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1974-1981 Washington Diplomats

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Washington Diplomats SoccerNorth American Soccer League (1974-1981)

Born: January 21, 1974 – NASL expansion franchise
Folded: December 1980
Re-Born: February 28, 1981 – The Detroit Express relocate to Washington, D.C.
Folded Again: September 1981


Team Colors:


  • 1974: Nick Mangione, Mike Finci, et. al.
  • 1975-1978: San Juan Racing, Inc. (Steve Danzansky, et al.)
  • 1979-1980: Gulf & Western/Madison Square Garden Corp. (Sonny Werblin) & Steve Danzansky
  • 1981; Jimmy Hill, Duncan Hill, Gary Lemmen, et al.

Soccer Bowl Championships: None


The Washington Diplomats were the third attempt to establish pro soccer – and a North American Soccer League franchise – in the nation’s capital.  Club founders Nick Mangione and Mike Finci ponied up $75,000 to buy their NASL expansion franchise in January 1974. The Diplomats hired former Manchester United star and Munich air disaster survivor Dennis Viollet to coach the team.

The Dips, as the team was colloquially known, struggled to establish an identity in their early years. The team was mediocre during the Viollet (1973-1977) and qualified for the postseason only once. Ownership changed hands in 1975, with the Daznansky family buying out Mangione and his partners for $650,000. The club bounced back and forth between RFK Stadium and a high school football stadium in Fairfax, Virginia from 1974 to 1976. RFK conveyed big-city, Major League status. W.T. Woodson High School was economical and more convenient for the Dips’ white flight core audience. The Fairfax games also marked the Dips as a distinctly minor league operation.

Johan Cruyff Washington DiplomatsThe Diplomats’ glory years came during a brief period at the end of the 1970’s. The club hired John Carbray as General Manager in October 1976. Carbray, a veteran minor league baseball exec, brought his innovative promotions to soccer in 1976 with the NASL’s San Jose Earthquakes. Carbray persuaded the Dips’ ownership to commit to RFK Stadium once and for all. The NASL was never a league to worry much about FIFA conventions. Carbray embrace the league’s permissiveness, introducing multi-colored penalty areas and goal boxes at RFK. He also hired former New York Cosmos manager Gordon Bradley to replace Viollet as the club’s Hea Coach in 1978.

Announced attendance rose from 5,963 per game in Fairfax in 1976 to 13,037 at RFK in 1977 during Carbray’s first season in charge. The team had a major on-field improvement in form in 1978 under Gordon Bradley.  But attendance fell back to 10,783 and the team remained deeply in the red.

A lifeline arrived in October 1978 when Madison Square Garden Corporation, a subsidiary of the publicly traded conglomerate Gulf & Western, purchased the team. Madison Square Garden owned the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers. MSG Chief Executive Officer Sonny Werblin was the man who built the New York Jets and signed Joe Namath, setting in motion the AFL’s infamous upset of the NFL champion Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. With Gulf & Western’s resources behind the team, it suddenly seemed plausible that the Diplomats could take on the Time Warner-owned New York Cosmos as an international super club.

“Sonny and his crew are out to spend it all,” Atlanta Chiefs Director of Operations Terry Hanson predicted to Alex Yannis of The New York Times in December 1978. “I hear they are going to crank the whole thing wide open, spend all the money they have for players … I hear they already call them the Cosmos of the South.”

After Madison Square Garden’s takeover, the Diplomats negotiated for Argentine World Cup captain Daniel Passarella and nearly signed English captain and 1978 European Football-of-the-Year Kevin Keegan. But the Sonny Werblin era was not without controversy. Werblin’s original goal in buying an NASL club was to move the team to Shea Stadium in Flushing and take on the New Jersey-based Cosmos head-to-head. MSG ultimately balked at the $12 million territorial fee demanded by the Cosmos and elected to stay in D.C. But Werblin’s long-term commitment to Washington was placed into question from the start.


Washington Diplomats Shop

Diplomats Distressed Logo T-Shirt by Ultras

Diplomats Soccer Shorts by Ultras

Rock n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith


Washington Diplomats Memorabilia


Diplomats Video


In Memoriam

Owner Sonny Werblin (Dips ’78-’80) died of a heart attack on November 21, 1991 at the age of 81. New York Times obituary.

Forward Bobby Stokes (Dips ’77-’80) died of bronchial pneumonia on May 30, 1995 at 44 years of age.

Manager Dennis Viollet (Dips ’74-’77) passed away after a two-year battle with brain cancer on March 6, 1999 at age 65.

