North American Chinese Soccer League – A Brief History

By Shangyou Scott Zhang, [email protected]

Since 1983, each year, about ten thousands Chinese students come to study in USA , and many settled down after graduation. Among these students, many love to play soccer and many are excellent soccer players. Most were good players in their school teams in China when they were undergraduate students. Hundreds, if not thousands of teams were formed by these students from China on many campuses since 1985. As NACSL records show, since 1986 many friendly soccer games were played between Chinese student soccer teams of nearby campuses. By 1990, regional soccer tournaments were organized which were participated by four to six teams within driving distance — around 300 miles.

2011 National Champion — Turbo United Soccer Team of Los Angeles

By 1995, as recorded in NACSL history, about 10 regional soccer tournaments were played each year. By 1996, Chinese soccer players were not satisfied by local tournaments any more. A strong demand appeared — “a national championship!”

North American Chinese Soccer League — NACSL were formed in 1996. The first grand tournament were held that year at Columbus, Ohio, and 12 teams participated the 1996 finals. Surprisingly a newly formed team — Tsinghua Alumni Team won the first ever national title for Chinese students soccer teams. Tsinghua University is one of the very best universities in China. It was told that out of 11 starters of this champion Tsinghua alumni team, 4 were the former captains of Tsinghua University Soccer Team between 1979 and 1991 and 10 were former school team members! It was truly a strong team. Its players were gathered all over the country, and some were called from Canada and England.

Since 1996, six grand tournaments were played, once every year, organized by NACSL. So far, other than the above mentioned Tsinghua alumni team, when the grand tournament was held in East or Midwest, an east regional team won the national title, or else a west regional team won the title when the Grand was held in California.

Though about 12 teams in each year’s finals, the national championship title did represent the highest level of the soccer sport within the Chinese American society. There are about 50 well organized Chinese American soccer teams in the country fighting for this title. Among the teams in the grand tournament finals, many had called their former alumni players back, and many were united teams from several regional teams. It is estimated that players from 50 teams played each national title finals. Since 1999, the event also drew best teams from China towns of big cities. These teams were formed mostly by America Born Chinese Americans, who are younger (age 22 in average probably) than the players from the “traditional teams” (China Born Chinese Americans — average age 30.)

Each year, the event was covered by news media in Chinese, Chinese newspapers, TV programs, on-line Chinese journals, etc, in USA. The event is interested to at least 200 soccer teams. For example, in the NACSL branch at NJ, 12 teams play two seasons of league games each year, but only two of the NJ league teams played the national finals last year. Other than Tsinghua alumni team, the alumni from the other two best universities in China, Peking University and the University of Science and Technology of China, also played the Grands before. These alumni teams are not regional teams in USA. Many alumni of other schools also tried but could not form a strong enough team, for example, Fudan University alumni. So the grand tournament is under attention of many more people. For example, the University of Science and Technology of China Alumni Foundation sponsored its alumni soccer team, and it covered the grand tournament in their newsletter which was read by more than ten thousands alumni.

How did NACSL organize the event? NACSL is a non-profit organization and all officials must be unpaid for the work, and even expenses. The (almost only one) mission of NACSL is to ensure and to organize the grand tournament every year. So far NACSL has no sponsor. In all these grand tournaments, all final teams paid registration fee of $500 or more to cover rental, referees, trophies and other expenses. Teams were on their own to cover their airfare and lodgings. Many teams did find their own sponsors though.

Note: NACSL is closed on Nov 15, 2011. $1,612.00 was sent to 2011 Tournament Committee. The last $928.94 was donated to the University of Science and Technology of China Alumni Foundation (for the long time technical support of the Foundation to the NACSL.) The website is to be closed soon.