Tampa Bay Rowdies
|Full name||Tampa Bay Rowdies|
Al Lang Stadium|
St. Petersburg, Florida
Bill Edwards (Majority)|
Andrew Nestor (Minority)
David Laxer (Minority)
|Head coach||Neill Collins|
|League||United Soccer League|
3rd, Eastern Conference|
Playoffs: Conference Semifinals
The Tampa Bay Rowdies are an American professional soccer team based in St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S. The club was founded in 2008 and first took the pitch in 2010. Since 2017, the Rowdies have been members of the United Soccer League (USL) in the second tier of the American soccer pyramid. They formerly played in the North American Soccer League (NASL) (from 2011 to 2016) and USSF Division 2 (in 2010), which were also second-tier leagues. The Rowdies play their home games at Al Lang Stadium on St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront.
The current club shares its name, logo, and some of its club culture with the original Tampa Bay Rowdies, who were active from 1975 until 1993, most notably in the original North American Soccer League. The owners of the current club announced their intention to use the old Rowdies' trademarks at its introductory press conference in 2008. However, licensing issues forced the club to use the name FC Tampa Bay until December 2011, when it gained full rights to the Rowdies name and other intellectual property. The current Rowdies have always used the same green and yellow color scheme and "hoops" as the original team, even when they could not yet use the Rowdies name.
The Rowdies captured the NASL championship in Soccer Bowl 2012, and their team shield includes two stars: one for their 2012 win and one for the 1975 Soccer Bowl championship won by the original Rowdies. The club has had a long-standing rivalry with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, with whom they have contested the Florida Derby since the original Rowdies and Strikers first met in 1977.
The original Tampa Bay Rowdies were an expansion franchise in the original North American Soccer League and played for 10 seasons in Tampa Stadium starting in 1975. The Rowdies were an immediate and consistent success, winning Soccer Bowl 1975 in their inaugural season, reaching the league final on two additional occasions, and regularly earning playoff berths. They showcased international stars such as midfield captain Rodney Marsh (England), league-leading goal scorers Derek Smethurst (South Africa) and Oscar Fabbiani (Argentina), assist leader Steve Wegerle (South Africa), and all-star defenders Arsene Auguste (Haiti) and "Iron" Mike Connell (South Africa). Head coaches included well-known managers Eddie Firmani, John Boyle, and Gordon Jago. The Rowdies enjoyed broad popular support from their "Fannies" until the NASL folded in 1984, after which the team played in the AISA, ASL and the APSL before folding in 1993.
On June 18, 2008, local businessmen David Laxer, Andrew Nestor and Hinds Howard announced plans to start a new soccer club which would revive the Rowdies name (as "FC Tampa Bay Rowdies") and start play in 2010 as an expansion team in the USL First Division, the second tier of the American Soccer Pyramid. However, in November 2009 FC Tampa Bay announced their intent to instead become the co-founders of a new North American Soccer League, which would begin play in 2010. These plans were subsequently superseded by the USSF Division 2 deal, which created a compromise one-season only league comprising teams from both the USL and the new NASL.
In January 2010, the club became known as "FC Tampa Bay" due to a legal dispute with sports apparel company Classic Ink over the merchandising rights to the Tampa Bay Rowdies name and related trademarks. The name was still used informally by the club until October 2010, when the team announced that it would not use the "Rowdies" nickname at all until the ongoing rights issue was resolved.
On December 15, 2011, after two seasons of play, the club announced that it had finally reached a licensing agreement to use the "Rowdies" name and classic logos, allowing it to change its name back to "Tampa Bay Rowdies" before the 2012 season.
The team played its first official game on April 16, 2010, a 1–0 victory over Crystal Palace Baltimore. The first goal in franchise history was scored by striker Aaron King. The first home game was held at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on May 8, 2010, and ended in a 2–2 draw with Austin Aztex FC. The club started their inaugural season with a 5–1–3 record, but then won only 2 of its last 21 games and failed to make the playoffs with a final record of 7–12–11, leading to dismissal of manager Paul Dalglish. They did, however, capture the 2010 Ponce De Leon Cup.
