If the Sting had been soybeans, I’d have been going short.”
Chicago Sting owner Lee Stern in Sport magazine, 1982
“We had 18 teams and 12 of them were either successful or approaching success. Then we made a crucial and tragic mistake: we expanded before we were ready. We brought in six new teams into six new markets, generally lousy markets. We also brought in new owners who didn’t understand what it had taken to get to 1977. Now, we had 12 weak teams – half the league – and they all were hurting the strong teams.”
Toronto Blizzard President Clive Toye, quoted in the Washington Post, May 18, 1981, on the 1977 expansion that led to the demise of the NASL.
“Expansion in 1978 was the right move at the time, but it doesn’t look that way now. I think we learned from that experience.”
NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam, September 16, 1981 after five NASL teams folded
“If someone asked me how to start and operate any kind of franchise, I’d tell them to study the (Tampa Bay) Rowdies. It is simply the best marketing in sports. From the top down, it’s a group of geniuses that have put it together. They have done the one thing that most teams fail at in all sports – in Tampa, they’ve made going to the soccer game the thing to do.”
New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in Sports Illustrated, March 14, 1977
“What do I care about some soccer game? All I care about is staying alive, avoiding all the holes in New York’s streets and avoiding getting a gun to my head.”
New York taxi driver Morris Oldaff, quoted in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times on the day before Soccer Bowl ’79 between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Vancouver Whitecaps
“Hating soccer is more American than apple pie, driving a pickup, or spending Saturday afternoons channel surfing.”
Tom Weir, USA Today
“Yes, okay, soccer is the most ‘popular’ sport in the world… So what? Maybe other countries can’t afford football, basketball, and baseball leagues; maybe if they could afford these other sports, they’d enjoy them even more.”
Allen Barra, Wall Street Journal
“I will hand [my son] ice skates and a shimmering sequined blouse before I hand him a soccer ball. Soccer is not a sport, does not need to be on TV.”
Sports radio talk show host Jim Rome
“Every day is not the same thing here. Turf, no turf, coach, no coach, general manager, no general manager. You can never be surprised here. You must always be ready.”
Youri Djorkaeff on the turmoil surrounding the New York Red Bulls, April 20, 2006
“It doesn’t surprise me. Not at all.”
Columbus coach Drago Jaha, after 29-25 win over defending NPSL champion Cleveland on December 11, 1996 that snapped the Invaders’ 0-10 start and broke a 16-game losing streak to the Crunch. Jaha was fired six weeks later with a 4-18 record.
“He may or may not succeed.”
Jeff Cooper, owner of the (new) NASL’s AC St. Louis club in 2010, on his coaching hire, Claude Anelka. Anelka did not succeed and was fired after 10 games with a 2-7-1 record.
“There are gay footballers, but they don’t declare it because they think it will not be accepted in these macho organisations. But football is open for everybody, which is why they made a gay competition in South America. And look at women’s football: homosexuality is more popular there.”
FIFA head Sepp Blatter. In 2008. In one of his tamer statements.
“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could have tighter shorts.”
Blatter, in 2004, on how to make women’s soccer more popular.
“In soccer, that’s the most important thing. The longer you don’t give up a goal, the better chance you have of winning.”
Captain America as Captain Obvious: NY Red Bulls midfielder Claudio Reyna, April 26, 2007, in the midst of an MLS-record string of four straight shutouts by his side to start the season.
“It’s a situation where kids play a game, then go to Max & Erma’s for lunch and come back and play an afternoon game at 3 o’clock. They don’t know what it’s like to give everything and to walk off the field completely spent. That’s one of the big things that young players in this country need to learn. We have some guys who don’t really know how to do that.”
Columbus Crew Head Coach Sigi Schmid, April 24, 2007
“One end of the field smelled like weed. The other end smelled like dead shrimp.”
Columbus Crew’s Jason Garey on playing a CONCACAF Champions League match at Joe Public FC of Trinidad in October 2010.
“We go that way and try to put the ball in that goal over there and the other team goes this way and tries to put it in this goal over here.”
Toronto Shooting Stars coach Johan Aarnio, asked to explain the NPSL to new fans in late 1996. Aarnio was fired after a 1-8 start.
“The Cosmos would be at the bottom of the First Division, maybe the top of the Second Division.”
Forward Steve Hunt, after playing for the New York Cosmos’ second-straight NASL Soccer Bowl championship in 1978, as he was on his way back to England to play for Coventry City.
“This, to us, is not European whatsoever. This is all about our connection to the community and us trying to be innovative in what we’re trying to do. (It’s not) a ripoff. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. We’re not just calling ourselves Real Salt Lake or F.C. Dallas. We’re going to go do and embody the name we’re giving (ourselves). That’s not to say it won’t fail. But I don’t feel it’s going to.”
Rob Heineman of MLS’ Kansas City franchise, Nov. 17, 2010, after rebranding the club from “Wizards” to “Sporting Kansas City.”
