Great Northwest Sports Moments: The Vancouver Whitecaps’ 1979 Soccer Bowl victory
Vancouver Whitecaps FC is one of the newest, freshest teams in Major League Soccer. But the Whitecaps aren’t new to soccer in the Northwest.
Before MLS, there was the North American Soccer League. There, Vancouver once reigned supreme.
Remember the NASL? It was the first major pro soccer league in North America and its featured team, the New York Cosmos, had Pele. During its existence from 1968 to 1984, its championship culminated in the Soccer Bowl.
In 1979, the Whitecaps put it all together for a magical run.
The year prior had ended in disappointment. Vancouver was a powerhouse in 1978, going 24-6 to win both the National Conference and Western Division, but was shocked by Portland in the conference semifinal.
The next season, Vancouver came back strong, going 20-10 to win the division and conference again.
The Whitecaps powered pats Dallas, Los Angeles and New York in succession to earn their first and only Soccer Bowl berth.
Vancouver and Tampa battled before an epic crowd of 64,045 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey on September 8, 1979. The Whitecaps won 2-1 to capture their one and only NASL title.
Soccer became a big hit in Vancouver during the Whitecaps’ NASL glory days. The team featured international stars like Alan Ball and also home-grown heroes like Bob Lenarduzzi, who went on to coach Canada’s national team for years.
Anyone who enjoyed Whitecaps soccer in 1979 will remember how clueless American broadcasters were about the city at the time.
ABC announcer Jim McKay famously suggested during Soccer Bowl ’79 that “Vancouver must be like a deserted village right now.” Yep, a village with over two million residents.
Who says soccer was never popular in North America before MLS came along? It was.
And Vancouver has the trophy to prove it!