Thursday, January 3, 2013

A history of football in Washington DC


The first professional football team in Washington DC were the Washington Darts. They were originally formed as Washington Britannica in 1963 by Scottish immigrant Norman Sutherland. In 1967 the team went professional, became the Darts and joined the American Soccer League. They won the title twice and then moved to the NASL in 1969. They spent 2 years there before moving the team to Miami where they became the Miami Gatos. After this they had several reincarnations as different franchises in different cities including Fort Lauderdale and Minnesota.


While Britannica were becoming the Darts and turning professional in the American Soccer League across the city some other Scots were up to shenanigans. In the rival United Soccer Association in 1967 Aberdeen masqueraded as the Whips and won the Eastern Division. In the short league which was a forerunner to the NASL, where it was expected the Whips would continue with a 'proper' team they lost in the Final to LA Wolves, who were actually Wolves.


The next team to become regulars at the Robert F Kennedy Stadium were the Washington Diplomats who were one of the expansion teams who entered the NASL in 1971. In the first four years they failed to qualify for the play-offs and then in 1976 when they finally made the play-offs they went out straight away to New York Cosmos. The next 3 seasons were much better for the Dips and attendances started to rise.

The Dips had a number of high profile players in their more successful seasons including Johan Cruyff who was there from 1980-81, Gus Hiddink and Ray Graydon in 1978 and Bobby Stokes from 1978-80.

In 1980 the Dips folded and then a new Diplomats club was formed after Detroit Express moved to the town. However, they only lasted and the end for the Diplomats and for that matter of fact the NASL was nigh.


There was one last attempt at professional football in the NASL in Washington when Team America, who sound suspiciously like a dodgy cartoon were formed in 1983, they also played at the RFK Stadium too. Their ambition was to have a professional team of all American players to make the foundation of a football team. They failed and in their one season the club finished bottom of the pile. They also failed to win the minds of the public and only drew in 12,000 fans on average,



The next and more successful attempt to introduce football to the States came with the formation of the MLS in 1996 and one of the original 10 teams was DC United. They have been one of the most successful clubs in the MLS having won US Open Cup twice and the MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield each four times. They have also had some success on the international field having won the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1998 and subsequently the coppa Interamerica.

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