TAMPA – Professional soccer returns to Tampa Bay in April when the Rowdies take the field in the North American Soccer League. The original NASL existed from 1975-1984 where the Rowdies won the league championship in their first season. In addition, the Tampa Bay franchise played in two more title games, 1978 and 1979.
The Rowdies returned in 1988 as part of the American Soccer League playing in the ASL until 1993 when the team folded. Now they are back a third tike in the revival of the NASL with the official team name FC Tampa Bay Rowdies.
One of the more recognizable names in the area is Hank Steinbrenner and he will be on the Board of Advisors for the team. He is the Senior Vice President and managing owner of the New York Yankees, resides in Tampa and grew up attending Tampa Bay Rowdies games.
The new league was formed last November and is comprised of the following active teams: Carolina RailHawks, Crystal Palace Baltimore, Miami FC, Minnesota (whose name is to be determined), Montreal Impact, Rochester Rhinos, AC St. Louis, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. For the 2010 season, the NASL’s nine teams, together with three teams (Austin Aztex, Portland Timbers and Puerto Rico Islanders) from the United Soccer Leagues, will play in a second division league established and administered by the United States Soccer Federation.
In 2011, the NASL will be joined by teams in Atlanta and certain other cities to be named at a later date. The NASL and its member teams are committed to building on their long tradition of providing a high level of soccer to fans across the United States and Canada in 2010 and beyond.
Teams in the NASL are allowed to sign seven foreign players and the Rowdies just inked their first, New Zealand midfielder Jeremy Christie, to the inaugural 2010 team roster. He is not just the first foreign player signed, he will go down as the first member of the new team.
Christie represents New Zealand on the Senior National Team. Most recently, Christie played a critical role in New Zealand qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, playing in five qualifiers and scoring a goal. Christie also played for New Zealand in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.
“Jeremy Christie has the experience and skill to be a true leader on the field and in our locker room. He has played well at the highest level for his country since the age of 16,” said Andrew Nestor, team owner and president. “Jeremy is the kind of player whose skill and professionalism will exemplify our club.”
“I’m excited to be a part of the Rowdies in their inaugural season,” said Christie. “I look forward to moving to Florida and working with the remarkable Rowdies coaching staff and organization.”
Paul Dalglish was named a the Rowdies’ head coach in mid-December and is the son of the former Scotland and Liverpool striker Kenny Dalglish. The 32-year old ended his playing career with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer and is following in his father’s footsteps entering the coaching ranks.
Tampa Bay is a city with a soccer tradition given the strong support for their NASL team of the 1970’s and 80’s and Dalglish said he can feel the buzz building around the reformed club.
“I really the feel there is something special here – there is a great feeling, everyone is excited and everyone is hungry to succeed,” he said. “I think the people in Tampa have missed the game.”