The Year in American Soccer, 1996

MLS | A-League | USISL | W-League | NPSL | CISL | Olympic Games | Men’s National Team | Women’s National Team | U. S. open Cup: | International Tours | The College Game | Awards & Cups

With the long awaited and surprisingly successful debut of Major League Soccer, plus the US Women’s triumph at the Olympics, 1996 was a banner year for American soccer. Major League Soccer got off to a much better start than even the most optimistic forecasts had predicted, and the Women’s National Team triumphed, at the Olympics, winning the gold for the first ever women’s soccer competition. Meanwhile, the USL began its drive for Division 2 recognition by establishing the Select League, and the Men’s National Team started training in earnest for the 1998 World Cup. With the return of Division 1 soccer to the United States, a local domestic league was in place to give American players an unprecedented opportunity to not only gain top level playing experience, but to do so for hometown crowds. No longer would US players have to settle for Division II competition if they weren’t good enough to be one of the few players able to secure overseas positions in Europe.

Major League Soccer (Division 1)

Major League Soccer made its long awaited debut this year. As stated above, the season was widely successful, better than most predictions. The success was most profound at the gate; league officials had hoped to draw 8,000-10,000 fans per game and build up from there, but based on the huge crowds in the first weeks, the league averaged over 17,000. Weak spots showed up early and would prove to be major concerns as the year passed.

Competitively, the league showed how much was left to be accomplished, but the quality of play improved steadily as the season wore on and the teams gelled and players became familiar with each other and the coaches settled on playing styles. Pundits generally described the teams as fitting in somewhere around the middle of the 2nd division of the Spanish and English leagues. Attendance-wide, the US was ahead of all but the traditional four powerhouses in Europe, England, Germany, Italy and Spain, and comparable to the French 1st division. The US surprised everyone with the number of National Team members signed (the bulk of the player pool), but concerns were raised about whether the transfer of top players to MLS would hurt National team competitiveness. Which way to go? Give them competition overseas, or build up the MLS and allow them to get that experience at home? Only time would tell.

The major tasks at hand for MLS at the start of 1996 were to finalize the player pool for the inaugural draft. They kicked off by filling the final three coaching vacancies, hiring Eddie Firmani to coach the MetroStars on January 3, followed later by Bruce Arena at D. C. United, and Frank Stapleton with the New England Revolution. Carlos Valderrama was assigned to Tampa Bay Mutiny. Fifteen more players were added to the player pool, including National Team star Leonel Alvarez of Colombia. On January 5, the Player Combine was held in Irvine, CA, with all 250 non-allocated player in the player pool showing their stuff to the coaches for ten days. During the combine, Roy Lassiter was allocated to Tampa Bay Mutiny, and Eric Wynalda went to the Dallas Burn.

During the rest of January, several other player allocations were made, including Marco Etchevarry to D. C. United, Brian Bliss to the Columbus Crew, Digital Takawira to the Kansas City Wiz, and Uruguayan Adrian Paz to Columbus. On February 5, just one day before the player draft, MLS scored a coup in signing Marcelo Balboa, the US Team Captain and all-time appearance leader, as well as World Cup Italian Star Roberto Donadoni. Balboa went to the Colorado Rapids, and Donadoni to the MetroStars. Ten more players were allocated, and on February 6, with the signing of Shaun Barlett, all 40 allocated positions had been filled. The draft occurred February 6-7, with 160 players selected. This was followed in early March with the college draft (40 players) and a Supplemental draft of free agents (another 40 players). This number would be brought down during training camps to a roster limit of 18 players per team (+ discovery players).

The initial roster of MLS players was a varied group, coming from a variety of sources. Many players were from the A-League and USISL, with a liberal sprinkling of faces from the indoor National Professional Soccer League and Continental Indoor Soccer League. A number were fresh out of college (and would have a challenging time adjusting to the pro game), and a number came from foreign teams, US amateur clubs, and some were free agents. English and European team players were well represented, with such names as Ian Butterworth (Norwich, England), Brian McBride (Wolfsbger, Germany), Roy Wegerle (Coventry City), Adrian Paz (Ipswich Town), Paul Caligiuri (St. Pauli)Washington Ridriguez (Liverpool), John Harkes (Derby County), Frank Klopas (Apollon Athens), Nyanforth Peters (FC Locarno, Switz.), Preki (Portsmouth, Engl.), Brad Wilson (Saarbrucken), Donadoni (A. C. Milan), Ben Iroha (Vitesse Arnhem, Holland), Mike Burns (Viborg, Denmark), Peter Woodring (SV Wegen, Germany), Michael Emenlo (Notts County, Engl.), Alexi Lalas (Padova, Italy), Steve Pittman (Partick Thistle, Scotland). A substantial number of players came from prominent Latin American clubs, including Boca Jr.’s, UNAM (Mexico), America of Brazil and UANL of Mexico. Sixty four players were current or former members of various national teams, and twenty two of those had World Cup experience, and better than 2/3 of the US National Team player pool was now with MLS. This bode well for the league’s debut.

Another major concern for many soccer fans was what rules would be implemented. MLS was known to be very interested in many of the rule changes and experiments being used by the USISL, including bonus points, shootout tie breakers with the player wall, blue cards, kick ins, 60 minute clocks with time stoppage, corner kick variations, and even wider goals had been discussed along with the USISL’s 6-4-2-0+3 scoring system. Thankfully once the final rules were released, most of these experiments and “innovations” were passed over. The only changes to survive media scrutiny were a shootout (one on one) for tiebreakers, and a clock counting down.

The scoring system was established as 3 points for a win, 1 for a shootout win and 0 for a loss. Soccer purists breathed a huge sigh of relief but there was grumbling about the MLS attitude that the game needed to be modified to suit US tastes, rather than the idea that soccer should be played the way the world plays it. This attitude would not change until Don Garber became commissioner of the league in 1999. Another hopeful sign was the MLS’s operational decision to keep music and PA announcements to a very modest level, with no announcers or music during play, common annoyances during A-League, USISL and indoor games.

Finally, shortly before the season MLS reached an agreement with the USISL to establish a developmental agreement, in effect establishing two farm clubs for each MLS team in which MLS players would be placed on USISL rosters for development and call-up. This system, similar to that with Major League Baseball in effect established the USISL as a minor league for MLS, and was a key development in establishing peace between the soccer leagues. MLS also reached an agreement with the indoor NPSL where players could play for both leagues, with the understanding that NPSL players would not join the MLS until after their indoor seasons were over. The same would apply in reverse at the playoff season of MLS. A less formal arrangement was made with the A-League (which became stronger the following seasonm when the A-League was absorbed by the USISL). They would not be actively competing for players. The CISL was also actively cooperating with the other leagues and USSF, although they did not participate in a formal players agreement with MLS because they also played in the summer during the MLS season.

MLS made its debut on April 6, 1996 before a sold out crowd of 31,000+ at San Jose’s Spartan Stadium via nationwide broadcast on ESPN. The game showed quickly the typical rough edges of a new league with players still learning their positions on the team. What could have been a disastrous debut was saved in the final seconds by an Eric Wynalda goal, as the San Jose Clash defeated D. C. United. The most notable element of the first two weeks were the surprisingly large crowds for team home openers, topped by 69,000 at Los Angeles. Although this tapered off rapidly, the crowds remained higher than expected, and the 1,000,000th fan passed the turnstiles on June 1.

D. C. United’s Steve Rammel scored the first MLS Hat trick on May 15 in a 5-2 victory over Columbus. Marco Etcheverry scored the first Assists “hat trick” in that same game. On June 16, the LA/Tampa Bay game was paired with the USA/Mexico USA Cup championship game to provide a record crowd of 92,216. Mexico won the Cup on a 2-2 draw, and the Galaxy defeated Tampa 3-2 in a shootout. The All-Star game on July 14 in East Rutherford New Jersey pitted East and West squads against each other in doubleheader with a FIFA charity event pitting the FIFA All-Stars against Brazil. This event, which established a Giants Stadium attendance record of 78,416, saw the East defeat the West, while Brazil defeated the All-Stars 2-1.

Parity ruled in the league, at least in the Eastern Conference, as Tampa Bay pulled out a close divisional title over D. C. United, with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, Columbus and New England tied at the bottom, with shootout victories making the difference. Los Angeles won the West fairly easily, with the only team truly out of the running being the hapless Rapids. They and New England were the only teams out of the playoffs. Roy Lassiter won the scoring title with 27 goals and 58 points, followed by Eduardo Hurtado and Preki, and Raul Diaz Arce. One particularly gratifying result of this first season was the strong performance of the American players against the foreign allocations. Unlike the NASL, where the league was overrun by foreign stars and journeymen, with the Americans relegated mostly to the bench (despite the minimum American player limit). This time the Americans were guaranteed a majority of the starting positions.