“I’m very happy to be back. I was born here. I played here. And I want to coach here and help young Alberta players develop.”
Dwight Lodeweges on being named head coach of the NASL’s FC Edmonton, April 19, 2010. Less than eight months later, he left to take a coaching job with a second division club in Japan.
“Chicago…had only about two good players and they weren’t very organized.”
-Rodney Marsh of the Tampa Bay Rowdies after his first game in America, a 2-1 win over the Chicago Sting on April 24, 1976.
“I don’t need to elaborate on the things that De Rosario and De Guzman said. It’s a couple of Canadian guys making those comments. That’s all I have to say about that.”
Preki after being fired by Toronto FC, Sept. 14, 2010, responding to negative comments by Dwayne De Rosario and Julian De Guzman.
“[I don’t] want to be fussy, but if I have to go far away with my family, I prefer to do it in a beautiful town.”
French international Robert Pires, quoted in L’Equipe on the possibility of playing for Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.
“No disrespect to the Eastern Conference, but tonight was the championship.”
Good thing for FC Dallas’ Daniel Hernandez, because after beating Los Angeles in the Western Conference championship on November 15, 2010, they lost to the Colorado Rapids in the actual championship a week later.
“We live in America. We play in an American soccer league. We have playoffs, we don’t have relegation, we retire numbers. I can’t imagine anything less controversial. America is a great place. I like living in the United States. I don’t need to live in Europe. I’m not envious of the Europeans. I don’t need to work in Europe. And by the way, if you do? That’s cool. Emigrate. I have no problem with that. But we live in America, and at least for me, man, I’ve been taught every day that this is the greatest country on Earth. So why do we apologize? Why is it bad to be American?”
Garth Lagerway, general manager of a team named after a famous European club, getting jingoistic after some questioned Real Salt Lake’s decision to retire the #9 worn by coach and former striker Jason Kreis.
“A lot of these players have to come from somewhere.”
ESPN analyst Robbie Mustoe. He’s right, when you think about it.
“Despite the absence of the big professional clubs the competition will continue and will be a National affair. Such competitions cannot be dismissed with a gesture. There are 126 clubs, many of them of strength equal or greater than those which quit, many of them representing large investments, many of them clubs of old standing and responsibility and all eager to fight for the honor or being declared champions of the United States. In National sporting matters whether tennis, golf or soccer, the honor and the dollar are important, but the honor is and must always continue to be first if the sport is to prevail.”
United States Football Association Secretary Andrew Brown, after teams from the American Soccer League and St. Louis District Soccer League boycotted what was then called the National Challenge Cup (now the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup), quoted in the Newark Sunday Call of October 5, 1924.
“I feel sorry for the fans. I had no clue that there was this rule.”
Vancouver Whitecaps forward Eric Hassli after receiving a second yellow card and subsequent red for removing his jersey after scoring a goal in a 1-1 draw with New England, April 6, 2011. The rule had been in place since 2004.
“Every stop around the league reminds me of how much the sport has grown in North America over the past 35 or so years since the last NASL enjoyed its final season.”
North American Soccer League Commissioner David Downs, apparently under the impression there would be no math, in 2011. The NASL last played in 1984.
“Today it just wasn’t there. There was just no passion. It was crap. It was crap.”
Western New York Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris after a 2-2 draw with Sky Blue FC on June 3, 2011.
“If we can increase our attendance by 500 or 750 a year for the next 10 years, that would be good and it’s something I can build a business around. But we have to be prepared for slow growth over a long haul. We’re not going to be selling 10,000 tickets by next season. If we’re here for 10 years, we’ll be big.”
David Halstead, owner of WPS’ Philadelphia Independence, July 2011. The Independence did not survive the death of WPS after the 2011 season.
“When WUSA was around, there was an expectation that it was going to be O.K. to lose money and owners would be willing to stick around because of the love for women’s soccer. WPS is different in that we don’t believe that. I’m not in this to lose money. I’m in this to make money.”
David Halstead again, Aug. 9, 2011.
“What we’ve seen is that people have fallen in love with the women’s game again, and we’ve tapped into that.”
Women’s Professional Soccer CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas, perhaps exaggerating a bit the actual depth of affection for the three-year-old league. Three days later, she resigned.
“In this league, he’s a respected person, but … the kid’s a dickhead. He is telling linemen off, shouting at referees. Is it one rule for him and one rule for the rest of us? He needs to be a bit more humble. He just talks too much.”
Luke Rodgers of the New York Red Bulls, on Landon Donovan of the LA Galaxy.
“I’m confused, who is Luke Rogers?”
Donovan, in response, via Twitter.
“The Brazilians have to have their visas done every three months, so it’s difficult, for whatever reason. I don’t know if we’re at war with Brazil or whatever, but it’s real hard getting visas, and it’s going to take a while there.”
LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, on the challenges of foreign players.
“I think I am playing at my maximum level and doing everything I can. I don’t have, unfortunately, four defenders on my level that can help me out.”
