Following the merger of the NPSL (National Professional Soccer League) and the USA (United Soccer Association) to create the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1968, the league championship games were known as the NASL Final until 1974.
The Atlanta Chiefs, Dallas Tornado, Los Angeles Aztecs New York Cosmos, Philadelphia Atoms and Rochester Lancers were crowned champions after winning their respective NASL Finals which were composed of either a single game, home-and-away playoff or best of three series. The exception was in 1969 as no championship game took place and the Kansas City Spurs were crowned the league winners, having the most points in the regular season.
The NASL also recognized the two champions from 1967: NPSL - Oakland Clippers and USA – Los Angeles Wolves, prior to the league’s formation.
The origin of the NASL Soccer Bowl began the following year in 1975 by Commissioner Phil Woosnam, who aimed for a neutral-site championship event similar to the NFL's Super Bowl.
Unlike, the Super Bowl, the Soccer Bowl was not denoted by Roman numerals; instead the last digits of the year would be used to brand the competition for that year (example Soccer Bowl '75).
In 1984 the league changed the neutral-site format for a best-of-three series played at each team's home field. That year the event was promoted as the Soccer Bowl Series '84, though it was still generally acknowledged as the Soccer Bowl.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies were the first team to lift the Soccer Bowl trophy in 1975 when they defeated the Portland Timbers 2-0 at San Jose’s Spartan Stadium.
Former Portuguese striker Eusébio led the Toronto Metros-Croatia to become the first Canadian side to win the NASL title in 1976. The following year former Brazilian forward and three-time World Cup winner, Pele concluded his playing career by leading the New York Cosmos to their first Soccer Bowl after posting a 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders at Portland’s Civic Stadium.
In 1978, a record crowd of 74,091 was on hand at Giants Stadium to witness the Cosmos top the Rowdies, 3-1, for the Soccer Bowl ’78 crown.
Giants Stadium would once again stage Soccer Bowl as the Vancouver Whitecaps became the second Canadian team to win the NASL title after defeating the Rowdies, 2-1 in 1979.
The Cosmos regained the Soccer Bowl trophy the following year in 1980 after a 3-0 blanking of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium.
After losing to 1981 title to the Chicago Sting at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium, the Cosmos captured their fourth Soccer Bowl and fifth overall NASL championship the next year with 1-0 shutout over the Seattle Sounders at San Diego Stadium.
Vancouver became the second Canadian city to stage the Soccer Bowl as the Tulsa Roughnecks topped the Toronto Blizzard 2-0 to claim the 1983 title at BC Place Stadium.
The following year Soccer Bowl changed from a single match to a ‘best of three’ series where the Sting won their second league title by defeating the Blizzard in the first two matches of the series, at Chicago’s Comiskey Park and Toronto’s Varsity Stadium, for the 1984 championship.
With the revamp formation of new NASL and their commencement of play in 2011, the NASL Championship Game saw the Minnesota Stars (now Minnesota United FC) and Tampa Bay Rowdies triumph in 2011 and 201, respectively in games played over two legs. Minnesota overcame the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 2011 and then lost to the Rowdies in a penalty shootout in 2012.
NASL Soccer Bowl 2013 will take place at Atlanta Silverbacks Park on November 9, with this year’s Spring Champion the Atlanta Silverbacks taking on the Fall Season winner as the NASL rewards the winner of each split season with a place in the championship game.
Next to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the second edition of the American Soccer League (1933-1983), the NASL title is the third oldest soccer prize in the United States and will crown its 21st champion in 2013.
NASL Champions (1967-1984)
SEASON CHAMPION RUNNER UP TOP GOAL SCORER
1967 NPSL-Oakland Clippers, Baltimore Bays, Yanko Daucik, Toronto Falcons
USA-Los Angeles Wolves, Washington Whips, Roberto Boninsegna, Chicago Mustangs
1968 Atlanta Chiefs, San Diego Toros, Janusz Kowalik, Chicago Mustangs
1969# Kansas City Spurs, Atlanta Chiefs, Kazier Motaung, Atlanta Chiefs
1970 Rochester Lancers, Washington, Darts Kirk Apostolidis, Dallas Tornado
1971 Dallas Tornado, Atlanta Chiefs, Carlos Metrdieri, Rochester Lancers
1972 New York Cosmos, St Louis Stars, Randy Horton, New York Cosmos
1973 Philadelphia Atoms, Dallas Tornado, Kyle Rote Jr., Dallas Tornados
1974 Los Angeles Aztecs, Miami Toros, Paul Child, San Jose Earthquakes
1975 * Tampa Bay Rowdies, Portland Timbers, Steve David, Miami Toros
1976 * Toronto Metros-Croatia, Minnesota Kicks, Giorgio Chinaglia, New York Cosmos
1977 * New York Cosmos, Seattle Sounders, Steve David, Los Angeles Aztecs
1978 * New York Cosmos, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Giorgio Chinaglia, New York Cosmos
1979 * Vancouver Whitecaps, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Oscar Fabiani, Tampa Bay Rowdies
1980 * New York Cosmos, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Giorgio Chinaglia, New York Cosmos
1981 * Chicago Sting, New York Cosmos, Giorgio Chinaglia, New York Cosmos
1982 * New York Cosmos, Seattle Sounders, Giorgio Chinaglia, New York Cosmos
1983 * Tulsa Roughnecks, Toronto Blizzard, Roberto Cabañas, New York Cosmos
1984 * Chicago Sting, Toronto Blizzard, Steve Zungul, San Jose Earthquakes
2011 NSC Minnesota Stars, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Etienne Barbara, Carolina RailHawks
2012 Tampa Bay Rowdies, Minnesota Stars, Pablo Campos, San Antonio Scorpions
# No Championship Game, League Title Awarded For Most Points In Regular Season
^NASL Soccer Bowl