Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)

Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)

This article is about the original Tampa Bay Rowdies. For the modern day team, see Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Full name Tampa Bay Rowdies
Nickname(s) Rowdies
Founded 1974
Dissolved 1993;  (1993)
Stadium Outdoor:
Tampa Stadium (71,000)
USF Soccer Stadium (4,000)
Bayfront Center (6,410)
Expo Hall (10,425)
Lakeland Civic Center (8,178)
Owner George W. Strawbridge, Jr.
Chairman Beau Rogers, IV
Chas Serednesky, Jr
Coach Eddie Firmani, John Boyle,
Gordon Jago, Rodney Marsh
League North American Soccer League (1975–1984)
American Indoor Soccer Association (1986–1987)
American Soccer League (1988–1989)
American Professional Soccer League (1990–1993)
Home colors
Away colors

The Tampa Bay Rowdies were a professional soccer team based in Tampa, Florida that competed in the original North American Soccer League from 1975 to 1984. They enjoyed broad popular support in the Tampa Bay area until the NASL folded in 1984, after which the team played in various minor indoor and outdoor leagues before finally folding in 1993. The Rowdies played nearly all[1] of their outdoor home games at Tampa Stadium and nearly all[2] of their indoor games at the Bayfront Center Arena in nearby St. Petersburg, Florida.

NASL: 1975–1984

Originally founded as a North American Soccer League expansion franchise in July 1974 by George Strawbridge and Beau Rogers, IV,[3] the Rowdies played ten seasons at Tampa Stadium and won their only Soccer Bowl championship in their 1975 inaugural season defeating the Portland Timbers 2–0. The Rowdies also lost in the finals in 1978 and 1979. The team showcased international stars such as midfield captain Rodney Marsh (England), 1979 league scoring leader Oscar Fabbiani (Argentina), swift and lethal forward Steve Wegerle (South Africa), rock-solid defenseman Arsene Auguste (Haiti), 1976 NASL goal scoring champion Derek Smethurst (South Africa), who was also the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer with 57 tallies in 65 games and Peter "Kosta" Johansson, former Swedish National Team member. Coached along the way by Eddie Firmani, John Boyle, Gordon Jago, Al Miller, and Marsh after his retirement, their catch phrase and marketing slogan was "The Rowdies arrrre...a kick in the grass!"

While no NASL team ever captured a treble, in 1975-76 Tampa Bay came the closest by winning the three different NASL titles available at the time (Soccer Bowl '75, 1976 Indoor Title, 1976 Regular Season title) in succession within twelve months. On and off the pitch, the Rowdies would prove to be one of the league's most recognizable brands. At one three-year point in their history, the team regularly drew crowds of well over 25,000 a night. In 1979 three different matches were attended by over 40,000 people, and the following year two more surpassed the 50,000 mark. The Rowdies had long-standing rivalries with both the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and the New York Cosmos.

Main article: Fort Lauderdale–Tampa Bay rivalry

Following the 1981 season Tampa Bay merged with the Dallas Tornado. At the time, Dallas principals Lamar Hunt and Bill McNutt retained a minority stake in the Rowdies.[4] Two years later after the 1983 season, Strawbidge, Hunt and McNutt sold the team outright to local investors Stella Thayer, Bob Blanchard and Dick Corbett.[5]


Year Record Regular Season Finish Playoffs Leading Goal Scorers[6] Avg Attend.
1975 16–6 1st, Eastern Division NASL Champions Derek Smethurst-18, Stewart Scullion-7 10,728
1976 18–6 1st, Eastern Division, Atlantic Conference Atlantic Conference Championship Derek Smethurst-20, Rodney Marsh-11, Stewart Scullion-10 16,452
1977 14–12 3rd, Eastern Division, Atlantic Conference Divisional Playoffs Derek Smethurst-19, Rodney Marsh-8, David Robb-8 19,491
1978 18–12 1st, Eastern Division, American Conference Runners-up Rodney Marsh-18, David Robb-16, Steve Wegerle-7 18,123
1979 19–11 1st, Eastern Division, American Conference Runners-up Oscar Fabbiani-25, Rodney Marsh-11, Petar Baralić-9 27,650
1980 19–13 1st, Eastern Division, American Conference American Conference Semifinals Oscar Fabbiani-13, Neill Roberts-10,[7] Steve Wegerle-9 28,345
1981 15–17 4th, Southern Division Quarterfinals Frank Worthington-11, Luis Fernando-9, David Moss-9 22,299
1982 12–20 3rd, Southern Division Did Not Qualify Luis Fernando-16, Tatu-7 22,532
1983 7–23 3rd, Southern Division Did Not Qualify Tatu-12, Manny Rojas-8 18,507
1984 9–15 4th, Eastern Division Did Not Qualify Roy Wegerle-9, Neill Roberts-9, Wes McLeod-7 10,932

