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1967-1968 Vancouver Royal Canadians / Vancouver Royals

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United Soccer Association (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968)

Born: 1967 – USA founding franchise.
Folded: October 10, 1968.

Stadium: Empire Stadium (33,000)

Team Colors: Scarlet & White



The Vancouver Royal Canadians were one of 12 founding franchises in the United Soccer Association (USA) in the summer of 1967.

There part of a brief pro soccer gold rush in the United States following the 1966 World Cup (whose final between England and West Germany was broadcast in the United States for the first time – on tape delay).  Three start-up leagues sought sanction from the United States Soccer Football Association.  The USA, backed by Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, ultimately earned the sanction from the USSFA and FIFA and set plans to begin play in 1968.  But the USA was outfoxed by the other two rival start-ups, who merged to form the “outlaw” (i.e. unsanctioned) National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) and announced plans to start in 1967.   This forced the USA to scramble for a 1967 start.

The USA’s solution was to import European and South American proxy teams.  Since soccer in most of the rest of the world played on a fall-spring schedule, the American summer leagues were playing during Europe and South America’s offseason.  Each of the 12 USA franchises would, in essence, be a foreign club on holiday.  The USA staged a lean schedule of 12 matches per club, compared to the aggressive 32-game calendar played by the renegade NPSL.

The Vancouver Royal Canadians were one of two United Soccer Association clubs based in Canada, the other being Toronto City.  The Royal Canadians imported the club Sunderland A.F.C. from England to fill their roster.  The Royal Canadians finished 5th in the 6-team Western Division with a record of 3-4-5.  Attendance at 33,000-seat Empire Stadium was 7,019 per match, according to Steve Holroyd & Dave Litterer’s Year In American Soccer 1967.

Both of the rival leagues took a financial bath during the summer of 1967.  In December 1967, the USA and the NPSL merged to formed the North American Soccer League for the 1968 season.  The merger required some realignment, as the two leagues had competed head-to-head in several markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto.  In the Bay Area of California, the NPSL’s Oakland Clippers remained in business for the 1968 season.  George Fleharty shut down his rival San Francisco Golden Gate Gales of the USA.  Fleharty, who also owned the Ice Follies skating revue, then purchased controlling interest in the Royal Canadians from original owner Brigadier General E.G. Eakins.

Fleharty shortened the name of the club to the “Vancouver Royals” for the 1968 season.  There was no need to import foreign clubs in 1968, so the Royals built a roster from scratch for the first time.  The Royals also played a much longer 32-game schedule in 1968, compared to just the 12 games in 1967.   The results on the pitch were similar, with the Royals finishing last in the Pacific Division with a record of 12-15-5.  One bright spot for the Royals was forward Henry Klein from Luxembourg, who finished fourth in the NASL in scoring with 20 goals in 26 matches.  1968 would be the only season that Klein played in North America.

Announced attendance of 6,197 per match was third best out of the NASL’s 17 teams in 1968, but that was more an indictment of just how rough the season had been, rather than any great accomplishment for Fleharty’s club.  The NASL would shrink from 17 members to just 5 clubs in 1969.  The Royals were one of the casualties, folding on October 10, 1968 after an effort to find local investors to buy out George Fleharty came up short.

The NASL returned to Vancouver six years later with the formation of the Vancouver Whitecaps, a popular club that enjoyed an 11-year run from 1974 to 1984.  The current Major League Soccer franchise in Vancouver is also named the Whitecaps, in tribute to Vancouver’s second NASL entry, whereas the Royals are largely forgotten today.

Richard Whittall over at Pitch Invasion has the story of how future England manager Sir Bobby Robson was hired by the Royals for his first coaching appointment in 1968, only to lose the job a few months prior to the season.  It’s a good read.


==Vancouver Royals Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1968 5/8/1968 @ San Diego Toros L 5-1 Program
1968 6/29/1968 vs. Los Angeles Wolves W 1-0 Program



==In Memoriam==

1968 Vancouver Royals owner George C. Fleharty died of cancer on April 22, 2008 at the age of 83.



North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs



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