Manager Gordon Bradley (Dips ’78-’80) passed on April 29, 2008 after fighting Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 74. New York Times obituary.

Midfielder John Kerr, Sr. (Dips ’76-’77) passed away from heart disease on June 19, 2011 at the age of 67. Washington Post obituary.

Midfielder Johan Cruyff died of cancer on March 24, 2016. The Flying Dutchman was 68 years old. New York Times obituary.



1977 Washington Diplomats Ticket Brochure

1977 Washington Diplomats Media Guide Additions & Deletions

8-6-1977 Washington Diplomats vs. New York Cosmos Game Notes

5-27-1980 Washington Diplomats vs. New York Cosmos Match Preview Press Advisory

6-1-1980 Washington Diplomats vs. New York Cosmos Game Notes

Soccer Bowl ’80 Ticket Order Form

1980 Arthur Treacher’s Soccer Teacher Booklet

8-12-1981 Washington Diplomats vs. New York Cosmos Game Notes



Jim Reed’s excellent Diplomat fan/history site:

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs


1988-1990 Washington Stars


American Soccer League (1988-1990)
American Professional Soccer League (1990)

Born: May 1987 – ASL founding franchise
Died: October 1990 – Merged with the Maryland Bays


Team Colors: Burgundy & Silver

Owner: John Koskinen


The Washington Stars were a professional soccer franchise based in Fairfax, Virginia that operated for three seasons between 1988 and 1990.  The Stars were a founding franchise in the American Soccer League, which debuted in the summer of 1988 with ten East Coast franchises stretching from Albany to Miami.

Three of the ASL’s founding clubs were clustered in the Baltimore-Washington metroplex.  The Washington Diplomats revived the brand name of the old North American Soccer League (NASL) club of the 1970’s and early 80’s and, like the original Dips in their glory years, played out of RFK Stadium in D.C. proper.  The Maryland Bays played 50 miles away in Catonsville, MD.  The Stars, originally dubbed Washington F.C. before a name change, hoped to play at George Mason University’s 5,000-seat stadium.  But the university declined and the Stars split time instead between Stalnaker Stadium at Fairfax (VA) High School and Fairfax’s nearby W.T. Woodson High School.

The Stars owner was John Koskinen, a corporate turnaround specialist and the Chairman of the Washington, D.C. Host Committee as the United States prepared to host the 1994 World Cup.  ASL clubs worked on much more modest budgets than their NASL predecessors.  Koskinen told The Washington Post that the Stars first-year budget was around $350,000 with $50,000 or so earmarked for player salaries.

Also unlike the NASL, the American Soccer League planned to feature American players.  The Stars had several very good ones, including the young U.S. National Team midfielder Bruce Murray and the former Duke Blue Devil John Kerr, Jr.  Kerr’s father, John Kerr, Sr. coached the Stars and was himself a veteran of the Washington Darts and Diplomats NASL teams of the 1970’s.  The Stars also brought in 31-year midfielder Sonny Askew who played for the old Dips from 1977-1980.  Askew would make the league’s postseason All-Star team in 1988.

On the field, the club’s brightest moments came during the 1989 campaign, when the Stars posted the best regular season record at 14-6.  The Stars lost to the eventual champion Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in the 1989 ASL playoffs.

Prior to the 1990 season, the twelve clubs of the ASL merged with the eleven-team Western Soccer League and re-branded itself as the American Professional Soccer League.  The teams would still stick to a regional schedule in 1990, with the champions of the ASL and WSL meeting for a national championship match.

After the 1990 season, fifteen franchises dropped out of the APSL, reducing membership from 23 clubs to just 8 in a matter of months.  The Stars were among the casualties.  John Koskinen finalized a long-planned merger with the APSL champion Maryland Bays in October 1990.  The Bays continued for one more year themselves with Koskinen as a part owner, before folding in January 1992.


John Koskinen later served as President of the United States Soccer Foundation from 2004 to 2008.

Stars midfielder Bruce Murray earned 86 caps with the U.S. National Team between 1985 and 1993.   He started all three games for the United States and scored a goal in the 1990 World Cup.  Murray earned induction to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.


==Washington Stars Programs on Fun While It Lasted==


Date Opponent Score Program Other


1988 7/30/1988 vs. Orlando Lions ?? Program


1989 4/23/1989 @ New Jersey Eagles  W 1-0 (PK) Program Game Notes


1990 4/14/1990 @ Penn-Jersey Spirit L 1-0 Program
1990 7/13/1990 @ New Jersey Eagles  W 3-0 Program Game Notes



Washington Stars sources



American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs



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