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1974-1976 Boston Minutemen

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North American Soccer League (1974-1976)

Born: December 26, 1973 – NASL expansion franchise.
Folded: 1976

Stadiums:

Team Colors: Red, White & Blue

Owner: John Sterge

NASL Championships: None

 

The Boston Minutemen were a once-promising North American Soccer League franchise that was brought to its knees in its third and final season by the financial troubles of its owner, Boston oil stock promoter John Sterge.

The Minutemen entered the NASL as an expansion club for the spring of 1974.  Under Head Coach Hubert Vogelsinger, the Minutemen won the Northern Division with a 10-9-1 record and advanced to within one game of the NASL championship match, losing in the playoff semi-final to the Los Angeles Aztecs.  The team’s first year roster included a colorful batch of characters.  Nigerian-born former West Ham United striker Ade Coker earned 2nd Team All-Star honors and went on to a long and productive career in American pro soccer through the late 1980’s.  Graham French was a once promising Luton Town winger whose career was derailed by a 1970 pub shooting that led to a three-year prison term.  French lasted only a handful of games in Boston.

Boston Minutemen ProgramPlaying at Boston College’s Alumni Stadium in suburban Chestnut Hill, the 1974 Minutemen averaged 9,642 fans per match, which was 5th best among the NASL’s 15 clubs.

In 1975, the Minutemen moved into Boston proper, setting up shop at Boston University’s Nickerson Field.  The club brought on former Harvard and U.S. Olympic goalkeeper Shep Messing, who was available thanks to a nude pictorial in Viva magazine in late 1974 that incensed the management of his former club, the New York Cosmos, leading to the termination of his contract.  In midseason, the Minutemen signed Portuguese legend Eusebio, arguably the second most famous footballer on the planet, after Pele of Brazil, who also signed with the NASL in 1975.  The 33-year old  “Black Pearl”, however, was in a state of steep decline, thanks to a series of knee injuries.  For the second straight year the Minutemen won their division, this time with a 13-9 record.  Boston lost in the playoff quarterfinal to the defending champion Miami Toros.

On June 20, 1975, the Minutemen hosted the New York Cosmos at Boston’s Nickerson Field.  The game marked the Boston debut of both Eusebio and Pele. The latter had recently signed a ground-breaking $4.5 million contract with the Cosmos.  Nickerson Field held about 14,000 fans at the time – more than adequate for the typical Minutemen crowd of a few thousand.  On this night, the Minutemen massively oversold the venue with approximately 20,000 fans in attendance.  Fans ringed the entire pitch, standing six deep just beyond the touchlines.

Eusebio opened the scoring on a free kick late in the second half to give Boston a 1-0 lead.  Minutes later Pele scored the apparent equalizer but the referee waved it off.  Meanwhile, fans swarmed onto the field to mob the Brazilian superstar.  The near-riot was quelled, but only after Pele was carted off with reported minor injuries at the hands of the marauding fans.  The Minutemen eventually won the game in overtime, but the Cosmos protested the riotous conditions at Nickerson Field.  NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam upheld the protest and nullified the result. As a result the game was replayed in early August.

Despite the huge crowd for the Cosmos game, Minutemen attendance dropped by 50% in 1975 after the team moved to Nickerson Field.  The team averaged only 4,422 per match, despite the midseason addition of Eusebio and another division title.

Heading into the 1976 season, Head Coach Hubert Vogelsinger appeared to have one of the best sides – on paper – in league history.  Messing was back to handle the goalkeeping duties.  Coker had established himself as one of the NASL’s top goal scoring threats.  Eusebio and West German Wolfgang Sunholz worked the midfield.  Portuguese winger Antonio Simoes was another top holdover from the 1975 division championship team.

But off the field, the Minutemen organization was beginning to collapse.  Owner John Sterge hoped to move his club to a new venue – Harvard Stadium – for the third time in three seasons.  His negotiations with Harvard crashed into the rocks three days before the scheduled home opener, requiring the embarrassed Minutemen to postpone their first two home games.  It would later come out the Sterge was out of money, which fed the club’s chaos.  The Minutemen would wind up more or less homeless in 1976, bouncing back and forth between four stadiums during the summer of 1976 and finished the season in a minor league baseball stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

In June 1976, with Sterge on the verge of insolvency, he sold off most of his starters in a fire sale.  Messing, Coker, Simoes, Sunholz, Eusebio and others all departed.  Hubert Vogelsinger resigned in protest.  After a respectable 7-5 start, the Minutemen lost their final 12 games with replacement players to finish in last place with a 7-17 record.  Average attendance of 2,571 per game was the worst in the 20-team NASL in 1976.

The club entered bankruptcy in 1976.  John Sterge was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and later sentenced to 30 months in prison in 1980 after pleading guilty to securities fraud charges.

In December 1977, the Lipton Tea Company purchased the rights to the Minutemen franchise from the bankruptcy receiver for $370,001 and re-established the team in the North American Soccer League as the New England Tea Men for the 1978 season.

 

Boston Minutemen Shop

Eusebio Boston Minutemen replica jerseys by Ultras

Ian Plenderleith’s definitive chronicle of “The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League”

 

Boston Minutemen Memorabilia

 

Minutemen Video

The Minutemen vs. New York Cosmos at Nickerson Field.  August 3, 1975.  (Thanks to FWIL reader Tim Hanlon for posting this to YouTube).

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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