Tampa Bay Rowdies (1975–93)

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This article is about the original Tampa Bay Rowdies. For the modern day team, see Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Tampa bay rowdies nasl.png
Full name Tampa Bay Rowdies
Nickname(s) Rowdies
Founded June 19, 1974
Dissolved January 31, 1994; 23 years ago (January 31, 1994)
Stadium Outdoor:
Tampa Stadium (71,000)
USF Soccer Stadium (4,000)
Bayfront Center (6,410)
Expo Hall (9,200)[1]
Lakeland Civic Center (8,178)
Owner George W. Strawbridge, Jr.
Chairman Beau Rogers, IV
Chas Serednesky, Jr
Coach Eddie Firmani (1975–77)
John Boyle (1977)
Gordon Jago (1978–82)
Al Miller (1982–83)
Rodney Marsh (1984)
League North American Soccer League (1975–1984)
American Indoor Soccer Association (1986–1987)
American Soccer League (1988–1989)
American Professional Soccer League (1990–1993)

The Tampa Bay Rowdies was an American professional soccer team based in Tampa, Florida, that competed in the original North American Soccer League (NASL) 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 on January 31, 1994.[2] The Rowdies played nearly all[3] of their outdoor home games at Tampa Stadium and nearly all[4] of their indoor games at the Bayfront Center Arena in nearby St. Petersburg, Florida. Although San Diego played indoors until 1996, the Rowdies were the last surviving NASL franchise that played outdoor soccer on a regular basis.

NASL: 1975–1984[edit]

On June 19, 1974[5] George Strawbridge and Beau Rogers, IV purchased an expansion franchise in North American Soccer League for the sum of $25,000 and by July 24 they named Eddie Firmani their coach.[6] On November 21, 1974, the Tampa Bay Professional Soccer Club[7] announced that they would henceforth be known as the Tampa Bay Rowdies. 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 on August 24. The Rowdies also finished as runners-up in 1978 and 1979. The team showcased international stars such as midfielder, and team captain Rodney Marsh (England), 1979 league scoring leader Oscar Fabbiani (Chile), 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, as well as hulking forward Clyde Best (Bermuda). Coached along the way by 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.

Following the 1981 season the Dallas Tornado merged with Tampa Bay. At the time, Dallas principals Lamar Hunt and Bill McNutt retained a minority stake in the Rowdies.[8][9] 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.[10]


Year Record Regular Season Finish Playoffs Leading Goal Scorers[11] Avg Attend.
1975 16–6 1st, Eastern Division NASL Champions (3-0) Derek Smethurst-18, Stewart Scullion-7 10,728
1976 18–6 1st, Eastern Division, Atlantic Conference Atlantic Conf. Championship (1-1) Derek Smethurst-20, Rodney Marsh-11, Stewart Scullion-10 16,452
1977 14–12 3rd, Eastern Division, Atlantic Conference Divisional Playoffs (0-1) Derek Smethurst-19, Rodney Marsh-8, David Robb-8 19,491
1978 18–12 1st, Eastern Division, American Conference Runners-up (4-3) Rodney Marsh-18, David Robb-16, Steve Wegerle-7 18,123
1979 19–11 1st, Eastern Division, American Conference Runners-up (6-2) Oscar Fabbiani-25, Rodney Marsh-11, Petar Baralić-9 27,650
1980 19–13 1st, Eastern Division, American Conference American Conf. Semifinals (3-2) Oscar Fabbiani-13, Neill Roberts-10,[12] Steve Wegerle-9 28,345
1981 15–17 4th, Southern Division Quarterfinals (3-2) 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[edit]

Year Attendance[13] 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[edit]

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 in the finals 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 handful of other NASL teams) played indoor friendlies and invitationals[14] as preparation for the start of the outdoor season.[15] 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. The 1980–81 campaign marked the first time Tampa Bay had ever missed the playoffs, indoor or outdoor. 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.[16] The Rowdies finished second in the round-robin stage and subsequently went on to defeat Montreal for the championship in a double overtime thriller at the Montreal Forum; 5–4.[17] The final NASL indoor season took place in 1983–84 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.[4] 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.[18]

