October 21, 2015…the day in the future that Marty McFly travelled to from 1985 in Doc Brown’s time travelling DeLorean in Back to the Future II has finally arrived! Doc Brown insisted Marty not bring anything (or any stories) back from the future and made him throw away the 1950-2000 Grays Sports Almanac he snuck home but some of the stories he could have told would have been simple considered crazy.
365.WorldSoccerShop takes a look at 5 of the most outrageous and unbelievable stories Marty could have told that would have had soccer fans laughing at the 1985 McFly.
Top 5 Unbelievable Truths from 2015
#5. Soccer on TV in the U.S.
Plasma flat-screen TV’s were all the rage in the future McFly visited but if he told soccer fans in 1985 the seemingly limitless options for watching soccer on those flat screens they would have laughed at the nerdy teenager. The only option for watching the game on TV in 1985 was on Soccer Made in Germany with Toby Charles on PBS. He made the ‘it’s in the back of the net’ call famous for all young soccer players of the day. The following year NBC had the U.S. rights for the 1986 FIFA World Cup and the coverage was very ‘American’ in its format including commercial breakaways during play.
Stories of commercial free coverage of the all the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches not to mention regularly televised games from domestic leagues of England, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Mexico, and the U.S. would have been complete absurd. The idea that networks from NBC to ESPN to Fox to Univision and more would strategize how to outbid their competitors for top leagues would have been equally hard to fathom.
#4 Major League Soccer
A 20 team professional soccer league in the U.S. and Canada playing in its 20th season in 2015 would have been a pipe dream for kids aspiring to play professionally in 1985. The beautiful game as played around the globe was thought to be all but dead in 1985 after the folding of the North American Soccer League (NASL) the year before. If Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Johann Cruyff, George Best, and a host of other big name international players could not convince the U.S. sports fans to watch than no one could.
MLS has proven the critics wrong. The league was founded in 1993 as part of the U.S.’ successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup and launched with 10 teams in 1996. Financial troubles plagued the league and 2 teams folded in 2002 leaving some doubters of the long-term future of the league. But the league had a great business model (although many players/fans/etc don’t like it) with a single-entity structure and even more importantly visionaries like Lamar Hunt and Phil Anschutz behind the league.
The game was much simpler in 1985. Local fans supported local clubs with very few players making big bucks. The global market for top soccer talent was just starting to develop and the absurd fees paid for players was nothing near what it is today.
Diego Maradona was the most expensive player in 1985. The Argentine was signed by Napoli for £5m, the equivalent of $21.9 million in today’s money. Compare that to the most expensive player today, Gareth Bale, who garnered a $131.5 million transfer fee for Tottenham from Real Madrid in 2013. And it was not just the seasoned professionals. Wayne Harrison was the world’s most expensive teenager when Liverpool dished out £250,000 for the 17-year-old while Manchester United did not blink an eye when paying $55.5 million for 19-year-old Anthony Martial (OK even many pundits in 2015 that that deal was craziness).
The money pouring into the game was not just going to the players. Live matches from the first half of the English First Division were not shown as the Football League and BBC/ITV could not come to terms on a TV contract. The deal on the table was for £19m over four seasons, equivalent to $84.8 million in today’s money, considering the Premier League just signed a 3 season deal worth a staggering $7.93 BILLION deal before the current campaign it is easy to see why the brass in 1985 wanted more.
#2 Manchester City Top of the Premier League/Global Brand/One of Richest Clubs
The Premier League did not even exist with the top flight of English football being the English First Division and Manchester City was not a contender in 1985 and for the previous 10+ years was middling at best with some years spent in the English Second Division. The last time the Sky Blues hoisted the top division trophy was in 1967/68. It was truly Manchester ‘other club.’
‘Picking one up by their bootstraps’ it was not but with the investment from the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008 Manchester City has become the world’s 5th most valuable football team with estimated value of $1.38 billion, according to Forbes. And it is not just the club value or the roster of international players but the silverware that have fans smiling on the Blue side of Manchester. City won the 2011/12 and 2013/14 Premier League titles and are sitting on top of the table on Oct. 15, 2015.
#1 USMNT Qualifying for FIFA World Cup 7 Consecutive Times…and Counting
Despite the FIFA World Cup being played in Mexico in 1986, the quadrennial tournament felt a long way away and like a longshot dream for U.S. players hoping to represent the Stars and Stripes on the field one day. The U.S. was dumped out of the CONCACAF 1986 WC qualifying in the first round and were forced to watch on TV and turn their attention to 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
The Red, White, and Blue qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in historic fashion. Paul Caligiuri scored the ‘shot heard round the world’ as the U.S. defeated Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 on November 19, 1989 to book their place in Italia 1990. The U.S. earned an automatic berth in 1994 as host and have qualified for every tournament since 1990.
What impossible to believe soccer changes have we missed?