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Jack Huckel


The First MLS Opening Day

Written by on March 29, 2011 | No Comments »
Posted in History and Books, MLS

Jack Huckel is the former Director of Museum and Archives at the National Soccer Hall of Fame and is the Founder & Principal of J.R. Huckel & Associates offering election and induction consulting services to Halls of Fame. More information is available at the firm’s web site and Jack can be reached at or 518/852-3033.

With Major League Soccer recently celebrating First Kick 2011, it struck me as an appropriate time to remember the very first MLS Opening Day, April 6, 1996. Let’s set the scene a little.

As part of the 1994 FIFA World Cup Bid, the U.S. delegation had said that awarding the tournament to the United States would serve as a platform for the establishment of a new professional league that would eclipse the part-time primarily amateur leagues that then existed in the States.

With the winning of the bid on July 4, 1988, the planning began. A major first step was the election of Alan Rothenberg to the presidency of the United States Soccer Federation.

He had been a part of the NASL’s Los Angeles Aztecs ownership, had been the organizer for the soccer competition during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and was known in the international soccer community.

His role with the USSF put him in the forefront of World Cup planning as well as planning for the new professional league. Originally timed to begin in 1995, marketing and other financial arrangements slowed its establishment and the opening date was pushed into 1996.

The first match was contested between D.C. United and the San Jose Clash (now Earthquakes) at the Clash’s Spartan Stadium in San Jose, CA. It was a rocking day, beautiful sunshine and a noisy jubilant crowd of 31,863.

The match struggled to be a spectacle and the only goal was scored in the 88th minute when Eric Wynalda dribbled into the left side of the penalty area before cutting the ball back to his right foot and bending the shot past D.C. goalie Jeff Causey and hitting the far side netting. You can view the highlights of that match here.

Getting the first ball struck and the fans in the seats had been a long time coming, almost 8 years, but today’s soccer fans across the U.S. and Canada look forward to Opening Day and MLS First Kick.


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