Tuesday, February 11, 2014

11 February 1974 - The Indoor Game Goes Nuclear

On 11 February 1974, the Philadelphia Atoms battled the USSR in a game that sparked the growth of indoor soccer in the US.

Dating back to the early 1900s, the indoor game had a long history in the United States and had grown popular enough by the 1950s to see the American Soccer League hold regular indoor tournaments. But it was still something of a minor curiosity going into the 1970s.

That changed in February 1974, when the Soviet Red Army team visited North America for a pair of exhibitions. They played the first in Toronto on 7 February against a hastily-assembled NASL All-Star team and won 8-4 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. For their second, they traveled down to Philadelphia to meet the reigning NASL champions, the Atoms.

A crowd of almost 12,000 turrned up at the Spectrum, where Astroturf had been lain over the ice hockey surface (and like hockey, the game was played in three periods of twenty minutes each). The hosts took a 1-0 lead, then kept it close into the third period, level at 3-3. But the Soviets dominated that final period to end with a 6-3 victory.

One of the spectators present for the game was Ed Tepper, who went on to co-found the Major Indoor Soccer League, which ran from 1978 to 1992 in its first incarnation, then started again in 2001 and remains currently active.

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