Of the top 20 scorers, ten were Americans. Goalkeeping, always an American strength was even more impressive, with nine of the top ten positions held by Americans. Los Angeles averaged an amazing 28,000 fans per game. TV ratings came in about what was planned for by ABC and ESPN, at about 1.5 per game. The MLS attendance surpassed even the most optimistic predictions, averaging 17,406 fans per game in the regular season for a total of 2,785,001. This far surpassed the best ever NASL seasons (1980) which averaged just under 15,000 fans per game. It should be noted however, that the NASL included twenty four teams, many poor performers during those years. Had the top ten teams been averaged (compared to the ten MLS teams), their average would have been just over 20,000 per game. An impressive result nevertheless, especially considering how many more major world stars and media hoopla the NASL enjoyed.

The playoffs saw Tampa Bay, D. C. United, Kansas City and Los Angeles advance to the semifinals, where D. C. United began to show their dominance by dispatching Tampa Bay 4-1 and 2-1, while Los Angeles in a much closer series defeated Kansas City 2-1, 2-2 (3-1 shootout). The championship game, the first MLS Cup, was a memorable affair, not only as an exciting see-saw match with a very high level of play, but also because of the crowd. Foxboro Stadium had been pummeled by a tremendous downpour for over twelve hours, reeling under ten inches of pouring rain. Very little rain fell vertically, as the winds came close to gale force, and the temperature was only a few degrees above freezing. Despite the horrendous conditions, over 34,000 fans (out of 46,000 tickets sold) braved the weather and stuck it out through an exciting game.

Eduardo Hurtado got the first goal in the 5th minute, and celebrated with a giant diving slide clear through one of the large puddles swamping the field. Chris Armas extended the score later, and it looked as if the game might be over. But D. C. United roared back as Tony Sanneh headed in a long Etcheverry free kick in the 73rd minute, followed by another Etcheverry free kick in the 82nd. The game went into overtime and Eddie Pope headed in the game winner off an Etcheverry corner kick. Many fans were already heading back to their cars by this time to avoid hypothermia, and heard the cheers, but had to get back to their car radios to find out who had won. D. C. United Captain John Harkes was awarded the newly-named Rothenberg Cup, while Etcheverry was named MVP.

Many of the Sam’s Army members who were active on the internet, formed their own mailing lists and supporters clubs for the various MLS teams. These supporters clubs worked with team management to secure their own sections in the stadium where they would stand and form loud and enthusiastic contingents, and stand, cheer, bang drums, sign, and try and get the rest of the crowds otherwise involved. They attracted considerable attention and added greatly to the stadium atmosphere, showing the powers that be that there are better ways than canned music to get the fans motivated. True to their collegial nature, the various supporters groups collaborated on “The mother of all tailgates”, a grand tailgate party at Foxboro before the game in which supporters of all MLS teams joined together in a big good natured party to celebrate the successful birth of the league. Shortly after the end of the season, Kansas City mercifully changed their nickname to the Wizards.

Official 1996 MLS Season Stats
Original MLS rosters and player biographies
Official MLS History Archives
Fan-based MLS timeline from USA Soccer on the Net
Dave Wilson’s MLS Commentaries

                      Final 1996 MLS Standings

                           GP   W  WS  LS   L   GF  GA   Pts
	Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Mutiny           32  19   1   3   9   66  51   58
DC United                  32  15   1   3  13   62  56   46
NY/NJ MetroStars           32  12   3   2  15   45  47   39
Columbus Crew              32  11   4   5  12   59  60   37
New England Revolution     32   9   6   2  15   43  56   33

	Western Conference
Los Angeles Galaxy         32  15   4   4   9   59  49   49
Dallas Burn                32  12   5   3  12   50  48   41
Kansas City Wiz            32  12   5   2  13   61  63   41
San Jose Clash             32  12   3   6  11   50  50   39
Colorado Rapids            32   9   2   4  17   44  59   29

Quarterfinals:   DC United defeated MetroStars, 2-3 (SO), 1-0, 2-1
                 Tampa Bay defeated Columbus, 2-0, 1-2, 4-1
                 Kansas City defeated Dallas, 3-2, 1-2, 3-2 (SO)
                 Los Angeles defeated San Jose, 0-1, 2-0, 2-0
Semifinals:      DC United defeated Tampa Bay, 4-1, 2-1
                 Los Angeles defeated Kansas City 2-1, 3-2 (SO)
MLS CUP '96:     DC United defeated Los Angeles 3-2(OT)

NAME                                 GP   G  A  Pts
Roy Lassiter, Tampa Bay Mutiny       30  27  4   58
Eduardo Hurtado, Los Angeles Galaxy  26  21   7  49
Preki, Kansas City Wiz               32  18  13  49
Raul Diaz Arce, D. C. United         28  23   2  48
Brian McBride, Columbus Crew         28  17   3  37
Eric Wynalda, San Jose Clash         27  10  13  33
Vitalis Takawira, Kansas City Wiz    28  13   7  33
Steve Rammel, D. C. United           26  14   3  31
Paul Bravo, San Jose Clash           31  13   5  31
Jason Kreis, Dallas Burn             31  13   5  31
Giovanni Savarese, NY/NJ MetroStars  26  13   1  27
Marco Etcheverry, D. C. United       26   4  19  27
Jean Harbor, Columbus Crew           29  11   4  26
Pete Marino, Columbus Crew           29  11   4  26
Carlos Valderrama, Tampa Bay Mutiny  23   4  17  25
Missael Espinoza, San Jose Clash     26  10   5  25
Mark Chung, Kansas city Wiz          32   8   9  25
Joe-Max Moore, New England Revolution14  11   1  23
Shaun Bartlett, Columbus Crew        26   8   7  23
Giuseppe Galderisi, Tampa Bay Mutiny 21   7   8  22

GOALKEEPING LEADERS  (Minimum 1,000 minutes)
NAME             TEAM(S)   GP   MIN  SHTS  SVS  C/P   GA   GAA    W   L  SO
Jorge Campos, L. A.        24  2025  133   100   77   27   1.20  13   8   4
Dave Salzwedel, San Jose   14  1168   80    53   51   17   1.31   9   4   4
Tony Meola, MetroStars     29  2610  191   142   99   38   1.31  14  15   9
Mark Dodd, Dallas          31  2776  235   160  163   45   1.46  17  14   6
Mark Simpson, D. C. United 15  1260   70    46   56   21   1.50   7   6   3
Mark Dougherty, Tampa Bay  28  2520  187   123   88   47   1.68  17  11   3
Aidan Heaney, New England  19  1534  130    93   48   29   1.70   8   9   4
Tom Liner, San Jose        20  1712  119    75   63   33   1.73   7  12   3
Garth Lagerwey, KansasCity 23  1959  134    83   68   38   1.75  12  10   3
Jim St. Andre, New England 15  1346   91    57   44   27   1.81   6   9   2
Chris Woods, Columbus      23  2070  149    96   36   43   1.87   8  15   2
Jeff Causey, D. C. United  19  1620  116    70   71   35   1.94   9  10   0
Bo Oshoniyi, Columbus      13  1170  102    64   62   33   2.54   3  10   2

Honda Most Valuable Player: Carlos Valderrama, Tampa Bay
Budweiser Scoring Champion: Roy Lassiter, Tampa Bay
MasterCard Goal of the Year: Eric Wynalda, San Jose
MLS Coach of the Year: Thomas Rongen, Tampa Bay
Pepsi Goalkeeper of the Year: Mark Dodd, Dallas
BIC Tough Defender of the Year: John Doyle, San Jose
Bandai Rookie of the Year: Steve Ralston, Tampa Bay
MLS Cup '96 Most Valuable Player: Marco Etcheverry, D.C. United

AT&T Best 11:
G - Mark Dodd, Dallas 
D - Robin Fraser, Los Angeles 
D - John Doyle, San Jose 
D - Leonel Alvarez, Dallas 
M - Marco Etcheverry, D.C. United 
M - Preki, Kansas City 
M - Mauricio Cienfuegos, Los Angeles 
M - Roberto Donadoni, MetroStars 
M - Carlos Valderrama, Tampa Bay 
F - Eduardo Hurtado, Los Angeles 
F - Roy Lassiter, Tampa Bay 

The A-League (Division 2)

The A-League added their most successful franchise ever, the Rochester Ragin’ Rhinos. Rochester was an immediate hit with the fans, drawing over 9,000 fans per game, nearly as good as some of the MLS teams. The league continued with seven teams, including the revitalized Vancouver 86ers who nearly folded, being saved at the last minute through new financing. Although small, the league boasted some powerful teams, despite the loss of many top players to Major League Soccer. The Montreal Impact dominated the A-League this season, with 55 points to easily win the regular season title.

The league had followed MLS’s example, establishing a 3-1-0 scoring system with one-on one shootout tiebreakers, ending much of the confusion in last year’s standings. Colorado Foxes came in a strong second, holding up well while in competition with the MLS Rapids. Rochester came in 4th, but outdrew the rest of the league by a wide margin, leading to movement for the Rhinos to apply for MLS membership in the near future. Only the New York Fever and the hapless Atlanta Ruckus seemed hopeless on the field. In the playoffs, Rochester defeated Montreal 3-2, 0-3 and 2-1, while Seattle defeated Colorado 1-0, 0-2 and 3-0. The Championship game was a showdown between an established club and an upstart, as Seattle defeated Rochester 2-0 to claim the crown. But Rochester added to their triumphal debut by making it to the US Open Cup final, defeating several MLS opponents, before losing to the Open Cup champion D. C. United. The A-League drew 464,934 fans during the regular season, averaging 4,946 fans per game.

