NASL Mini-Games

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:

Wed8/16/1978PontiacFt. Lauderdale1Detroit0Conference Semifinal
Wed8/16/1978TampaTampa Bay1San Diego0Conference Semifinal
Wed8/16/1978E. RutherfordNew York1Minnesota0(SO)Conference Semifinal
Wed8/23/1978TampaTampa Bay1Ft.Lauderdale0(SO)Conference Final
Sat8/25/1979VancouverVancouver1Los Angeles0Conference Semifinal
Sun8/26/1979E. RutherfordNew York3Tulsa1Conference Semifinal
Sat9/1/1979E. RutherfordVancouver1New York0(SO)Conference Final
Sun9/2/1979TampaTampa Bay1San Diego0Conference Final
Sat8/30/1980ChicagoSan Diego2Chicago1(SO)First Round
Sat8/30/1980Los AngelesLos Angeles2Washington0First Round
Sun8/31/1980EdmontonEdmonton1Houston0First Round
Sun8/31/1980Ft. LauderdaleFt. Lauderdale1California0(SO)First Round
Fri9/5/1980SeattleLos Angeles2Seattle1(SO)Conference Semifinal
Sat9/6/1980Ft. LauderdaleFt. Lauderdale3Edmonton0Conference Semifinal
Sun9/7/1980TampaSan Diego2Tampa Bay1(SO)Conference Semifinal
Sun9/7/1980E. RutherfordNew York3Dallas0Conference Semifinal
Sat9/13/1980Ft. LauderdaleFt. Lauderdale3San Diego0Conference 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.