Rafa Marquez of the New York Red Bulls, bucking for the Teammate of the Year Award after a 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Sept. 21, 2011.
“It’s frustration. That’s it. I don’t have anything to say about it. I feel sorry for him. That’s really all I can say as a teammate. You don’t want to see that happen, but that’s all I have to say about it.”
Thierry Henry of the New York Red Bulls, saying a lot without having anything to say about Rafa Marquez’ criticism of his teammates.
“Following soccer is like being in love with someone who’s (a) gorgeous, (b) fascinating, (c) possibly quite evil, and (d) only occasionally aware of your existence.”
Brian Phillips, staff writer for Grantland.com, in a brilliant essay about soccer’s boring-ness.
“I get booed just about everywhere I go, but those people are idiots. Sure, it pumps me up.”
Franklin McIntosh of the NPSL’s Cincinnati Silverbacks, in 1997. It is not recorded exactly to which idiots he was referring.
“If for some reason I ever got traded to Rochester, I’d pack it all in – no questions asked. You couldn’t get me to play there unless you paid me a million dollars. And even then I might live someplace else and commute.”
Tampa Bay Rowdies forward Steve Wegerle, quoted in the St. Petersburg Times on June 20, 1980.
“I don’t believe in this league. I stopped believing in it last summer and the quicker it goes down the better.”
Montreal Manic Vice President & General Manager Jacques Burrelle after the Manic folded on November 4, 1983.
“He was like a fish out of water, absolutely useless. But another fellow he used to bring along who could play was Rod Stewart.”
The late Paul Kitson, then of the NPSL’s Philadelphia Kixx, recalling when he played for Watford in England and team owner Elton John would train with the team.
“I’m not a wine connoisseur, but I know what good wine tastes like. When I sipped the wine recently, it didn’t taste so good.”
Philadelphia Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz after firing head coach Peter Nowak on June 13, 2012.
“I would cut so many guys from this team right now (if contracts weren’t guaranteed). Do you think I’d keep some of these guys around here? You kidding me? It’s my fault. I picked the team. I’m the one who signed some of these guys that are allowing these things to happen, so, whatever. It’s on me. Look at yourself in the mirror. Don’t just walk around thinking you’re a good player, evaluate yourself. These guys don’t do that. They think because they make one little flick that they had a good game. It’s frigging white-collar wussy stuff. That’s hurting this team right now.”
Los Angeles Blues coach Charlie Naimo after a 4-0 loss to Orlando City on July 8, 2012 that dropped the second-year USL Pro team to 5-8-2.
“There once was an ideology that an English football club should be owned by an Englishman. But I think most fans have come to accept ideology doesn’t buy you players who can win. We are willing to sacrifice ideology for trophies.”
Arsenal fan Mike Peacock, quoted in the Denver Post on August 7, 2012 in a story about the Gunners’ American owner, Stan Kroenke
“We have to be patient. Every time we have a kid who can kick the ball straight three times like Jozy [Altidore], [Freddy] Adu or Juan Agudelo — we make them the world’s best, blow them up, then kill them.”
Major League Soccer Technical Director Alfonso Mondelo on the expectations on player development in America.
“I like the way that the Spanish football is played, I like the way that Barcelona plays, but we are the Strikers, we are not Barcelona. I can’t play this style because I don’t have players.”
New Ft. Lauderdale Strikers head coach Gunter Kronsteiner, upon taking over the reins of the NASL club on July 17, 2013.
“We need a strong commissioner. A lot of owners are disappointed with (commissioner) Kevin Milliken. I wouldn’t let him run my Little Kickers program, let alone a professional league.”
Las Vegas Legends (MASL) owner Meir Cohen, quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on 3/17/2015. Milliken is no longer the league’s commissioner and Cohen no longer has an MASL team.
“Whatever. Learning experience. These are adults. They should learn this stuff by now.”
Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, when asked if an October 18, 2015 loss at home to Portland was a learning experience for his players.
“I don’t like this being sold and bought. In this league you have no security. But being on the police force in Ireland is a great career. You have good job security.”
Tampa Bay Rowdies forward Terry Moore, after scoring in an NASL playoff game on Aug. 23, 1981. Moore had been purchased by the Rowdies early in the season and started 24 regular-season and all five playoff games. After the demise of the NASL, he returned to Northern Ireland where he had grown up (but as far as we know, did not become a policeman).
“I’m surprised they lasted that long. I was being nice. They shouldn’t have lasted that long.”
Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards, quoted in the Tampa Bay Times on May 17, 2016, about his firing of head coach Thomas Rongen and general manager Farrukh Quraishi nine months prior.
“He’s got skills beyond compare. But he won’t train and he won’t work and when he gets on the field he’s pathetic.”
Erstwhile Colorado Caribous forward Brian Budd, of his teammate Sead Susic. The Caribous traded Susic to Toronto at midseason 1978, where he wound up as a teammate of…Brian Budd, whom Colorado traded to the Metros in May.