A documentary shows how the Wolverhampton Wanderers, seven years before Pele and almost thirty years before Major League Soccer, ignited the U.S. soccer boom.

Documentary reveals how Wolverhampton Wanderers kickstarted the U.S. Soccer boom – seven years before Pele and nearly 30 years before MLS

The film, 1967: When Wolves Conquered the USA, comes courtesy of Wolves Studios and Footballco-owned publisher MUNDIAL. It focuses on the summer of 1967 and Los Angeles Wolves’ United Soccer Association league title through never-before-seen footage, transporting supporters back to the scene of the championship glory.

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The documentary’s trailer was released on July 14 to mark the 56-year anniversary of the United Soccer Association’s championship final at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Seven years before Pele joined New York Cosmos and almost 30 years before first MLS’ season, the tournament saw 12 clubs from around the world invited to spread the football gospel stateside – including Wolves.

Buckets of cold water, wet pitches and floodlights – How Wolverhampton Wanderers rescued English football and forged the European Cup in the Black Country. | Gary Thacker

Involving several players from Wanderers’ 1966-67 squad, LA Wolves’ victory in the first major U.S. soccer league is seen by many as the launchpad of the sport becoming known and loved across the pond.

Sports executive Alan Rothenberg explained: “The 1966 World Cup was carried by satellite into the United States, and so a bunch of sportsmen decided to start a league. People will look back and say what was the history of soccer in this country, and people will have to go back to 1967 and say this is where it all began.”

Kevin Baxter, LA Times sportswriter, said: “The idea of professional soccer in the United States, no one had ever really thought about that, not at that level. The US didn’t qualify for World Cup between 1950 and 1990, so soccer was dead – and then the Wolves come along.

LA Wolves Premiere2

“There isn’t that tradition here that maybe there is in England or Europe where teams are a hundred years old. Everything has to be new here. There is that legacy. They proved that it could work.”

Without players of their own, the United Soccer Association opted to import whole teams from Europe and South America for the competition’s inaugural season, giving them time to build their own squads for the following campaign. Coming off the back of a 1966-67 Division Two promotion, players such as Phil Parkes, Mike Bailey, Derek Dougan, Gerry Taylor and Terry Wharton headed to the ‘City of Angels’ as Wolves were chosen to represent Los Angeles.

Wolves faced a Western Division consisting of clubs such as San Francisco Golden Gate Gales (ADO Den Haag), Vancouver Royal Canadians (Sunderland) and Houston Stars (Bangu AC), but the side were able to progress to the championship final.

Facing off against Washington Whips (Aberdeen) in the LA Coliseum, the match culminated in Wolves claiming the inaugural Presidents Cup following a thrilling 6-5 extra time win over the Whips. The beautiful game had arrived in the USA – and it was here to stay.

MUNDIAL’s editorial director Owen Blackhurst, Footballco’s Max Agostini and cinematographer Matt Sellers have been working alongside Wolves’ Yannie Makarounas – director and producer of Raul Jimenez: Code Red – to bring the story of the 1967 title to life.

Speaking of Footballco and MUNDIAL’s appeal to the project, Blackhurst said: “It’s a story which hasn’t been told – or hasn’t been told properly – which is always important, but it’s also such a good one. It’s a time in football which no-one really knows about. The MLS story has been told, the NASL story has been told, but this story hasn’t

“This documentary is not just about the football, it’s about the human stories and the people who did something which changed their lives in a small or big way. Some of these players were kids who had never left their homes before. They were growing up in fairly industrial places, so to be transported from 1960s Wolverhampton to 60s LA must have been mind-blowing. They described it as like being on the moon.”

Makarounas, Wolves video manager, added: “There are avid Wolves fans who either don’t remember this story or don’t even know it ever happened, which is something almost unheard of when it comes to Wolves.

“Everyone knows the stories of Honved and the floodlit friendlies at Molineux which helped launch European club football, everyone knows about our English league title wins, our FA Cups and our League Cups, but the story of LA Wolves and the influence the club had on football in the US has gone under the radar, but it’s up to us to tell it in the most interesting way possible.”

The full documentary will be released in September, but fans interested in the story can find out more at la.wolves.co.uk, a microsite designed specifically to celebrate this special moment in the clubs history. Special LA Wolves commemorative merchandise, produced by Avery Dennison, is also now available to buy on la.wolves.co.uk, including limited edition jerseys, replica hoodies and caps.

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