If there was a month when American soccer – and Washington along with it – pivoted toward the light, it was July 1988. With the professional outdoor game under water and now Major Indoor Soccer League beginning to circle the drain, the soccer community was in dire need of good news. It arrived in the wee hours of Independence Day.
The world’s game had long struggled to gain a firm foothold in America, and FIFA sought to remedy that by awarding the 1994 World Cup to the United States. Washington state residents are particularly anxious because Seattle’s Husky Stadium is among the venues under consideration for matches. Still, word of that decision would be 2-3 years away. If there was anything the soccer community would again have to exercise, it would be patience.
For young players, however, the World Cup represented a goal, finally something to shoot for. Included in the U.S. bid was a promise to re-launch a professional league. The national team, which hadn’t played in a World Cup since 1950, would require added investment, if it was to hold its own amongst the globe’s giants in six years’ time.
By the end of the month, there would be other telltale signs that the highest levels of the sport were on the rebound. More than 10,000 attended the final two FC Seattle home games, combined before that, the club gatherings had numbered around 1,500. Some of it could be attributed to nostalgia (a Seattle Sounders reunion game), rivalry (Portland being the opponent in the doubleheader) and the attraction of playing for a championship (the Storm beating San Jose convincingly). Whatever, there was definitely a buzz again.
In Tacoma, the Stars started July on life-support. Despite drawing record crowds while reaching the league finals in 1987, they had been bleeding millions of dollars during their first five seasons, and now MISL, which had helped push the NASL off the cliff four years before, now wavered on the precipice. Less than a week after the World Cup announcement, Tacoma followed three other teams over the brink. Or so it seems.
Less than a month later, a new ownership group emerges, pumping new life into the Stars. They bring back their iconic star, Preki, and re-hire Alan Hinton as coach.
On the collegiate front, the state continues to gain respect. Colleen Hacker’s Pacific Lutheran pushes past intracity rival Puget Sound and wins the first women’s collegiate championship, at the NAIA tournament.
With Division I in-state programs relatively under-funded and women’s programs non-existent (Washington State coming online in 1989), Washington’s top players are leading other programs to success. Shannon Higgins propels North Carolina to another NCAA crown and Kasey Keller is among a cast of locals who help Portland reach the men’s finals. Michelle Akers, whose Central Florida is eliminated by UNC in the quarterfinals, is voted national player of the year.
Brent Goulet is the top scorer for the U.S. Olympic team which reaches the Seoul Summer Games, and Keller is joined on the U20 National Team by Chris Henderson and Clint Carnell.