After the season, the A-League added Toronto Lynx and the Hershey Wildcats, but with competition looming on the horizon in the form of the USISL’s Select League applying for Division 2 status, it appeared this move was a risky one. Recognizing the futility of unnecessary competition and salary wars, A-League Commissioner Richard Groff and USISL Commissioner Francisco Marcos put aside their differences and agreed to merge. What actually happened was that the A-League folded, and six of the seven teams (all except New York) joined the Select League, which was renamed the A-League, and with a few other franchise shifts was re-established as a 24 team league with official USSF sanctioning as a Division 2 league. Better yet, with franchises in the three largest Canadian cities, it was recognized as the official Division 1 league for Canada.

The A-League continued its sponsorship with Umbro (the major sponsor of the USISL), and continued the television contract with Prime, for a 20 game slate. Although the talent was somewhat diluted by the large increase in teams, the league was much more viable now, and provided a critical link in the establishment of a true multi-divisional structure for the USA.

                  Final A-League Standings, 1996

Rochester Raging Rhinos were added. New York Centaurs absorbed the New York Fever 
of the USISL and were renamed the Fever.

                           GP   W   L  SW   GF  GA  Pts
Montreal Impact            27  17   6   4   40  18   55
Colorado Foxes             27  14  11   2   55  33   44
Seattle Sounders           27  12  11   4   35  25   40
Rochester Rhinos           27  11  13   3   44  42   36
Vancouver 86ers            27  10  14   3   38  38   33
New York Fever             27   6  18   3   30  40   21
Atlanta Ruckus             22   3  19   0   14  60    9

Semi-finals:    Rochester defeated Montreal, 3-2, 0-3, 2-1
                Seattle defeated Colorado, 1-0, 0-2, 3-0
CHAMPIONSHIP:   Seattle defeated Rochester, 2-0.

Toronto and Hershey, PA were added after the end of the season before the merger with the USISL.  
Leading Scorers:
                               G  A  Pts
Wolde Harris, Colorado        17  8  42
Doug Miller, Rochester        18  2  38
Domenic Mobilio, Vancouver    14  4  32
Lenin Steenkamp, Atlanta       9  5  23
Carsten Siersback, Colorado    7  8  22
Eddy Berdusco, Montreal        8  3  19
Lloyd Barker, Montreal         6  7  19
Jason Farrell, Seattle         6  5  17
Mauro Biello, Montreal         6  3  15
Walter Boyd, Colorado          5  5  17
Anthony McCreath, Colorado     5  5  15
Hector Marinaro, Rochester     4  7  15
Chance Fry, Seattle            6  2  14
Jorge Acosta, New York         5  4  14

Goalkeeping Leaders: (Min 700 minutes)
                             Min   GAA  GAA
Paolo Ceccarelli, Montreal   2340  17  0.65
Marcus Hahnemann, Seattle    2378  24  0.91
Trey Harrington, Colorado    2422  33  1.23
Paul Dolan, Vancouver        2119  30  1.27
Khalil Azmi, New York         720  11  1.38
Bill Andracki, Rochester     2410  40  1.49
Peter Zaratin, New York      1710  29  1.53

Most Valuable Player:  Wolde Harris, Colorado 
Top Goal Scorer:  Doug Miller, Rochester 
Coach of the Year: Lorne Donaldson, Colorado 
Rookie of the Year: Wolde Harris, Colorado
Defender of the Year:  John Kimniatis, Montreal
Official of the Year:  Kevin Skinner

All A-League Team:

G - Paolo Ceccarelli, Montreal
D - John Limniatis, Montreal
D - Wade Webber, Seattle
D - Carlos Llamosa, New York
D - Rene Rivas, Rochester
M - Nick DeSantis, Montreal
M - Martin Nash, Vancouver
M - Anthony McReath, Colorado
F - Wolde Harris, Colorado
F - Domenic Mobilio, Vancouver
F - Doug Miller, Rochester

United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues

Not content with their amazing growth last season, the USISL pushed its boundaries further, establishing the new Select League, consisting of the strongest twenty teams from the Pro and Premier leagues. The league was also re-named the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues. Teams spanned the nation and were selected primarily on their financial and off the field performance. The aim was to gain FIFA sanctioning at the 2nd division level. In addition, the USISL established a working relationship with MLS, with each MLS club being assigned two Select League clubs as farm clubs, in effect making the USISL a “minor League” system.

This first year, 31 players were called up to MLS, with 28 being loaned down. This was the next step in the USISL’s vision of developing soccer from the ground up, and forestalling competition from the A-League. Although this originally could have sparked a destructive salary war, the A-league and USISL reached a merger agreement (see above) following the 1996 season. This finally brought all of the outdoor leagues together in a single cooperative system, establishing the first truly complete divisional soccer structure in the United States, in line with common practice through the rest of the world. Overall, 84 players from the USISL and A-League had been drafted by MLS teams when they initially stocked their teams.

Meanwhile, the Pro League and Premier league saw considerable reshuffling as the USISL clarified the performance standards for the different levels. Firm revenue and salary guidelines were established, and many weaker teams were moved to the Premier (amateur) league, with other financially troubled teams folding outright, and a score of new teams added, mostly to the Premier League.

When the dust settled, the Premier league had 44 teams, the Pro League had 27 and the Select League had 20. The divisional structures were simplified, and the playoffs were revamped, although still retaining the “select six”, “sizzling six”, and “premier six” round robins. Meanwhile, the Women’s W-League, coming off their successful debut season, added a number of teams, mostly in the east and Midwest. To mesh more closely with MLS, the USISL dropped most of their rules modifications and experiments, adopting the MLS and A-League 3-1-0 scoring system with shootout tiebreakers. Most importantly, these modifications were applied uniformly to all the USISL outdoor leagues, ending the confusion that had plagued the US scene for several years.

Final 1996 USISL standings and playoff results

USISL Select League (Division 3)

The Select League had a successful debut season. With the strongest teams concentrated together in a single circuit, the competitive level improved greatly, leading to a stronger forum for player development, as well as providing some exciting games. The league did well in attendance, drawing 509,785 fans, averaging 1,782 per game. The Long Island Rough Riders won the North Atlantic Division in a close race with ever strong Richmond Kickers, but in the South Atlantic, the Carolina Dynamo cruised to an easy title. In the Central Division, Milwaukee and Minnesota built up a heated rivalry, fighting it out to the end with Milwaukee coming on top by a mere 3 points. The California Jaguars took the Pacific ahead of Sacramento.

After two rounds of playoffs, Richmond, California, Charleston, Hampton Roads, Long Island, and Minnesota advanced to the “Select Six. This time, the teams were divided into two groups. In Group A, Richmond defeated Charleston 6-1, and lost to California 1-0, while California defeated Charleston 3-1. In Group B, Minnesota defeated Hampton Roads 3-2, while losing 0-1 to Long Island, who defeated Hampton Roads 3-2. Another innovation: Four teams advanced out of the round robins to the semifinals, where California defeated Minnesota 4-2, and Richmond defeated Long Island 1-0. The Championship saw California draw Richmond 1-1, and then win in the shootout 3-2. There were 2,800 fans at Richmond Stadium, and California Goalkeeper Kevin Eueda was the star of the day with three critical saves, as he preserved the tie.

             Final 1996 USISL Select League Standings and Playoff Results

Before the season, New York/New Jersey, South Carolina, and Sacramento
were added. Greensboro became Carolina.  Columbus became Ohio. 
Monterey Bay became California.
                               GP   W  L SW  GF  GA  PTS
        North Atlantic Division
Long Island Rough Riders       18  11  7  0  39  31  33
Richmond Kickers               18  10  8  0  34  24  28
Connecticut Wolves             18  11  7  4  37  31  25
Delaware Wizards               18   6 12  1  20  29  16
Cape Cod Crusaders             18   5 13  1  13  24   9
New York/New Jersey Stallions  18   2 16  0  19  52   6

        South Atlantic Division
Carolina Dynamo                18  15  3  1  37  15  43
South Carolina Shamrocks       18  12  6  1  42  31  34
Hampton Roads Mariners         18  13  5  4  32  15  31
Tampa Bay Cyclones             18  10  8  1  40  32  28
Raleigh Flyers                 18   7 11  0  25  26  21

        Central Division
Milwaukee Rampage              18  13  5  3  36  19  33
Minnesota Thunder              18  10  8  0  31  16  30
New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers 18   9  9  2  31  36  23
Ohio Xoggz                     18   6 12  1  26  34  16
Chicago Stingers               18   5 13  1  29  41  13

        Pacific Division
California Jaguars             18  12  6  1  30  21  34
Sacramento Scorpions           18  11  7  2  23  22  29
El Paso Patriots               18  10  8  1  30  23  28
New Mexico Chiles              18   9  9  0  24  24  27
Reno Rattlers                  18   6 12  5  13  33   8

1st Round:    Delaware defeated Connecticut 3-2
              Hampton Roads defeated South Carolina 3-2 (SO)
              Minnesota defeated New Orleans 5-1
              Sacramento defeated El Paso 2-1 (OT)
2nd Round:    Minnesota defeated Milwaukee 3-1, 0-2, 1-0
              Hampton Roads defeated Carolina 1-0 (OT), 0-4, 1-0
              California defeated Sacramento 2-0, 2-1
              Carolina defeated Hampton Roads 4-0, 1-0(MG)
              Long Island defeated Delaware 2-0
Group A:      Richmond defeated Charleston 6-1
              California defeated Charleston 3-1
              California defeated Richmond 1-0
Group B:      Minnesota defeated Hampton Roads 3-2
              Long Island defeated Minnesota 1-0
              Long Island defeated Hampton Roads 3-2
Semifinals:   California defeated Minnesota 4-2
              Richmond defeated Long Island 1-0
CHAMPIONSHIP: California defeated Richmond 2-1 (SO)

After the season, New Mexico folded.

