In the early successful years of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in the late seventies and early eighties, the most usual locations became popular for Americanized soccer. One such location was Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Tulsa Roughnecks played from 1978-1984 after moving from Hawaii after the 1977 season. Tulsa was actually one of the more profitable teams in the old NASL. Their average attendance in their first season was 11,256. They had their best season in 1980 when they averaged 19,787 fans at Skelly Stadium. The Roughnecks were also successful on the field as well. They finished their first season at 15-15 but lost to Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs. In 1979 they finished at 14-16 but made it to the conference semifinals losing to the mighty New York Cosmos. In 1983, the Roughnecks won the NASL title as they defeated Toronto in the Soccer Bowl. In their final season in 1984, the Roughnecks finished 10-14 and eventually went under with the league.
Some of the most notable players for the Roughnecks were:
- Njego Pesa – Most Valuable Player in the 1983 Soccer Bowl
- Laurie Abrahams – scored 38 goals for the Roughnecks in 1979, 1982-83
- Barry Wallace – played in 128 games from 1980-1984.
The Roughnecks also participated in indoor soccer throughout their years in Tulsa as they played in the NASL’s off-season during the winter months. In 1983, they lost the semifinal match to Tampa Bay.
So what is a “Roughneck”?
The term is for a person whose occupation is hard-manual labor and usually a slang term describing someone who works drilling for oil. Naturally, a fitting nickname for a sports team in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A form of the Roughnecks still exist in the United Soccer League (USL) which is much like the minor leagues of professional soccer. The Tulsa Roughnecks FC are currently in their third season.
Tulsa Roughnecks seasons
- 1978 – (15-15) Lost to Minnesota in First Round
- 1979 – (14-16) Lost to New York in Conference Semifinal
- 1980 – (15-17) Lost to New York in First Round
- 1981 – (17-15) Lost to Minnesota in First Round
- 1982 – (16-16) Lost to New York in First Round
- 1983 – (17-13) Won Soccer Bowl ’83 over Toronto
- 1984 – (10-14)
The highest attendance for any Roughneck game occurred on August 26, 1979 when Roughnecks played in New York before a crowd of 76,031.