American soccer writing, history & data.
In the fall of 1991, the American Professional Soccer League activated its entry into the USSF's Professional Division by paying a $100,000 fee. Requirements for entry into the Professional Division meant more stringent standards for the league's member teams including a fully staffed, year-round front office, eight to twelve players under full-time contracts, and a stadium that can accommodate 6000 to 10,000. Minimum operating budgets also jumped to the range of $700,000 to $800,000. Three teams, the Maryland Bays, Penn-Jersey Spirit and Albany Capitals, did not meet the early January deadline to pay their required $100,000 bonds. That left the APSL with five teams taking part in the 1992 season: Colorado Foxes; Fort Lauderdale Strikers; Miami Freedom, San Francisco Bay Blackhawks; and Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Needing better investment to stay in the league, Bryan Lockwood, a Florida restaurateur, became the new controlling owner and chairman of the board of Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Inc., a corporation that took over control of the Strikers name. Lockwood did not purchase the name from former Strikers president and majority owner, Noel Lemon. The trademark was transferred to Lockwood and a group of investors who formed a corporation under the Strikers name. As part of the transfer, Lockwood posted the $100,000 bond necessary to keep the team in the APSL.
Lockwood negotiated with Lemon to keep him as president and general manager of the team. Lockwood, Lemon and Tim Robbie became the sole owners of the Strikers after buying out other minority stockholders. In late April, just before the start of the regular season, Lockwood fired Lemon as president. Other front office members were fired or resigned during the early part of the season. On July 1, Lockwood turned control of the franchise over to the league office. The APSL would run the franchise until a new owner was found.
The indoor Major Soccer League folded after its 1991-92 season leaving the APSL as the sole member of USSF's Professional Division. But, even according to APSL commissioner Bill Sage, the APSL was second division at best. The league was not close to the level that FIFA, USSF or APSL wanted for a first division league. The USSF's recent plans for a tiered system ended up going nowhere because the funds necessary for such an endeavor or interested parties with those funds never materialized. At the beginning of 1992, it became understood among USSF leadership that a U.S. first division soccer league was not going to happen before 1995.
The APSL season began in May but prior to that, the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks, as 1991 APSL champions, took part in the initial rounds of the CONCACAF Champions of Champions tournament sponsored by American Airlines. The Blackhawks were placed in Group 1 of the North and Central American Zone. At the end of March, the Blackhawks beat the A.F.C. Euro Kickers in the first round and then, just before the beginning of the APSL season, beat La Victoria of Belize in the second round.
A month into the season, the Blackhawks beat Real C.D. Espana in the third round of the American Airlines Cup. The team received a bye in the fourth round and then faced Mexico's Club America in the final round of the zone with a chance to make it to the cup's semifinals. On August 9, Club America beat the Blackhawks 3-1 at Mexico City. The next Sunday, the Blackhawks managed to beat Club America 2-1 before 25,400 at Spartan Stadium but the Mexican club advanced 4-3 on aggregate goals.
As part of the APSL's integration into US soccer's hierarchy, before the 1992 season, Bill Sage had moved the league operations into the World Cup USA 1994's marketing office in suburban, Washington, D.C. The Professional Division of the USSF developed the Professional Cup as a competition for the nation's professional soccer teams. With only the APSL currently sanctioned at that level, the tournament included the five APSL teams, the Vancouver 86ers and Montreal Supra from the Canadian Soccer League, and the Chicago Power from the National Professional Soccer League. While the NPSL was in indoor soccer organization the Power had formed an outdoor team to play exhibition matches during the 1992 summer season.
The two-leg home-and-home first round matches were held in August during the last month of the APSL regular season. Colorado eliminated Vancouver, the Blackhawks beat Chicago Power, the Tampa Bay Rowdies took out Montreal Supra, and Fort Lauderdale Strikers eliminated the Miami Freedom.
The APSL regular season ended on August 30 with the top four teams making it into the semifinals. After losing only two of their final nine matches, Colorado edged the Rowdies by just two points to take the regular season title. The Rowdies were front-runners most of the season but dropped off badly by losing their last four APSL matches. The Blackhawks and Strikers came third and fourth with the Freedom out of the playoffs in fifth place.
The Professional Cup semifinals were scheduled as knockout matches for the first weekend of September. The Rowdies managed to end their four-game slide beating Fort Lauderdale 1-0 in front of 356 at Tampa Stadium. The Foxes continued their hot streak beating the Blackhawks by the same score in the other semifinal.
The teams moved to the league semifinals on the following weekend. But, before that, on September 9, Miami Freedom owner Amancio Suarez assumed full ownership of the league-operated Strikers leaving the Freedom franchise to an owner to be named later. Suarez took control when he transferred a $100,000 cash bond he had posted earlier for the Freedom to the Strikers. That Saturday, the Rowdies edged the Blackhawks 2-1 at Tampa Stadium in front of 1877 fans, and the next day, the Foxes took out the Strikers in a shootout before 3801 at Englewood High School stadium.
On Saturday, September 19, the Colorado Foxes won the first, and only, Professional Cup beating Tampa Bay 4-1 at Englewood High School before 3507. The next Saturday, the two teams again played for the APSL championship. The Foxes won 1-0 over the Rowdies in front of 4659 home fans to take the title.
©2022 by Daniel Creel. All rights reserved.