Leading scorers:
                             G   A   Pt
Dan Stebbins, Milwaukee     21   8   50
Jamie Wellington, N. Orl.   18   6   42
Luis Murillo, Tampa Bay     16   5   37
Michael Gailey, Carolina    11  10   32
Ron Murphy, Cape Cod        13   6   32
Yari Allnut, Carolina       14   3   31
Mike Saunders, Connecticut  15   1   31
Chugger Adair, Carolina     13   4   30
Chad Carrithers, Sacramento 13   3   29

Leading Goalkeepers: (Min 810 minutes)
                            Min   G   GAA
Scott Garlick, Carolina    1446  12  0.75
Carmine Isacco, Milwaukee  1969   7  0.78
Matthew Olsen, Hampton R.  1825  17  0.84
John Swallen, Minnesota    1495  14  0.84
Scott Hileman, Sacramento  1702  19  1.00
Celso Castro, El Paso      1689  22  1.17

Most Valuable Player:  Dan Stebbins, Milwaukee Rampage
Top Scorer:  Dan Stebbins, Milwaukee Rampage
Top Goalkeeper:  Scott Garlick, Carolina Dynamo 
Coach of the Year: Alan Dicks, Carolina Dynamo
Defender of the Year:  Ezra Hendrickzon, New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers
Rookie of the Year:  Luis Marillo, Tampa Bay Cyclones
Organization of the Year:  Minnesota Thunder 

Select All-League Team:

G - Carmine Isacco, Milwaukee
D - Ezra Hendrickson, New Orleans
D - Derick Crownell, California
D - Stuart Fitzsimmons, Richmond
M - Amos Magee, Minnesota
M - Travis Rinker, Long Island
M - Oswaldo Ortiz, Tampa Bay
M - Yari Allnutt, Carolina
F - Dan Stebbins, Milwaukee
F - John Jones, Sacramento
F - Paul Young, South Carolina

All-Star Game:  Select League All-Stars 6, Pro/Premier League All-Stars 1

USISL Professional League

The Pro League streamlined themselves into a simpler circuit this year with four regional divisions encompassing the southeast, northeast, southwest and Pacific regions. With the loss of teams to the new Select league, other teams had an opportunity to rise to the top, chief among them Central Jersey, Charlotte eagles, Dallas/Ft Worth, and Everett, who won their respective divisions. The Pro League drew 246,424 fans per game, averaging 790 per game, reflecting the loss of the strongest clubs to the Select League. The Western Conference had an exciting three way tie between Everett, Valley and Yakima. A series of conference semifinals and finals reduced the playoff pool to six teams who, like in the Select League, split into two groups for the “sizzling six” tournament. In Group A, Charleston defeated Dallas/Ft. Worth 2-1, and lost in overtime to Chico 1-2. Chico then lost to Charleston 1-2. In Group B, Wilmington defeated North Jersey 3-0, and lost to Charlotte 0-1. Charlotte then defeated North Jersey 6-2.

As with the Select league, the top four teams advanced to the semifinals, those being Charlotte, Wilmington, Charleston and Chico. In the semifinals, Charlotte defeated Chico 1-0 and Charleston defeated Wilmington 2-0. The Championship game was a nailbiter, being tied most of the way. Scoring started off of a Chris Dias goal in the 28th minute, but Charlotte tied it up with 70 seconds to go before halftime when Josh Farrar pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area and landed it in the net. Charleston scored again in the 52nd minute on an excellent corner kick conversion, as Stephen Winters headed the corner to Alvaro Betancur, who backheeled it past the goalie. Charleston pulled ahead in the 74th minute as Jeremy Sorzano kicked in a loose ball from Jon Payne. But Charleston’s goalkeeper Pigford dug in,, and the Battery scored again to lead the game into a shootout where the Charleston Battery prevailed on scores by Olafere and Winters. As a result, Charleston advanced to the Select Six round robin tournament of the Select League. This award marked the first form of promotion in the history of American Soccer, and even if it was only for the one tournament, that was a start.

Final 1996 USISL Pro League standings and playoff results

Top Scorers:
                                 G   A  Pts
Philbert Jones, Charlotte       18  20  46
Patrick Olalere, Charleston     20   5  45
Craig Beeson, Everett           17   2  36
Jon Payne, Charlotte            14   8  36
Carlos Rocha, Rhode Island      15   3  33
Robert DeLuca, North Jersey     14   3  31
Pat O'Kelly, Central Jersy      12   6  30

Leading Goalkeepers: (min 720 minutes)
                                Min  GA  GAA
Chris Carmiento, Hawaii         930   8  0.77
Roman Melin, S. F. Valley      1536  17  1.00
David Walther, Rockford         930  12  1.16
Randy Dedini, Chicago          1581  21  1.20
Boguslaw Kowalski, Cent. Jers. 1602  23  1.29
Todd Strobeck, Everett         1624  24  1.33

Most Valuable Player:  Craig Beeson, Everett Bigfoot
Top Scorer:  Patrick Olalre, Charleston Battery
Top Goalkeeper:  Chris Carmiento, Hawaii Tsumani 
Coach of the Year: Nuno Pitiera, Charleston Battery
Defender of the Year:  Guy Norcott, Charleston Battery
Rookie of the Year:  Juan Sastoque, Dallas/Ft. Worth Toros
Organization of the Year:  Reading Rage 

USISL Premier League

With the major reorganization of the USISL, the Premier League expanded as a number of teams decided wisely to take the amateur route and give their finances a break. Being the bottom level of the USISL, and an amateur league, the Premier League was unique in that it included college players who were able to get full-year experience by playing Premier League soccer in the spring and summer, while returning to their colleges for the fall. This gave them an advantage in their endeavor to develop to the point where they could go pro, and not have to face the traditional handicaps suffered by college players due to lack of adequate playing experience. The league drew 206,794 fans, averaging 586 per game. Playoff victories included San Luis Obispo defeating Mid-Michigan 3-0, Jackson defeated Cocoa 1-0, San Luis Obispo defeated Jackson 2-1, San Francisco defeated Mid-Michigan 4-0 and Cocoa defeated Omaha 4-1. The two top teams advanced to the championship game where San Luis Obispo defeated San Francisco 1-0.

Final 1996 USISL Premier League standings and playoff results

Most Valuable Player:  Pasi Kinturi, Nashville Metros
Top Scorer:  Pasi Kinturi, Nashville Metros (19 goals, 46 points)
Goalkeeper of the Year (Eduardo Yoldi Memorial Award):  Mike LeBerge, Colorado 
Springs Stampede (1,388 min, 11 GA, 0.71 GAA)
Coach of the Year: Dan Tobias, Central Coast Roadrunners
Defender of the Year:  Dwayne Demmin, Jackson Chargers
Rookie of the Year:  Eduardo Yoldi, San Francisco All-Blacks
Organization of the Year:  Central Coast Roadrunners 

Nike “W” League (USWISL)

The W-League built on their first successful year by adding ten teams and strengthening their Midwest and west coast contingents. Several professional players returned from overseas stints to join the League and the USISL worked with the National Team to encourage some members to join as well. A working relationship would be established for the following season to formalize this plan.

The league remained amateur, meaning college stars were also able to take part. The W-League drew 24,547 fans, averaging 203 per game, but these numbers would grow rapidly in subsequent seasons as several teams were launched than even outperformed their male counterparts. This growth reflected the tremendous growth in women’s soccer in general that was to occur through the rest of the 1990’s. The Denver Diamonds, Dallas Lightning and newly renamed Maryland Pride were the respective division winners, with Denver and Dallas both fighting intensive regular season races for the divisional honors.

As in the Men’s leagues, two rounds of playoffs yielded six winners who entered the final “Swizzling Six” tournament, featuring the Denver Diamonds, Columbus Ziggx, Maryland Pride, Chicago Cobras, Dallas Lightning and Rockford ‘Dactyls. Only Maryland emerged with two wins, dispatching Chicago 1-0 and Rockford 4-0. Dallas also advanced based on tournament points earned in previous games (The loss to Columbus coming off of a shootout after a scoreless tie). Coincidentally, both victors had entered as the top two seeds in the tournament based on regular season records, but Dallas had gotten the #1 spot based on more goals scored.

