We all know about the present-day Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team of the United Soccer League, but did you know they’re actually the Rowdies 2.0? Yep, the Rowdies were Tampa’s first professional sports team. They came before the Rays. Before the Lightning. Before the Buccaneers even. Here’s the full scoop on the original Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The Franchise Took Form in 1974
George Strawbridge and Beau Rogers IV founded the Rowdies in July 1974, and the team began play in the North American Soccer League in 1975. Tampa Stadium served as the Rowdies’ first home, though they also played in the NASL’s indoor soccer circuit.
Champs Right Off the Bat
Amazingly enough, the Rowdies won the NASL Soccer Bowl in 1975. They shut out the Portland Timbers (now a Major League Soccer franchise) in the big game in San Jose. In 1976, the Rowdies added an NASL indoor title to the trophy case, defeating the Rochester Lancers in the championship game.
They Had a Huge Following
Tampa loved those OG Rowdies. They had quite the following in the area throughout the NASL years, even setting a home attendance record with 56,389 fans turning out for a regular season game in 1980. After that, the Rowdies grew into one of the league’s most prominent teams, regularly drawing crowds of 25,000-plus during one three-year stretch.
They Had One of the Best Marketing Catchphrases … Ever
Check out the Rowdies’ amazing marketing slogan: “The Rowdies arrrre … a kick in the grass!” Now that’s a first-rate pun. Those words were even gloriously immortalized in song form.
They Stuck Around After the NASL Folded
With interest waning among the league’s nine teams, the NASL folded after the 1984 season. The league intended to return in 1986, but that never happened. The Rowdies kept playing, though – just not in the NASL. They played as an independent side for two seasons before embarking on stints in the American Indoor Soccer Association, the American Soccer League, and the American Professional Soccer League before the team folded in 1996.
The Rowdies Are Reborn
The Rowdies were reborn in 2010, playing their inaugural season in the United States Soccer Federation Division II Pro League, which featured new NASL teams and United Soccer League teams. They officially joined the United Soccer League in 2017. And that’s where they’ve been ever since.
Check Out a Game
The new Rowdies begin the 2022 season in March. Check out their website for tickets and then check them out in person at Al Lang Stadium.
Keep up on all things Tampa at the Olympus Harbour Island blog.