For the 2011 season, FC Tampa Bay transitioned to the new North American Soccer League, a second division league, and also changed their home pitch, as they moved across Tampa Bay to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. Former original Rowdie Ricky Hill was named the club's manager in January 2011.
After winning only 2 of their first 10 matches, the club rebounded to finish 3rd in the league table and qualified for the NASL playoffs. A highlight was a 1–0 mid-season friendly win over the Bolton Wanderers of the English Premier League at Al Lang Stadium.
The 2012 season marked the return of the Rowdies name, as the club was finally able to secure full rights to use the moniker. It was also the most successful season in modern Rowdies history, as the club finished second in the league table and became NASL champions with a victory in Soccer Bowl 2012.
Tampa Bay amassed 45 points in 28 matches during the regular season under returning manager Ricky Hill, tallying 12 wins, nine draws. and seven losses. The Rowdies earned a bye to the semifinals of the 2012 NASL Playoffs, where they beat the Carolina RailHawks by a 5–4 aggregate in the two-leg series. In the championship round against Minnesota Stars FC, the Rowdies fell behind 0–2 after the first leg but were able to tie the aggregate with a 3–1 win in the second leg back at Al Lang Stadium. Extra time ended scoreless, so the match was decided with a penalty shoot-out, which Tampa Bay won 3–2 to secure the league championship. Hill was named the NASL Coach of the Year.
The defending champions got off to a slow start in two pre-league tournaments, as they went winless in their first six contests against MLS and USL Pro clubs. The Rowdies improved enough in league play to finish 4th in the NASL spring table with a record of 5 wins, 3 draws, and 4 losses. The highlight of the early season was a run to the 4th round of the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which included a 1–0 win over the Seattle Sounders of MLS.
The Rowdies went 5–4–4 during the fall portion of the schedule, good for 3rd place. The club earned 38 points over the entire campaign, second most in the league. However, because of the NASL's new split-season format, the Rowdies did not qualify for the playoffs. Midfielder / striker Georgi Hristov led the team with 15 goals in all competitions and was named the NASL's Golden Ball Award winner (MVP).
The Rowdies struggled in 2014, coming in 7th place in the NASL's spring season and 8th in the fall while allowing the most goals (50) in the league overall. The club rose to 3rd in the table midway through the fall campaign but tailed off, going winless over their last 10 matches. Manager Ricky Hill was dismissed after the season.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies' new manager for 2015 was Thomas Rongen, who had coached the MLS's Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996. The team also brought in another familiar face when Farrukh Quraishi, who had been a player and a youth development director for the original Rowdies, was named general manager.
In March 2015, the Rowdies traveled to Portugal to play several preseason friendlies against clubs in the Portuguese second and third division. It was the first time that the current club had undertaken an international tour.
The Rowdies lost only one match during the NASL spring season, good for second place in the table. After starting the fall season 2–1–6, however, club owner Bill Edwards dismissed both Rongen and Quraishi. Assistant Stuart Campbell was promoted to manager and led the team to a 3–4–4 record. The Rowdies finished the fall season in 8th out of 11 teams in the league table and missed the playoffs.
For the second consecutive year, the Rowdies visited Europe during the preseason, traveling to England in March to play several friendlies. The Rowdies held their own against three lower division sides, going 1–2–0 in official matches. The results of the 2016 NASL season were not as good. The club went 4–4–2 in the NASL spring season, good for 5th out of eleven teams in the league table. However, results slipped in the fall portion of the schedule, and the Rowdies finished the season 9–11–12, missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. A few days before their final game of the season, the franchise announced they would be leaving the NASL to compete in the United Soccer League beginning with the 2017 season.
Having made the jump to the USL, the Rowdies served notice that they were not to be taken lightly. During the regular season they lost only once at home, and en route to finishing in third position on the USL's Eastern Conference table, lost only two of their final 15 matches. They posted a record of 14–11–7 with 53 points to propel them into the playoffs. In the USL Cup playoffs, they lost in extra time at home in the conference semifinals. It was only their second home-loss of the season.
