Hello, from retirement in Westchester County north of New York City. I’m looking forward to the NASL 50th anniversary event in Frisco, Tex., in October. After my days as the Deputy Secretary of Concacaf, I’m now doing a bit of consulting for the regional confederation and spending some quality time with my two granddaughters. And, of course, going to games.
Ted Howard is the first to admit that his job with the NASL fell into his lap.
“It never was work, it was a labor of love,” he said. “Working whatever time it took, seven days a week. What we did was because we knew we were building something.”
A collegiate career playing at Chico State in his native California, then a stint as the team’s assistant coach as he worked on a master’s in business administration (while interning with the Oakland Clippers), Howard traveled east to the 1971 National Soccer Coaches Association convention. He and a teammate put together a proposal for a college soccer newsletter, but he also encountered two men who changed his life — Phil Woosnam and Clive Toye.
“There was a vacancy in the league office and three months later I found myself on a plane to the Atlanta league office before it was moved to New York,” he said, where he eventually became the assistant commissioner after wearing a multitude of hats (scheduling, public relations) as the league office grew from three people to a bigger operation. “It was a blur. I had so many incredible experiences.
“The growth of the league was so exceptionally fast it was remarkable. Due to Phil and his salesmanship we had gone from two leagues to six teams in 1970, back up to eight teams in 1971. It was pretty much an East Coast league, but we expanded over the next six or seven years and Lamar [Hunt] was a huge part of that.
“It was just amazing, the quality of the players was exceptional. When Pelé came in 1977 it just opened up the dam for all of the guys not making much money in other countries to come here. The quality of play was really quite exceptional for a startup.”
After a career in soccer, Howard looks back at the exciting days of the NASL and has no regrets. If anything, he believes the league was too aggressive as it chased franchise fees in a time when revenue from TV and sponsorships was paltry, or non-existent.
“Do you maintain the status quo or keep expanding?” Howard said. “MLS has done a great job in taking it slow and building. But it’s a different time. Let’s face it — today no leagues anywhere in the world can succeed without TV revenue.
“In the end, was the NASL a failure? Absolutely not. It laid the groundwork for where we are today. MLS has done a great job building on it, building stadiums has been the most important element, giving the sport a home. It’s here to stay.”