The most exciting game was Denver’s 3-1 victory over Columbus. The Ziggx had gone ahead on a Jodi Stranges goal, but Denver roared back with three 2nd half goals by Kari Uppinghouse, Nicole Crepeau and Kelly Walbert. The next day, Laura Kerrigan landed a hat trick. The Championship game was held on August 11 in Love Park, IL. The Maryland Pride gained control of the game in the first half with a 36th minute goal by Emily Pickering. Betsy Anderson scored at the end of the 2nd half, and Cindy Harkes scored in the 2nd, as the defense held Dallas scoreless on the way to a 3-0 shutout for the crown.

Final 1996 W-League standings and playoff results

Leading Scorers:
                                     G  A  Pts
Marci Miller, Chicago               12  1  25
Kristen Kurzyneowski, Philadelphia  11  0  22
Cheri Skipski, Chicago               8  5  21
Mindy Bassett, Maryland              9  1  19
Heather Maler, Rockford              7  4  18
Kara Reynolds, Dallas                8  1  17
Kelly Walbert, Denver                7  2  16
Crystal Harper, Hampton Roads        8  0  16
Lori Hokerson, Southern California   8  0  16

Leading Goalkeepers: (Min. 450 minutes)
                                 Min  G   GAA
Kim Clark, Dallas                460  3  0.59
Kim Wyant, Long Island           610  4  0.59
Merit Elzey, Chicago             591  5  0.76
Vida Donahue, Rochester          460  4  0.78
Karen Cook, San Francisco        565  5  0.80
Kerry Dzchczkanierei, Maryland   540  5  0.83

Most Valuable Player  Kristen Kurzyneowski, Philadelphia Frenzy
Leading Goalie:  Kim Wyant, Long Island Lady Riders
Coach of the Year:  Carolyn Rice, Maryland Pride
Swizzlin' Six MVP:  Laura Kerrigan, Maryland Pride

USISL Indoor Season

The indoor season continued to shrink, at least as a full-season activity, with only nine teams participating, supplemented by nine teams playing limited schedules. The Atlanta Magic again shone as they won the regular season Southeast title, along with the Dallas Lightning in the Central. There were no divisional races to speak of as these two really dominated. The “Sizzlin’ five” playoffs were another round robin of five games which yielded two winners, the Baltimore Bays and Atlanta Magic. This time the Magic ran out, as Baltimore defeated Atlanta 10-6 for the indoor title.

Final 1996 USISL Indoor League standings and playoff results

Scoring Leaders:   (as of January 12, 1996)

Player                   G      A PTS
Juha Miettnen, KNO      21      5 47
Chris Hellenkamp, ATL   12     21 45
Virgil Stevems, TUL     18(1)   8 44
Shane Schwab, TUL       16     10 42
Aaron Gordon, DAL       17      7 41
Kyle Owen, MES          16      7 39
Keiran Breslin, COC     15      7 37
Richard Richmond, ATL   15      7 37
Dennison Cabral, BAL    12      8 32
Colin Rocke, DAL        11     10 32

Goalkeeping Leaders: (as of January 12, 1996)

Player                  Min GA GAA
Matt Stewart, OKL       180 10 3.33
Richard Northcutt, ATL  598 44 4.41
Mathias Peltz, DFW       60  5 5.00
Matt St. Jean, BAL      199 18 5.43
Shawn Ray, DAL          536 51 5.71
Peter Moore, ORL        356 35 5.73
Sonny Dalesandro, TUL   308 35 6.82
Brent Jameson, OKL      308 35 6.82
Deacon Dorcas, BRA       90 11 7.33
Chris Butler, TUL       355 44 7.44

National Professional Soccer League

This was a year of stability and growing career legends for the NPSL. Tampa Bay joined the circuit with Philadelphia promised for next season. Dayton Dynamos, a long-standing franchise moved to Cincinnati. The NPSL averaged over 5,500 fans per game, and did not worry too much about competition from the impending Major League Soccer. As fortune had it, most of the major stars were bypassed by the MLS draft. A score of players were drafted, but an agreement with MLS allowed players to participate in both seasons, with those teams in playoffs having first dibs.

Meanwhile, as one looks back over the 12 years of history, several players were establishing impressive long-term stats as perennial leaders: Hector Marinaro at forward and Victor Noguiera in goal in particular were two of the best in the history of the indoor game, and were still in the prime of their careers. They held all the significant records, and the end was nowhere in sight. The St. Louis Ambush set a regular season average attendance mark of 9,102 fans per game, echoing the St. Louis Steamer’s attendance feats in the old MISL. The league attendance totaled over 1,500,000 for the 4th consecutive season.

The Cleveland Crunch easily won the American Division, while Kansas City Attack won a close race with the Milwaukee Wave for the National Division as a new healthy rivalry continued to develop. In the divisional finals, the top four teams advanced to the second round easily with one notable exception. Second place Milwaukee was upset by the St. Louis Ambush and headed home early, with several players going off to their MLS debuts. In the semifinals, Cleveland beat Baltimore 15-11, 16-14 (OT), 14-23, 13-12. In a see-saw battle, Kansas City defeated St. Louis 18-16, 14-25, 4-1, 10-30, and 20-9. The Championship returned to Cleveland on the strength of leading goal-scorer Hector Marinaro as they roared back from a two game deficit to defeat Kansas City 18-28, 17-22, 24-12, 19-9, 20-16, and 16-12.

                Final NPSL League Standings, 1995-1996

Before the season, Tampa Bay was added, and Dayton moved to Cincinnati.

                            G   W   L    %   GB   GF   GA
	American Division
Cleveland Crunch           40  31   9  .775  --  775  553
Baltimore Spirit           40  25  15  .625   6  604  492
Harrisburg Heat            40  24  16  .600   7  604  516
Buffalo Blizzard           40  21  19  .525  10  562  586
Cinci. Silverbacks         40  14  26  .350  17  496  579
Tampa Bay Terror           40  14  26  .350  17  544  621
Canton Invaders            40   5  35  .125  26  425  706

	National Division
Kansas City Attack         40  32   8  .800  --  599  430
Milwaukee Wave             40  30  10  .750   2  610  438
St. Louis Ambush           40  24  16  .600   8  676  560
Wichita Wings              40  20  20  .500  12  547  531
Detroit Rockers            40  14  26  .350  18  485  607
Chicago Power              40   6  34  .150  26  381  689

Div. Semifinals: Cleveland defeated Buffalo 25-15, 17-20, 17-11
                 Baltimore defeated Harrisburg 16-11, 7-6
                 Kansas City defeated Wichita 10-9, 11-9
                 St. Louis defeated Milwaukee 9-10, 12-10, 14-12
Div. Finals:     Cleveland beat Baltimore 15-11, 16-14 (OT), 14-23, 13-12
                 Kansas City defeated St. Louis 18-16, 14-25, 4-1, 10-30,20-9
FINALS:          Cleveland defeated Kansas City 18-28,17-22,24-12,19-9,

All-Star Game: 2/11/1995, at Wichita, Kansas.  American Division 16, 
National Division 15.  Ted Eck scored 5 goals, and was MVP.  National ESPN broadcast.
Leading scorers:  
                    TEAM  GP  3PG  2PG  1PG  AST  POINTS
Marinaro, Hector     CLE   33  14   65   17   58    247
Karic, Zoran         CLE   27  13   35   14   61    184
McIntosh, Franklin   BAL   36  14   24   10   77    177
Reiniger, Joe        STL   39   9   42   14   45    170
Medved, Shawn        CIN   40   6   38   17   53    164
Moser, Mark          STL   35   2   53   18   29    159
Brose, Dennis        DET   32   6   47    6   33    151
King, Michael        MIL   35   5   48    6   31    148
Vuckovic, Bojan      TAM   35   3   50   10   23    142
Sloan, Kevin         BAL   40   5   41   17   28    142
Kelly, Danny         HAR   33  10   28   20   34    140
Miller, Doug         CLE   38   1   51   11   20    136
Mobilio, Domenic     HAR   36   1   40   21   29    133
Koetters, Kevin      KCY   39   5   36    7   38    132
Carrera, Marcelo     BUF   41   5   30    7   43    125
Hunjak, Goran        KCY   39   0   39    8   38    124
Knowles, Matt        MIL   35   8   24   15   36    123
Dougherty, Paul      BUF   37   5   30   15   32    122

Leading Goalkeepers: (min. 1410 minutes)

                 TEAM  GPI   MIN     SF   SV  3PG  2PG  1PG PTS   W  L    AVG
Nogueira, Victor  MIL   40  2242:44  753  551  20  141   41 383  30 10  10.25
Stanisic, Scoop   HAR   36  1869:41  674  481  15  136   42 359  22 10  11.52
Peat, Kris        WCH   39  2295:25  698  454  17  196   31 474  20 19  12.39
Orf, Otto         CLE   38  2093:39  861  618  24  182   37 473  29  9  13.56
Swanner, Jamie    STL   34  1756:30  806  597  14  161   34 398  17 13  13.60
Pena, Carlos      CIN   28  1655:00  570  380  18  150   22 376   9 18  13.63
Harrington, Pat   BUF   32  1829:36  676  464  19  166   27 416  18 11  13.64
Finnerty, Bryan   DET   40  2292:21 1023  730  26  210   57 555  14 26  14.53
Andracki, Bill    TAM   29  1562:39  607  400  20  155   32 402   9 18  15.44