Al Lang Stadium
The Rowdies' home pitch since 2011 has been Al Lang Stadium, a 7,500 seat former baseball stadium located on the downtown waterfront of St. Petersburg, Florida. When the club first moved to the venue, the pitch ran from the third base grandstand to right field wall, and the seating arrangement utilized the baseball grandstand along with temporary bleachers along one sideline. The arrangement has been tweaked every season since to provide a more traditional soccer experience for the fans.
In 2015, the playing field ran from the former first base side of the grandstand out to the left field wall. A portion of the old right field wall was removed, and larger semi-permanent bleachers were installed along the south sideline, adding many more seats closer to the action.
Although the Rowdies have been the only regular tenant of Al Lang Stadium since 2011, it was still used for exhibition and amateur baseball events during the spring and summer, necessitating the regular restoration and removal of the pitcher's mound and clay infield and causing much wear and tear to the turf.
After becoming majority owner of the club in 2013, St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards expressed displeasure with the condition of the playing field and the aging facilities at Al Lang Stadium. Months of rebuffed complaints about poor turf, leaky pipes, broken seats, and other issues culminated in a July 2014 lawsuit filed by the Rowdies against the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission claiming that the commission was not properly maintaining the "dilapidated" facility. The dispute was resolved in October 2014 when Edwards and the city of St. Petersburg brokered a deal that gave Edwards' Big 3 Entertainment company sole management control of Al Lang Stadium. As part of the arrangement, the facility would no longer be used for spring baseball, and Edwards agreed to complete $1.5 million in renovations as he sought to make Al Lang more soccer friendly.
When the club was founded in 2008, its owners announced plans to build a 5000-seat soccer-specific stadium in northwest Tampa along the Veterans Expressway. These plans were shelved in early 2009 when residents living near the chosen site voiced concerns to the Hillsborough County Commission about potential noise and parking issues.
After exploring other possible stadium sites around the Tampa Bay area, FC Tampa Bay decided to play its 2010 inaugural season at George M. Steinbrenner Field, an 11,000-seat baseball stadium near West Tampa. The club shared the facility with the Tampa Yankees, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the New York Yankees, which presented some difficulties. Scheduling home games was a challenge because the club's seasons overlapped for most of the summer. The pitcher's mound and the infield dirt could not be removed, forcing the soccer field to be set across the outfield from the right field foul line to left centerfield. This created a pitch much smaller than most professional soccer fields, and a large portion of the playing surface of one attacking third was clay. And because of the difficulty of running on wet clay and potential damage to soggy turf, the Rowdies were not allowed to take the field when the ground was wet, which is often the case during Tampa's summer rainy season.
Because of all these problems, the soccer club relocated to Al Lang Field for their second campaign.
In 2013, the city of St. Petersburg began the process of creating a master plan for the waterfront area that includes Al Lang Stadium. Some of the proposals suggest replacing the entire stadium and surrounding parking areas with a soccer park complex centered by a new soccer-specific stadium. Club owner Bill Edwards has stated that "in a perfect world", Al Lang Stadium would be replaced by an 18,000-seat soccer-specific stadium, enabling the Rowdies to become a Major League Soccer club.
When the club first took the pitch in 2010, the badge was a green and yellow striped shield bearing the club name (FC Tampa Bay) and topped with a star representing the original Rowdies' victory in Soccer Bowl 1975. The badge was changed before the 2012 season to the original "Rowdies" text logo, and a second star was added after the club won Soccer Bowl 2012.
Ralph's Mob is an independent supporter group for the Rowdies named after "Ralph Rowdie", a fictional mustached footballer featured in the logo of the original Tampa Bay Rowdies. The group is known for wearing green and gold striped scarves, socks, and face paint, and for loudly cheering on their team while teasing opponents, much like the "Fannies" of the original Rowdies. Ralph's Mob has a designated seating area at home matches. Many members also travel to away games, particularly when the Rowdies play at in-state rival Fort Lauderdale.