Home Attendance Records

Year Attendance[8] Opponent
1980 56,389 California
1980 54,247 New York
1981 48,355 San Diego
1979 45,888 Rochester
1977 45,288 Cosmos
1976 42,611 New York
1978 41,888 Cosmos
1977 41,680 Zenit Leningrad
1979 41,102 Ft. Lauderdale
1979 40,701 New York
1980 40,368 Ft. Lauderdale
1982 40,098 Jacksonville
1979 38,766 San Diego*
1978 37,249 Ft. Lauderdale*
*playoff game

NASL Indoor Soccer

In the winter of 1975, the NASL ran a two-tiered, 16 team indoor tournament with four regional winners meeting in a "final-four" style championship. The Rowdies defeated the New York Cosmos 13-5 in the semi-final, before losing 8-5 to the host San Jose Earthquakes on March 16 at the Cow Palace. The Rowdies again reached the final-four in 1976, but that year were the host team. This time Tampa Bay would not be denied, as they followed up a 6-2 semi-final win over Dallas with a 6-4 finals triumph over the Rochester Lancers on March 27 in the Bayfront Center. Over the next few years, the Rowdies (and a hand full of other NASL teams) played indoor friendlies and invitationals[9] as preparation for the start of the outdoor season.[10] The NASL did not sanction a full indoor season until 1979-80, when the Rowdies won the championship by defeating the Memphis Rogues 2 games to 1. In the 1981–82 season they lost the finals to the San Diego Sockers 2 games to 0. Once again the NASL chose not to sanction a full indoor season in 1982-83, but (in addition to a few friendlies) Tampa Bay and three other teams participated in the Grand Prix of Indoor Soccer.[11] The Rowdies finished second in the round-robin stage. They then went on to defeat Montreal for the championship in a double overtime thriller at the Montreal Forum; 5-4.[12] The final NASL indoor season took place in 1983–1984 and the Rowdies finished last out of the seven teams. Due to scheduling issues that season, the Rowdies played five games at the Bayfront Center, eight at the State Fairgrounds' Expo Hall in Tampa, and three in the Lakeland Civic Center.[2] Tampa Bay regularly drew home crowds of over five thousand "fannies" to the Bayfront Center, despite the arena's limited seating capacity and relatively remote location.[13]

Indoor Year Record Regular Season Finish Playoffs Leading Goal Scorers[14] Avg Attend.
1975 3–1 1st, Region 3 Runners-up Doug Wark-10, Ringo Cantillo-5, Bernard Hartze-4 4,235
1976 4-0 1st, Eastern Region NASL Champions Clyde Best-7, Stewart Scullion-4, Derek Smethurst-4 5,458
1977 1-1 (friendlies only) none 5,685
1978 6-2 (friendlies only) none 5,901
1979 3-2 2nd, Budweiser Invitational[15] (2–0) Runners-up Mirandinha-6, Steve Wegerle-5, Rodney Marsh-4[16][17][18][19][20] 6,181
1979–1980 8–4 2nd, Eastern Division NASL Champions Peter Baralić-21, Wes McLeod-13, Peter Anderson-7 5,712
1980–1981 9–9 2nd, Eastern Division Did not qualify Óscar Fabbiani-31, Steve Wegerle-25, Wes McLeod-21 5,175
1981–1982 11–7 2nd, Cent. Division, American Conference Runners-up Tatu-21, Zequinha-19, Wes McLeod 15, Njego Pesa-15 5,372
1983[21] 10-2 (2nd, in Grand Prix preliminaries) NASL Grand Prix Champions Hugo Pérez-10, Tatu-9, Zequinha-6, Mark Karpun-6 4,771
1983–1984 9–23 7th Did not qualify Tatu-49, Peter Roe-22, Perry Van der Beck-18 2,334