Most Valuable Player:  Hector Marinaro, Cleveland Crunch; Victor Noguiera, Milwaukee Wave
Goalkeeper of the Year:  Victor Noguiera, Milwaukee Wave
Coach of the Year:  Keith Tizer, Milwaukee Wave
Defender of the Year:  Matt Knowles, Milwaukee Wave
Rookie of the Year:  Jason Willan, Detroit Rockers

First All-NPSL Team:

G - Victor Noguiera, Milwaukee
D - Matt Knowles, Milwaukee
D - Daryl Dolan, St. Louis
F - Hector Marinaro, Cleveland
F - Zoran Karic, Cleveland
F - Joe Reininger, St. Louis

Continental Indoor Soccer League

The CISL lost a couple teams from 1995, and finally gave up on the Carolina franchise, but added a new market, with the Indianapolis Twisters. The league was finally starting to enjoy some stability in franchise lineups, and the product on the field was the best ever under the new two division format. Dallas’s Tatu scored his 716th career goal on August 9, becoming the leading scorer in indoor history, passing legendary Steve Zungul. A week later he also become the all-time point leader. This left only the Assist record, which he broke on August 31. In a further sign of prosperity, the CISL signed a three year television agreement with Fox Sports at the end of the season.

The CISL fared quite well during the launch of its summer competition, Major League Soccer. Only a scattering of players were lost to the MLS, none of them being major scorers or goalies. This would be an indication of the substantial differences in the outdoor and indoor games. Players well adjusted to the tight confines of the rink and those who can strategize and endure in the wide open spaces of the field truly are a different breed, and many of the best were simply in the arena that suits them best. One source of pride for the CISL was when they actually beat the NPSL for average regular season game attendance, averaging 5,936 per game, although due to the league’s smaller size, total attendance was a more modest 914,121.

The regular season saw an exciting race in the east as Monterrey and Houston fought their way through the entire season to finish as co-champs. In the west, the San Diego Sockers, who trace their history back to the halcyon days of the NASL, return to top form again as they win the West, just two games ahead of Anaheim who win a last-minute battle for 2nd place against Sacramento Knights. In the Quarterfinals, San Diego, Houston, Monterrey and Dallas advance in quick series. In the semifinals, Houston knocked off San Diego, ending their comeback hopes, 9-7, 4-8, 10-5, although the Sockers didn’t give up easily, in what would turn out to be their last games ever. Monterrey defeated Dallas 10-4, and 5-3, setting up the 4th CISL Championship, where Monterrey defeated Houston 10-6 and 6-5, to become the first repeating champion in CISL history.

                Final CISL League Standings, 1996

Before the season, Indianapolis was added.  Arizona sat out the season.

                          GP   W   L  Pct. GB   GF  GA
        Eastern Division
Monterrey La Raza         28  18  10 .643  --- 196  159
Houston Hotshots          28  18  10 .643  --- 186  167
Dallas Sidekicks          28  16  12 .571   2  212  181
Washington Warthogs       28  13  15 .464   5  151  170
Detroit Neon              28  13  15 .464   5  173  197
Indianapolis Twisters     28  10  18 .357   8  160  188

        Western Division
San Diego Sockers         28  17  11 .607  --- 173  156
Anaheim Splash            28  15  13 .536   2  180  169
Sacramento Knights        28  14  14 .500   3  143  153
Seattle SeaDogs           28  11  17 .393   6  144  147
Portland Pride            28  10  18 .357  7.5 156  185

Quarterfinals:  San Diego defeated Washington 11-2, 6-11, 4-2.
                Houston defeated Sacramento 2-1, 6-10, 8-5.
                Monterrey defeated Detroit 13-5, 4-9, 12-3
                Dallas defeated Anaheim 6-5, 5-4.
Semifinals:     Houston defeated San Diego 9-7, 4-8, 10-5
                Monterrey defeated Dallas 10-4, 5-3.
CHAMPIONSHIP:   Monterrey defeated Houston, 10-6, 6-5.

Scoring Leaders:
                              GP   G   A  Pts
Tatu, Dallas                  24  45  44  89
David Doyle, Dallas           28  47  25  72
Paul Dougherty, Houston       27  36  34  70
Dale Ervine, Anahiem          26  45  24  69
Mariano Bolella, Indianapolis 27  28  38  66
Marco Lopez, Monterrey        28  23  36  59
Jon parry, Sacramento         26  37  18  55
Nebo Bandovic, Houston        27  31  23  54
Eric McLellan, Washington     28  34  19  53
Chris Scotti, Portland        28  35  17  52
Danny Barber, Anahiem         28  21  30  51
Andy Chapman, Detroit         28  31  20  51
Giampaulo Pedroso, Houston    26  32  18  50
Jeff Betts, Portland          27  24  24  48
Genoni Martinez, Monterrey    28  24  24  48
Braeden Cloutier, San Diego   28  27  21  48

Goalkeeping Leaders: (Min 840 minutes)
                                Min     Svs   GA  GAA
Juan De La O                    890:51  219   73  4.92
Dan Madsen, Sacramento         1251:13  319  111  5.32
Brett Phillips, Washington     1359:38  353  122  5.38
Antonio Cortes, San Diego      1425:58  627  327  5.39
Raul Salas, Monterrey          1244:55  553  248  5.78
Rob Warnell, Portland          1220:41  674  321  5.80

Most Valuable Player:  Tatu, Dallas Sidekicks
Goalkeeper of the Year:  Juan de la O, Seattle SeaDogs
Coach of the Year:  Trevor Dawkins, Houston Hotshots
Defender of the Year:  Troy Snyder, Washington Warthogs
Rookie of the Year:  Carlos Farias, San Diego Sockers
Playoff MVP:  Raul Salas, Monterrey la Raza

All-CISL First Team:

G - Brett Phillips, Washington
D - Genoni Martinez, Monterrey
D - Danny Pena, Sacramento
M - Paul Dougherty, Houston
F - Tatu, Dallas
F - David Doyle, Dallas

1996 Olympic Games

The Olympic Games returned to the United States, and provided the USA national Soccer teams a major opportunity to showcase themselves to the world. This was a particularly good opportunity for the women, as the Olympics had just added women’s soccer. The women hoped to make up for their disappointing finish in the 1995 World Championships, and had improved greatly in the ensuing months. The men also hoped for a much better finish to demonstrate their vast improvements since the last US Olympics when the National Team was little more than a sidelight in American Soccer. The hometown crowds would provide an advantage, even though the soccer games were not being held in Atlanta like the rest of the Olympic tournament. The USOC had gone all out to ensure that these games would be a major affair. To expose the competition to a broad audience, summer games were played in Miami, Washington, Birmingham and Athens, GA. The finals would be played in 84,000 seat Sanford Stadium in Athens, and the women pool games would be doubleheaders with the men’s games to ensure maximum exposure. Although total attendance was not as high as for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles (1,421,627, average 44,426), they were still impressive, drawing more fans than for any other Olympic event, with 1,364,142 (average 40,122). This is more than the combined total for the Seoul 1988 games (728,712 average 22,772) and Barcelona 1992 (466,300 average 14,572) combined.

Olympic Men’s Competition

The eligibility rules had changed for the 1996 games. The competition was again limited to the U-23 teams, but this time, each team was allowed to add three over-23 players to the roster. This was important for the US as their U-23 team was not of the same caliber as the full national team. The Olympic team was coached by Virginia and D. C. United coach Bruce Arena. Despite a challenging schedule of friendlies, the US began the pool play with a disappointing 3-1 loss to Argentina. They played well, but Argentina, a powerhouse, included several division 1 players on their roster. The US had scored in the first minute and dominated for awhile, but Argentina gradually took over and eventually pulled away for the victory. The good news was the crowd of 83,810 at Legion Field in Birmingham, the largest crowd ever to see a soccer game in Alabama.

Two days later, the US bounced back with a good 2-0 win over Tunisia off of goals by Jovan Kirovski and Brian Maisonneuve. By then, the US was tied for third with Argentina and Portugal with 3 points. But because of the other teams’ performances, the US was in a tight position. Unless the US beat Portugal and Argentina was upset by Tunisia, they were out of luck. In the USA-Portugal game, the US fell behind early, but tied it in the 75th after a Maisonneuve goal, but could do no more, and ended with a draw, making Tunisia’s surprising draw with Argentina an academic matter. Once again, the US was out.

The tournament was only picking up steam by now. Games continued apace in Birmingham, Washington, Miami and Orlando, with a high level of excitement and competition reminiscent of the recently completed European championships. The eight teams to emerge from pool play were Argentina, Portugal, France, Brazil, Mexico, Ghana and Spain. Brazil, which featured Bebeto and Ronaldo, was particularly eager to win their first Olympic championship, defeating Ghana convincingly after falling behind 2-1. Argentina whomped Spain 4-0, while Portugal got past France 2-1 and Nigeria downed Mexico 2-0.

