1990 – Around the World and Close to Home
Communist parties in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia relinquish sole control of government, Nelson Mandela is freed from prison after more than 27 years as South Africa legalizes the African National Congress, Iraqi troops invade Kuwait, igniting the Persian Gulf War, and East and West Germany are reunited after 45 years, with West Germany winning the World Cup. The Hubble Space Telescope is launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, Seinfeld debuts on NBC, and The Simpsons debuts on FOX. While under renovation, the 50-year-old Intestate-90 floating bridge from Seattle to Mercer Island breaks apart and sinks during a storm, Federal Way and SeaTac incorporate as cities, and the second Goodwill Games, with athletes from 54 countries competing, is hosted in Seattle, Tacoma, Federal Way, Spokane, Tri-Cities and Enumclaw.
Varying Vital Signs
If searching to understand whether soccer throughout Washington was thriving and or dying in 1990, the verdict was likely inconclusive. The vital signs for the sport ranged wildly depending on what sector is under examination.
At the top of the pyramid, most indications were overwhelmingly positive. Not only were the U.S. National Teams peaking in terms of performance, but Washingtonians were heavily involved. For the men, the U.S. National Team was playing in its first World Cup since 1950. The 1994 World Cup would be coming to America, to be followed by a new professional Division I league. Brent Goulet, Chris Henderson and Kasey Keller all earned caps in 1990, and both Henderson and Keller, both collegians, won spots on the World Cup roster.
A year ahead of the first FIFA-sanctioned world championship, the emerging U.S. women’s program finished 1990 with an unblemished 6-0-0 record. Michelle Akers of Shoreline was the top scorer (eight goals). Amy Allmann, Lori Henry and Shannon Higgins joined Akers as starters.
Beneath that veneer, there were cracks in the system, and they extended to the Northwest. The American Professional Soccer League was staggering by year’s end. The APSL, formed by merging the 11-member Western Soccer League and American Soccer League, would go forward with only nine teams in 1991. Most clubs blanched when confronted by rising payrolls and travel costs without ticket revenue and TV contracts to compensate.
FC Seattle seemed poised to go forward. The Storm had begun paying players again for the first time in five years, albeit only $75,000 spread across the roster. Attendance was up nearly 40 percent in 1990, with an average of 3,550 per game. But in early 1991 they would opt to go dormant, preferring to wait and see how other remaining APSL teams fared.
Indoors, the Tacoma Stars and MSL (Indoor having been dropped from the league name in consideration of expanding operations to outdoor, 11v11) were in financial trouble. Tacoma missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, attendance continued its steady decline (down 11 percent), and Preki, the Stars’ headliner and league MVP, had fled for St. Louis.
The base of the pyramid was growing. Nearly 77,000 boys and girls were playing in leagues around the state, the most in seven years. Since 1980, the youth and college programs had grown far more robust. Nearly 15,000 more kids had been added to the rolls of Washington State Youth Soccer. Four men’s and six women’s varsity collegiate programs had begun play.
Still, the number of opportunities to earn a scholarship with an in-state program, particularly women’s, were scarce. Six of Washington’s larger four-year institutions had no varsity women’s program. Akers played for a program (Central Florida) located 3,100 miles away. Allmann, Henry and Higgins also played for East Coast programs. Many of the most prized men’s recruits in-state, such as Henderson and Keller, also left Washington.
The University of Washington men’s program had a part-time coach and fewer scholarships (4.0) than Division II Seattle Pacific (4.7). Pacific Lutheran, competing in NAIA, offers the most aid for women. Not surprisingly, those two programs, PLU and SPU, were the state’s only collegiate postseason representatives. Their investment produced dividends. Each was a national runner-up using primarily in-state players.