Apart from the annual U.S. Challenge (Open) Cup encounter, Washington soccer's exposure to the outside world was almost entirely limited to Oregon and British Columbia. That began to change in the autumn of 1972, with a couple of college coaches enticing visitors from afar. Better still, they maximized the opportunity by validating the rising quality of their respective teams.
Seattle Pacific's Cliff McCrath arrived in 1970 with a Rolodex packed with contacts back east, where he had coached for 11 seasons. One of his associates was 1950 World Cup hero, Harry Keough, and now the coach of the most dominant collegiate program in the land, St. Louis University. Long a city rich in talent and tradition, St. Louis had claimed seven NCAA championships and McCrath rang Keough's number. The Billikens were about to embark on their first regular season trip to the West, and McCrath was keen on luring them north in late September. So, in addition to stops in Denver and San Francisco, Keough agreed to play two nights only in Seattle, at Washington and Seattle Pacific.
While McCrath was working the phones, the Huskies' Mike Ryan was dreaming of drawing big crowds into cavernous Husky Stadium to see the best teams in the West each October. To that point, Washington had never ventured outside the Northwest but for a disastrous 1968 postseason debut. Now, through fundraising, he was offering return games in exchange for four proven California schools– California, Chico State, UCLA and San Jose State–entering a three-day, three-game tournament involving four Washington teams (SPC, Seattle University, Washington and Western Washington). These were the first steps in traveling and testing homegrown selections against the best in the region and, in the case of St. Louis, the nation.
St. Louis arrived on Montlake having drubbed Air Force and Metropolitan State by a combined count of 12-2. Washington proved a stingy host, holding on for a scoreless draw. The following night, across town at Memorial Stadium, the Falcons scored their first upset of a Division I power, getting a late equalizer to end 1-1. St. Louis was playing for the fourth time in as many nights, yet would end the trip with two wins in the Bay Area. By December, Keough would lift the NCAA trophy for an eighth time.
Soon Ryan was mobilizing the youth clubs around Puget Sound to come see the Husky Soccer Classic. Tapping into the enthusiasm generated by the results versus St. Louis, over 3,000 tickets were sold in advance for the tournament's final day, Oct. 14. Although neither the Huskies nor Falcons advanced in the winners bracket, dropping openers to Chico State and UCLA, respectively, a state record collegiate crowd of 5,000 created a lively atmosphere inside the huge arena. San Jose State, with Olympian Jim Zylker playing a prominent role, edged Chico for the tourney title, 1-0. Earlier in the day, Seattle Pacific scored its second shocker in three weeks, beating Cal, 3-0.
By expanding the horizon, Ryan and McCrath and their respective teams reaped rewards for both the short and long run. Washington and Seattle Pacific earned postseason bids in November, and in subsequent seasons each program would grow more competitive with the more established California programs, and local college games began drawing bigger and bigger crowds.
At the top of the state league, a new entity was etched into the trophy base, but it was a familiar cast clutching the cup. Rainier Brewers, runners-up the previous year, won out over Triumph Continentals and Olympia Vikings. The Brewers, managed by Robin Chalmers, feature several members of the Sixties juggernaut Seattle Hungarians, most notably Mike Kuczi, Zoltan Mako, Alex Bogdan and Les Muller. Rainier, the second-half winner, beat the Olys, 5-1, to cap the campaign.