The semifinal against Nigeria was a nail biter for Brazil, as Nigeria fought back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the 90th minute, sending the match to overtime. In a climactic showdown, Nigeria’s Nwankwu Kanu scored the game-winner in the 93rd minute, dashing Brazil’s hopes once again. This was particularly painful for the blue and yellow, because for once, they were really taking the Olympics seriously and had pinned their hopes on a gold medal. Meanwhile Argentina easily beat Portugal 2-0, setting up a cross-continent final for Sanford Stadium. This game, played before a massive crowd of 86,117, was the biggest day ever for African Soccer. And the game lived up to the hype. Nigeria fell behind twice before Daniel Amokachi tied the game in the 75th minute, and Emmanuel Amunike scored the game winner with less than 1 minute left in the match. Nigeria took the gold, Argentina took the silver and Brazil took the bronze. Despite the US’s performance, the competition itself was one of the best Olympic tournaments ever.

Complete 1996 Olympic Men’s Results

Olympic Women’s Competition

Unlike the men’s competition, the women fielded their full teams. Originally, the IOC had declined to add women’s soccer, but bowed to a relentless international media campaign. The field was smaller, only 8 teams, and pool play was paired with men’s games to ensure exposure. By the time of the knockout competition, the point had been made, and the remaining women’s games drew perfectly well by themselves; by the time the games were over, the top thirteen crowds in US history for women’s games had just been set, including an amazing 76,489 for the final. As much as the competition itself, this clearly showed that Women’s soccer had arrived, and portended great things for the upcoming 1999 Women’s World Cup, also to be held in the United States.

The US team played up to the hopes and hype, completing a magnificent performance that brought them the gold medal, and also reflecting the improved quality of the players, both US and foreign. Women’s soccer was developing by leaps and bounds by now. The competition began with a solid 3-0 victory by US over Denmark, one of the stronger European teams. Tisha Venturini broke a scoreless tie in the 37th minute by half-volleying a throw-in from Brandi Chastain, which the goalkeeper pushed right into the net. Mia Hamm and Tiffeny Milbrett scored the other two. Two days later, The US beat powerhouse Sweden 2-1 off a Venturini goal in the 15th minute, and a second half goal by Shannon MacMillan. By now, the US and China were already qualified for the later rounds. This rendered the final Pool game between the US and China meaningless except to determine next round opponents. Despite that, 43,525 filled the Orange Bowl for the contest which ended in a scoreless tie.

The semifinals saw China pitted against Brazil while the US lined up to face their perennial rival Norway and this was another tense game, as the US fell behind Norway in the first half, and equalized on a Michelle Akers penalty shot in the 76th. Norway lost a player to a red card, and Shannon MacMillan scored the winner in overtime, giving the US some much desired revenge against their world-leading rival. China also scored a come from behind victory over Brazil. China was a familiar opponent for the Americans, having played them in the US Cup final just two months before. This game was close to the wire, with the US winning 2-1 on goals by MacMillan and Fawcett. Thus was completed the most significant event yet for women’s soccer, and a great triumph for the American team.

Complete 1996 Olympic Women’s results

Gold Cup

Two major changes were made for this competition: The games were moved to January from the summer, and Brazil was invite to the tournament, in a reciprocal agreement with COMNEBOL who had invited two CONCACAF teams to the Copa America. Brazil, with strength to spare sent their Olympic team to gain more experience, but still won the cup anyway. The competition was held in southern California, and the US was eager to bring back the North American championship, but it was not to be this time. The US performance was still impressive nonetheless, as they beat Trinidad 3-2 off of two Eric Wynalda goals, and El Salvador 2-0.

In the semifinals, the US faced Brazil in a rematch of their Copa American matchup, and the score was the same, with the US losing 0-1. The US had control of the field most of the time, but a Salvio shot deflected off of Marcelo Balboa’s leg for the score. The US bounced back to defeat Guatemala 3-0 in the 3rd place game with goals by Wynalda, Jeff Agoos, and Jovan Kirovski. The final, played before 88,155 at the Los Angeles Coliseum was an exciting game as Mexico defeated the young Brazilians 3-2 to keep the Cup. Overall, the US performance was a good omen, considering the US’s strong performances against future World Cup qualifying opponents.

Complete 1996 Gold Cup results

Men’s National Team

The Men’s National Team, although eclipsed by the Olympic competition, still had a number of significant victories and tournaments in 1996. One of the major events was the 1996 Gold Cup Tournament (see above).

The US’s next major tournament was the US Cup. This time it was a cross-country affair with games in Washington, Foxboro and Los Angeles. After a warm-up exhibition victory over Scotland in late May, the US opened with a close victory over Ireland in Foxboro with goals by Tab Ramos and Claudio Reyna. That was followed by another surprising loss to Bolivia, 0-1, with the sole goal scored in the 2nd minute of an otherwise scoreless game. In the final game, Mexico drew with the United States 1-1. The US had scored in the 34th minute from Wynalda, and looked to have the game and the Cup, but Mexico tied in the 89th minute, giving them the game, as well as the cup (based on goal differential). In comparison to last year, this was a disappointing effort for the US, especially with World Cup qualifying about to start in five months.

The US trained intensively over the summer, pausing for friendlies with El Salvador (3-1 win) and Peru (a flat 1-4 trouncing) before the start of Qualifying. Because this was the first round, the competition included a number of weak nations, so the US had a fairly easy time of it, shutting out Guatemala, and Trinidad & Tobago (twice) before losing to a much stronger Costa Rica 2-1. They beat Costa Rica in the visit to San Jose, Costa Rica, before drawing to Guatemala 2-2. Wynalda scored two goals, and newcomers McBride, Hedjuk and Preki all scored goals, providing good performances for new MLS stars. The performance left something to be desired but was enough to get the US through the first round and four months to practice before the Hexagonal where the victories really counted.

1996 USA Men’s National Team results

Women’s National Team

The highlight of the Women’s year was the triumph at the inaugural Olympic event, but the team was busy with a full schedule as well. Continuing their January tournament tradition, the US entered the Brazil Soccer Cup competition, and swept the prizes, with four straight wins. The first was an 8-1 trouncing of the weak Russian side, with double scores by Cindy Parlow and Foudy among the treats. A closer 3-2 victory against host Brazil gave Mia Hamm her first goal of the year, and warmed the team up for a 6-0 shutout punishment of Ukraine courtesy of a hat trick by Carin Gabarra. The championship was a rematch with Brazil, and was a grueling draw all the way, but the US prevailed on penalty kicks.

The Americans then began their intense practice schedule to prepare for the Olympics, starting off with a pair against the defending world champion squad Norway. A 3-2 win was followed by a 1-2 loss, to put the US on notice that Olympic Gold was not a sure bet by any means. Double headers with powerhouses Germany and Sweden and France saw the US six wins richer, to put them in a good mood for USA Cup ’96. The USA Cup was another sweep for the US, as they defeated Canada 6-0, Japan 4-0 and China 1-0. ten players scored the 11 goals for this tournament. The US was DEEP. A final pair of matching 2-1 victories over Australia sent the US to Georgia and the Olympics in grand style (see Olympics above). The US triumph gave the team a well deserved vacation to enjoy, relish and experience. They did not play again until the following February.

1996 USA Women’s National Team results

U. S. open Cup

The 1996 Open Cup was the first to include Professional Division 1 clubs since the early 1930s as MLS entered eight of its ten teams in the tournament. They were arrayed against four teams from the A-league and the USISL. D. C. United, Tampa Bay Mutiny, Dallas Burn and Kansas City Wiz received byes to the quarterfinals. The rest of the MLS clubs advanced easily. In the quarterfinals, D. C. United defeated Carolina Dynamo (USISL) 2-0, Dallas defeated the Seattle Sounders (A-League) 3-2, the Rochester Rhinos (A-League) upset Tampa Bay Mutiny 4-3 and the Colorado Rapids (who had replaced the Colorado Foxes at the last minute) defeated Kansas City 3-2.

In the semifinals, D. C. United beat the Dallas Burn 2-0, and Rochester Rhinos defeated Colorado 3-0, bringing a surprise, with the A-League getting their first team into the Open Cup finals. The title match, played at RFK Stadium in washington was a rout for D. C. united, who delighted the home crowd of 7,234 with a 3-0 shutout of Rochester, on their way to earning the “double”, which would come when they won MLS Cup ’96.

