By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Times Staff Writer
TAMPA — Believe it or not, you're not back in 1975 — but yes, the Tampa Bay Rowdies will play in the North American Soccer League.
The new incarnation of the Rowdies professional soccer franchise, originally slated to play in the United Soccer League First Division, joined a new offshoot league last week. On Monday, the name of that outdoor league was announced — the North American Soccer League.
The league hopes to recreate the excitement and history of the old NASL, which first brought soccer to a mainstream North American audience, bringing international stars like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia to the United States.
The old NASL was in existence from 1968-84, and the Rowdies played in the NASL from 1975 to the league's end, winning the championship in their inaugural season.
The Rowdies' inclusion in the league correlates with the organization's goal of honoring the past team's history and following.
"By going with NASL, we're obligated to operate our league at a high standard befitting a name that means so much to the soccer community throughout North America," said Selby Wellman, principal owner of the Carolina RailHawks and newly appointed president of NASL. "Our intention is to offer an elite brand of soccer and outstanding experience for our partners and fans, something the old NASL did very well during its day. We will do the same in the new NASL."
The Rowdies are one of nine teams from the United States and Canada that will comprise the new NASL, most of them former USL franchises. Games begin in April.