Gone In A Flash – The Chicago Spurs, Relocation, and Living On
Chicago and sports have a long history together, one populated by teams legendary for the successes and their failures. The history of Chicago and soccer takes this tale to a new level of oddity, one now often lost in the fog. Exploring that history brings us to the odyssey of the Chicago Spurs, a team that most soccer lovers in this country have no idea existed. A Google search for “Chicago spurs” will give you almost exclusively results pertaining to Chicago-based supporters of Tottenham Hotspur and at best will link you to a partially complete Wikipedia page on the long-gone club.
The Chicago Spurs were founded in 1966 with a three member ownership group of Michael Butler, Al Kaczamarek, William Cutler. The club played its first and only season in the NPSL. That’s right- the NPSL -though not the one you may know. The National Professional Soccer League was a non-FIFA sanctioned league started in 1967. It would only last one season as its merger with the United Soccer Association (USA) would help give birth to the more well-known North American Soccer League (NASL), which featured the likes of the New York Cosmos, Minnesota Kicks, and Los Angeles Aztecs.
With an average attendance of 2,600, the Spurs finished their only season with a 10-11-11 record and at first glance seemed like a good candidate for the NASL. Coached by World War II veteran and longtime manager Alan Rogers (whose work ranged from managing the Filipino National Team to leading Iranian titans Persepolis to victory) and playing at the legendary Soldier Field, it’s hard to see where it wrong for the Spurs. In many ways, it’s not clear that anything did go wrong for the Spurs.
The club, as was often to happen in American soccer then as well as now, was instead moved to Kansas City in order to make room for a separate club, the Chicago Mustangs, who had intentions of being Chicago’s sole NASL team. The Kansas City Spurs would play for two years before dissolving, coached by Alan Rogers along the way, while the Mustangs would only last one season before being replaced by another new club, the Chicago Sting.
In the end the Spurs met their end in order to help birth two clubs that failed almost immediately, a strange result for such a huge sacrifice. While the Bears, Cubs, and Bulls will forever live in memory along with the Sting and Fire, the Spurs seem destined to be a club remembered by only the most dedicated of soccer fans.
Do not, however, let their briefness trick you into thinking the Spurs aren’t worth remembering. With a brilliantly simple soccer ball crest and a classic pairing of red and white across their kits and merchandise, the Spurs had a look few could copy. They didn’t just help start professional soccer in the Second City, they brought top notch looks to the game regardless of the upstart nature of their league and team. The American sports machine may have pushed the Spurs down, but we, soccer fans of America, can pick them back up by remembering the name, the badge, and the colors.
- Dominic Bisogno