Indoor Year Record Regular Season Finish Playoffs Leading Goal Scorers[11] Avg Attend.
1975 3–1 1st, Region 3 (2–0) Runners-up (1–1) Doug Wark-10, Cantillo-5, Hartze-4 4,235
1976 5–0 1st, Eastern Region (2–0) NASL Champions (2–0) Clyde Best-11, Scullion-6, Smethurst-4, Marsh-4 5,458
1977 1–1 (friendlies only) none Derek Smethurst-5, Marsh-4, S. Wegerle-3 [19][20] 5,685
1978 6–2 (friendlies only) none Smethurst-14, Fink-10 Marsh-9, McLeod-8[21][22] 5,901
1979 3–2 2nd, Budweiser Invitational[14] (2–0) Invitational Runners-up Mirandinha-5, S. Wegerle-5, Marsh-4 [23][24][25][26][27] 6,181
1979–80 8–4 2nd, Eastern Division NASL Champions (5–1) Peter Baralić-21, McLeod-13, P. Anderson-7 5,712
1980–81 9–9 2nd, Eastern Division Did not qualify Óscar Fabbiani-31, S. Wegerle-25, McLeod-21 5,175
1981–82 11–7 2nd, Cent. Division, American Conf. Runners-up (4–4) Tatu-21, Zequinha-19, McLeod-15, Pesa-15 5,372
1983[28] 10–2 2nd, in Grand Prix preliminaries (4–2) Grand Prix Champions (2–0) Hugo Pérez-12, Tatu-12, Karpun-11, McLeod-8[29] 4,771
1983–84 9–23 7th Did not qualify Tatu-49, Peter Roe-22, Van der Beck-18 2,334

Indoor Home Attendance Records[edit]

Year Attendance[13] Opponent
1978 6,410 Washington[30]
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[edit]


Head coaches[edit]

Club culture[edit]

As part of a name-the-team contest, on November 21, 1974, the franchise announced that the name Tampa Bay Rowdies had been selected. Out of nearly 12,500 entries it was Clearwater attorney, Bill Wilhelm's suggestion that won. That suggestion earned Wilhelm a vacation to Acapulco for his efforts, along with a lifetime pass to all home games.[7][39] The Rowdies' fans were known as "Fannies". Advertisements for the club declared that "Soccer is a kick in the grass" and encouraged their supporters to "Get up, got out, and get Rowdy!" and to "make a fanny of yourself!". The calls were answered by fans who threw confetti, drank beer, chanted during games, and generally "let the guys know we're behind them."[40] 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.[41]

While anyone who supported the club 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.[40]

The "Wowdies" were the Rowdies' cheerleaders. The team also had a pep band known as the "Loudies" that sat in the south endzone and attended local pep rallies.[42][43]

Post-NASL: 1985–1993[edit]

The NASL folded in 1984, but the Rowdies continued to play for several more years. Tampa Stadium continued to be used as their home ground for outdoor games except during the 1991 and 1992 seasons in the APSL. Those two years were spent at the USF Soccer Stadium,[3][44] before returning to Tampa Stadium in 1993 for the team's final season in existence.

Independent: 1985–1986[edit]

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 NCAA Division I men's and women's teams, after the Corbetts had made a $1.5 million donation to the project.[45] 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 celebrates the city's rich soccer history. To date the NCAA Division II Spartans have only captured the trophy once, back in 2012.[46]

1986 Outdoor[edit]

In the summer of 1986 the Rowdies staged a four-game series at Tampa Stadium called the Coca-Cola Classic International Soccer Series, which culminated with a Fourth of July match, and also included a post-game fireworks display and laser light show. Since Tampa Bay had only a handful of players under contract at the time, their roster was comprised mostly of guest players from Queens Park Rangers F.C.[47][48] The only NASL-era Rowdies on this roster were Roy Wegerle, Steve Wegerle, Dave Power, and the head coach, Rodney Marsh. Four former Rowdies played in the final game of this series for the opposing NASL All-Stars. These included Mike Connell, Winston DuBose, Wes McLeod and Tatu.[49]