The Rowdies' traditional rivalry has been with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The rivalry began in 1977 between the original Tampa Bay Rowdies and the original Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL when the term Florida Derby was first used. It came back into use again in the late 1990s, when both cities had MLS franchises (the Tampa Bay Mutiny & Miami Fusion). Finally in 2010, after a nine-year absence Florida Derby re-entered the lexicon of American soccer, as the modern squads began facing one another. The rivalry currently sits in limbo, after Rowdies' owner, Bill Edwards won a 2017 summary judgement in a lawsuit against the Strikers. Edwards now controls the copyrights, trademarks and any rights to the use of the name “Fort Lauderdale Strikers” or any variation thereof.
The Coastal Cup (est. 2010) originally was contested between the Rowdies and Strikers, but with Jacksonville Armada FC's entry into the league in 2015 and Miami FC in 2016, the competition had grown to become quadrilateral.
In December 2015 the Rowdies announced that they would begin fielding a developmental team in the National Premier Soccer League for the 2016 season and that the club would called Rowdies 2. The original Tampa Bay Rowdies had fielded a similarly named reserve/developmental squad from 1982 to 1983, but used roman numerals to dub them Rowdies II. Rowdies 2 competed in the Sunshine Conference of the South Region of NPSL, finishing in fourth place with a record of four wins, four losses, and two draws. The team disbanded in 2016.
In February 2017, The Rowdies announced that they would field a team in the USL's Premier Development League, with Rowdies U23 set to join the league this for 2017 PDL season. Rowdies U23 will compete in the Southeast Division of the Southern Conference of PDL.
Each August, the University of South Florida men's soccer team face their crosstown rivals, the University of Tampa Spartans, in an NCAA men's preseason soccer match which celebrates the Tampa Bay Area's rich soccer history. In addition to holding the Rowdies Cup trophy for the next 12 months, the winning side also gets to hoist the actual 1975 Soccer Bowl trophy that was won by the original Tampa Bay Rowdies and is housed at USF's Corbett Soccer Stadium. As of the 2017 edition, USF holds a 20–9–3 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1972.
Players and staff
Out on loan
|18||Midfielder||Jack Blake (on loan to Real Monarchs)|
|12||Perry Van der Beck||Midfielder||1978–82, 1984, 1991–93|
Andrew Keane – head athletic trainer Michelle Leget – assistant athletic trainer Robert Dixon – message therapist Dr. Koco Eaton – team physician and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mohit Bansal – team physician and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Christopher Salud – team physician Dr. Samuel Meyers – team chiropractor
- NASL Championship
- Winners: 2012
- Ponce De Leon Cup
- Winners (2): 2010, 2012
- Coastal Cup
- Winners (5): 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016
- Fair Play Award
- Winners (3): 2011, 2012, 2014
- NASL Best XI
- 2011: Pascal Millien, Mike Ambersley
- 2012: Jeff Attinella, Takuya Yamada, Luke Mulholland
- 2013: Luke Mulholland, Georgi Hristov
- 2016: Joe Cole
|Year||Division||League||Regular Season||Playoffs||Open Cup||Avg. Attendance|
|2010||2||USSF Division 2||6th, USL (10th)||Did not qualify||2nd Round||3,866|
|2011||2||NASL||3rd||Lost in 1st Round||Denied entry||3,010|
|Did not qualify||4th Round||4,044|
|Did not qualify||3rd Round||4,550|
|Did not qualify||3rd Round||5,648|
|Did not qualify||4th Round||5,878|
|2017||2||USL||3rd, Eastern||Conference Semifinals||3rd Round||5,894|
|July 14, 2011||FC Tampa Bay||1–0||Bolton Wanderers||St. Petersburg, Florida|
||Report||Stadium: Al Lang Stadium
|February 13, 2016||Tampa Bay Rowdies||0–1||D.C. United||St. Petersburg, Florida|
||Stadium: Al Lang Stadium
|February 20, 2016||Tampa Bay Rowdies||0–2||Philadelphia Union||St. Petersburg, Florida|
||Stadium: Al Lang Stadium
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