Lamar Hunt and the first crazy club in Dallas

When you hear the name ‘Tornado’ you run because something bad will happen. The Dallas Tornado were the anti-NASL, or North American Soccer League club, and they outlived the flagship franchise and club you’ve probably heard of – the New York Cosmos.

One of the owners was Kansas City Chiefs future MLS club owner (Columbus, Dallas Burn and Kansas City Wizard) Lamar Hunt. Mr. Hunt also has his name on the US Open Cup (our version of the FA Cup).

One of the most common themes in American soccer is how much inspiration the 1966 World Cup was. In fact, it lead to many clubs being formed, including the Dallas Tornado, who came into being with the help of Lamar Hunt and Bill McNutt in 1967. They were in the middle of a ‘soccer war’ between the United Soccer Association (which was the USA) and the National Professional Soccer League (the NPSL – which is still around). The USA had the formal sanctioning from FIFA, and the NPSL was the outlaw league, but the rebel league had the contract with CBS. Both leagues had money behind them and the clubs were owned by people who were owners of other franchises in other leagues. Since there was a rush to field a league, twelve franchises in the USA brought over European and South American clubs to play under the American names. Dundee United played as Dallas, and it wouldn’t be the last time they would do that.

The 1967 season came to a close, and the USA and NPSL merged to form a super league – the famous North American Soccer League in december, 1967. Again, the Tornado, would be a worldwide hit, this time setting up camp in Oviedo Spain, where they’d take a forty eight game world tour, which would be under the guidance of Bob Kap.

The world tour was massive. They went everywhere, from Europe to South America, to a stop in South Vietnam in December 1968, just a month before the Tet Offensive. The 1968 season was a disaster, Dallas went 2-26-4, and were out scored 109-28. The 1968 season was weird, the NASL imported foreign clubs for an eight game season called the International Cup, and again Dundee United were Dallas. The franchises late in that season reverted back to proper soccer clubs, and played a 16 game season, this time with future indoor legend Ron Newman wrapping up his playing career and taking on the role as manager.

Newman would lead the club to it’s greatest period in their history between 1969-1975. They ran all the way to the Soccer Bowl in 1971 against the Atlanta Chiefs. The Atlanta Chiefs are the namesake for South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs, who is owned by former Atlanta Chiefs player Kaizer Motaug. Then, in 1973, the Tornado ran to the title again, this time against the Philadelphia Atoms. The Tornado were led by homegrown American star Kyle Rote JR, who was the son of broadcaster, and former NFL player Kyle Rote Sr, in Texas Stadium. An impressive crowd of 18,824 saw the Tornado lose 2-0.

The Tornado were very different, they weren’t known for their big time European stars, in fact they never had any. Goalie Ken Cooper’s biggest contribution to the sport is his son Kenny, who has played all over the leagues in the States in the new century. Kyle Rote Jr was the only star of note, and that was because of his time on Superstars on ABC, which he won in 1974, 1976, and 1977. This was a competition where players from different sports in the states competed in different obstacle course events.

The Tornado would go out of business in 1981, when dwindling attendances and poor records helped Lamar Hunt close the club. He’d lost many millions of dollars while owning the club. But this wouldn’t stop him in the sports industry – he owned the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs for years, and did up until his death. Lamar Hunt owned several clubs and was of the operators and owners of Major League Soccer, but the Tornado were certainly his standout club because they were so unique.

By Stephen Brandt – Liverpool fan – @yellowcardSCB