June 7, 1986 QPR/Tampa Bay 1–0 Glentoran F.C. Attendance: 3,522
June 14, 1986 QPR/Tampa Bay 2–1(SO) Dundee F.C. Attendance: 7,303
June 21, 1986 Canada U-20 1–0 QPR/Tampa Bay Attendance: 2,787
July 4, 1986 NASL All-Stars 4–3(SO) QPR/Tampa Bay Attendance: 29,755

AISA: 1986–1987[edit]

The Rowdies played one season of indoor soccer in the American Indoor Soccer Association, once again using the Bayfront Center as their home. After a strong start they finished third in their division and eventually lost in the first round of the playoffs.


Year League Games Won Lost GF GA Regular Season Playoffs Avg. Attendance
1986–87 AISA[50] 42 21 21 170 172 3rd, Southern Quarterfinals 2,048

1986–1987 roster[edit]


ASL/APSL: 1988–1993[edit]

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. During this six year stretch they achieve moderate success, winning one division title and making the playoffs four times. In 1992 they finished as runners-up to Colorado in the regular season, the Professional Cup final, and the league final.[55]


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[edit]

Honors – post-NASL[edit]

Coaches – post-NASL[edit]


Tampa Bay Mutiny: 1996–2001[edit]

Main article: Tampa Bay Mutiny

Due in large part to the Rowdies' historical success on and off the pitch, in 1994 MLS selected the Tampa Bay Mutiny as one of its original ten teams. The Mutiny won the first ever Supporters' Shield and qualified for the playoffs in four of their six seasons. Several former Rowdies, including Perry Van der Beck, Farrukh Quraishi, Roy Wegerle and Steve Trittschuh among others, were involved with the Mutiny as players, coaches, or front office staff. They also played for three seasons on the Rowdies' home pitch, Tampa Stadium.

MLS initially operated the team with the hope of selling to a private local owner.[60] That became difficult after Malcolm Glazer bought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League in 1995 and demanded that the community build a new stadium. Raymond James Stadium was completed in 1998 and Tampa Stadium was demolished soon thereafter, forcing the Mutiny to move to the new facility.

The Bucs' lease agreement in their new home allowed them to keep most non-ticket revenues from all events at the facility, including Mutiny matches, severely damaging the financial viability of the soccer club.[61][62] As financial losses mounted (up to $2 million a year), MLS desperately courted Glazer to buy the Mutiny. Glazer declined, so the league opted to fold the Mutiny, along with other Florida-based MLS team of that era, the Miami Fusion, in early 2002.[63][64]

New Rowdies: 2010–present[edit]

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 in the summer of 2010, but they took the pitch as "FC Tampa Bay" due to a licencing dispute over the Rowdies name and trademarks.[65][66] Beginning in 2012, the team reached an agreement to officially use the Rowdies name along with logos and other intellectual property of the original team.

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. The Rowdies won the 2012 NASL Championship. As of 2017 they are currently members of the second division, United Soccer League, and have announced their intention to gain entry into MLS's next wave of expansion.

Rowdies Cup[edit]

The USF Bulls annually face their crosstown rivals, the University of Tampa Spartans, in an NCAA men's preseason soccer match which celebrates the Tampa Bay Area's rich soccer history. In addition to holding the Rowdies Cup trophy for the next 12 months, the winning side also get to hoist the actual Soccer Bowl trophy that was won originally by the Rowdies in 1975. The trophy is housed at Corbett Soccer Stadium on the USF campus. Formerly called the Mayor's Cup until 2005, as of the 2016 edition, USF holds 19–9–3 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1972.[67][68][69]


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External links[edit]