Indoor Home Attendance Records

Year Attendance[8] Opponent
1978 6,410 Minnesota
1978 6,399 Dallas
1978 6,384 Tulsa
1977 6,354 Zenit Leningrad
1979 6,342 Ft. Lauderdale
1979 6,338 Tulsa
1982 6,325 San Diego*
1980 6,243 Ft. Lauderdale
1980 6,200 New England
1980 6,145 Detroit
1980 6,141 Atlanta*
1979 6,040 Dynamo Moscow
1979 6,002 Houston
*playoff game

Players, coaches, and honors – NASL era


Notable players

This list of players includes those who received international caps while playing for the team, made significant contributions to the team in terms of appearances or goals, or who made significant contributions to the sport either before they played for the team, or after they left.

Head coaches


The Rowdies' fans were known as "Fannies". Advertisements for the club encouraged their supporters to "Get up, got out, and get Rowdy!" and to "make a fanny of yourself!", and the call was answered by fans who threw confetti, drank beer, and generally "let the guys know we're behind them."[30] One memorable fan named Bob Rogers won a "Rowdiest Fan" contest by donning a giant soccer head and throwing himself into the Tampa Stadium goal. The club gave "Soccer Head" complimentary tickets to future games so that he could continue his antics for the crowd, even bringing him along when the Rowdies played in Soccer Bowl '79.[31]

While anyone who supported team could call themselves a Fanny, members of the official Rowdies' Fan Club particularly claimed the moniker as their own. The fan club held regular meetings and social events and published a newsletter.[30]

Post-NASL: 1985–1993

The NASL folded in 1984, but the Rowdies continued to play for several more years.

Independent: 1985–1986

With Rodney Marsh staying on as coach (through 1987), the Rowdies operated as an independent team for two years before joining the American Indoor Soccer Association for one season (1986–87). Cornelia Corbett, Dick Corbett's wife and a businesswoman in her own right, became sole owner of the team in 1986. As a footnote, in 2011 the University of South Florida opened the new Corbett Soccer Stadium for their Division I (NCAA) men's and women's teams, after the Corbetts had made a $1.5 million donation to the project.[32] The stadium features several display cases that highlight the history of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Since 2005, the USF Bulls and the crosstown rival University of Tampa Spartans men's squads have competed annually for the preseason Rowdies Cup, which celbrates the city's rich soccer history. To date the Division II (NCAA) Spartans have only captured the trophy once, back in 2012.[33]

AISA: 1986–1987


Year League Games Won Lost GF GA Regular Season Playoffs Avg. Attendance
1986–87 AISA[34] 42 21 21 170 172 3rd, Southern Quarterfinals 2,048

1986–1987 roster

ASL/APSL: 1988–1993

In the summer of 1988, the Rowdies joined the third incarnation of the American Soccer League. They would stay in this league and its successor (the APSL) until the team folded after the 1993 season.


Year League Regular Season Playoffs U.S. Open Cup
1988 ASL 3rd, Southern Did not qualify Did not enter
1989 ASL 1st, Southern Semifinals Did not enter
1990 APSL 2nd, ASL South ASL Semifinals Did not enter
1991 APSL 3rd, American Did not qualify Did not enter
1992 APSL 2nd Runners-up Did not enter
1993 APSL 3rd Semifinals Did not enter

Players, coaches, and honors – post-NASL era

Honors – post-NASL

Notable players – post-NASL

This list of players includes those who received international caps, made significant contributions to the team in terms of appearances or goals, or who made significant contributions to the sport either before or after they played for the team.

Coaches – post-NASL

New Rowdies: 2010–present

Main article: Tampa Bay Rowdies

In 2008, it was announced that a new incarnation of the Tampa Bay Rowdies would play in a new second division NASL. They wore striped green and gold kits similar to the old Rowdies, and a star reflecting the 1975 championship. After several changes to the league, Tampa Bay finally kicked off their existence in the summer of 2010.[36][37] To date, the new Rowdies have honored both Mike Connell's and Perry Van der Beck's significant contribution to soccer, both on and off the field in the community at large, by retiring their jerseys.


External links

  • "official" Tampa Bay Rowdies site
  • Rowdies history
  • "superfan" Ian Morris' site