International Tours

International Clubs vs. Major League Soccer: Results: 5 wins, 2 draws, 6 losses; May 22 through November 10, 1996

 (Home teams listed first)
5/22/96  New England Revolution 0, Fiorentina (Italy) 2
5/24/96  NY/NJ Metrostars 0, Fiorentina (Italy) 4
5/26/96  San Jose Clash 3, Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) 4
5/26/96  Tampa Bay Mutiny 1, Feynoord (Holland) 1
6/5/96   Metrostars 1, Sporting Lisbon (Portugal) 1
6/12/96  San Jose Clash 2, UNAM Pumas (Mexico) 1
7/11/96  Los Angeles Galaxy 1, El Salvador National Team 1
8/14/96  Los Angeles Galaxy 1, Nexaca (Mexico) 2
9/10/96  D. C. United 2, Luis Angel Firpo (El Salvador) 1
10/27/96 Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Deportivo Cali (Colombia) 3
10/30/96 Quan Xing (China) 0, San Jose Clash (select) 3
11/5/96  Guoan (China) 1, San Jose Clash (select) 0
11/10/96 Dallas Burn 3, El Salvador National team 2

The College Game

This was yet another year of rapid growth for college soccer. So what else is new? But men’s growth tapered as colleges struggled to achieve Title IX compliance, yet still established a record high for varsity teams, rising from 676 to 681. This disappointing news was offset by the fact that this struggle made possible major improvements for varsity women’s program throughout the nation. Soccer most of all benefited, with women’s programs expanding from 619 to 690, to surpass the men in scope for the first time. Pretty impressive when one considers there were only 77 women’s programs in 1981, and only 17 three years before!

In the 1996 Men’s Division 1 Tournament, third round action saw Creighton defeat Fresno State 2-0, St. John’s defeat William & Mary 2-1 in overtime, UNC Charlotte defeated Hartford 3-0, and Florida International defeated Indiana 1-0. In the semifinals, St. John’s defeated Creighton 2-1 and Florida International defeated UNC Charlotte 4-0. The Championship returned to Richmond, VA where on December 15, St. John’s won the crown by defeating Florida International 4-1

The NCAA, recognizing the growth of women’s soccer, both in quantity and quality, expanded the Division 1 Women’s tournament from 24 to 32 teams. Likewise, the Division II tournament was expanded from 8 to 12, and the Division III tournament from 20 to 24. In the Women’s Division 1 tournament, third round action saw North Carolina (who else?) shut out (what else?) Florida State 9-0 (were you expecting anything less?). Santa Clara defeated Connecticut 1-0, Portland defeated Nebraska 1-0 and Notre Dame defeated Maryland 3-2. In the Semifinals, North Carolina defeated Santa Clara 2-1 and Notre Dame defeated Portland 3-2. The championship moved to Santa Clara, California, but the result was very familiar: On December 8, North Carolina reclaimed the title, shutting out Notre Dame 1-0 in double overtime. UNC had by now become one of the all-time dynasties in American Sports, and in World sports for that matter. The team was simply unstoppable, and their triumphs would continue for the rest of the century.

Division II Men’s champion: Grand Canyon defeated Oakland 3-1
Division II Women’s champion: Franklin Pierce defeated Lynn 1-0
Division III Men’s champion: Williams defeated Methodist 2-1
Division III Women’s champion: UC San Diego defeated College of New Jersey 2-1
NAIA Men’s Champion: Lindsey Wilson defeated Birmingham-Southern 5-1
NAIA Women’s Champion: Simon Fraser defeated Mobile 3-2 (5 overtimes)
NJCAA Division I Men’s Championship: Mercer County Community College 1, Yavapai 0
NJCAA Division III Men’s Championship: Herkimer Community College 2, Burlington County Comm. Coll. 0
NJCAA Women’s Championship: Brevard College 2, Monroe Community College 1
NCCAA Division 1 Championship: Western Baptist 6, Pacific Christian 2
NCCAA Division 2 Championship: Philadelphia College of Bible 2, Baptist Bible College 0

Final Men's Division 1 Coaches' Poll:

1.  St. John's
2.  Florida International
3.  Creighton
4.  William & Mary
5.  UNC Charlotte
6.  Indiana
7.  Fresno State
8.  Washington
9.  Maryland
10. Hartford

Final Women's Division 1 Coaches' Poll:

1.  North Carolina
2.  Notre Dame
3.  Santa Clara
4.  Portland
5.  Connecticut
6.  Nebraska
7.  Maryland
8.  Florida
9.  Wisconsin
10. Penn State

Men's Division 1 NSCAA All-Americans (1st team):

G - Jon Busch, UNC Charlotte
D - Tahj Jakins, UCLA
D - Pete Santora, Furman
D - John Stratton, Air Force
M - Mike Fisher, Virginia
M - Steve Klein, Bowling Green
M - Mike Mekelberg, South Florida
F - Tony Kuhn, Vanderbilt
F - Ignace Moleka, Florida International
F - Johnny Torres, Creighton
F - Andrew Williams, Rhode Island

Women's Division 1 NSCAA All-Americans (1st team):

G - Jennifer Renola, Notre Dame
D - Erin Taylor, Maryland
D - Sara Whalen, Connecticut
D - Staci Wilson, North Carolinas
M - Justi Barmgardt, Portland
M - Cindy Dows, Notre Dame
M - Jennifer Lalor, Santa Clara
M - Tiffany Roberts, North Carolina
M - Kari Uppinghouse, Nebraska
F - Danielle Fotopoulos, Florida
F - Debbie Keller, North Carolina
F - Cindy Parlow, North Carolina

Men's National Award Winners:

Hermann Trophy:  Mike Fisher, Virginia
Missouri Athletic Club Award:  Mike Fisher, Virginia
ISAA Player of the Year (Division 1):  Mike Fisher, Virginia
NSCAA Coach of the Year (Division 1): David Masur, St. John's

Women's National Award Winners:

Hermann Trophy: Cindy Dawes, Notre Dame
Missouri Athletic Club Award:  Cindy dawes, Notre Dame
NSCAA Coach of the Year:  John Walker, Nebraska

Awards & Cups

US Open Cup Championship:Washington D. C. United (MLS) defeated Rochester Ragin’ Rhinos (A-League) 3-0.

US Women’s Open Cup Championship: Dallas Lightning defeated Sacramento Storm 2-1
National Amateur Cup Championship: Washington Iberia defeated Dallas Speed 2-1.

James P. McGuire Cup (US Youth Soccer Boys U-19): Scott Gallagher (St. Louis, MO)
Andy Stone Cup (US Youth Soccer Boys U-18): Santos (Phoenix, AZ)
Don Greer Cup (US Youth Soccer Boys U-17): Columbia (MD) United
D.J. Niotis Cup (US Youth Soccer Boys U-16): (Southern California) Nomads
J. Ross Stewart Cup (US Youth Soccer Girls U-19): North Huntington Beach (CA) F.C.
Frank Kelly Cup (US Youth Soccer Girls U-18): F. C. Royals (Washington)
L. Moynihan Cup (US Youth Soccer Girls U-17): F. C. Royals (Washington)
Patricia Masotto Cup (US Youth Soccer Girls U-16): Central Valley Mercury (San Jose, CA)

CONCACAF Champions Cup: The Seattle Sounders (A-League) defeated Transvaal (Suriname) 10-0 on the artifician turf at Seattle, and advanced. In the final round, they lost to Communicaciones (Guatemala) 2-0, Nexaca (Mexico) 4-1, and Cruz Azul (Mexico) 11-0, to finish 4th and last. Cruz Azul (Mexico) won the round and took the title.

CONCACAF Cup Winners Cup: Results unknown. The tournament was abandoned before the finish of pool play.

CONCACAF U-20 Championship: The US beat Jamaica 4-1 and Martinique 2-0, and drew with Honduras 0-0 to win Group B. In the final round, they lost 2-0 to Canada and 2-1 to Mexico to finsih third. The top 4 teams, Canada, Mexico, USA and Costa Rica qualified for the World Youth Cup.

CONCACAF U-17 Championship: The US took second in Group 1 by beating Bermuda 5-0, Dominican Republic 3-0 and losing to Costa Rica 3-2. In the final round, Mexico beat them 3-1, the US beat Canada 2-1 and drew with Costa Rica 1-1. The top three teams qualified for the World Youth Cup: Mexico, the United States and Costa Rica.

FIFA Futsal World Championship: The US had done well in the earlier indoor tournament, beating Cuba 7-3 (after losing to them 5-3), Guatemala 7-3 and Costa Rica 4-1. In the Championship itself, in November, they didn’t do so well. They were defeated by Uruguay 1-0 and Italy 4-2, making their final pool play game meaningless even if it was an 11-0 trouncing of Malaysia.

Hall of Fame: In 1996, the US Soccer Hall of Fame inducted Gordon Bradley, Paul Danilo, Nick Kropfelder, Len Oliver, and Reinhold Spath. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Hall of Fame inducted Harry Keough. The National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA) Hall of Fame inducted Frank Jewell, Abbot Leonard, and Henry Papa. The American Youth Soccer Organization inaugurated their new Hall of Fame by inducting Brian Davies, Paul Harris, Bill Hughes, Norm Jackson, George Kay, Sigi Schmid, Hans Stierle, and Bill Wolstencroft.

Honda Award (Player of the Year): Eric Wynalda

USSF Players of the Year: Eric Wynalda, Mia Hamm

NSCAA Honor Award: Joseph Morrone, Connecticut, and Timothy O. Schum, Binghamton

NISOA Honor Award: Henry Papa, Alabama

NISOA Merit Award: William Chambers, Bellarmine Prep, Michael Pantalione, Yavapai College