May 10, 2021
American soccer insiders know Steve Gans as one of the sport's leading domestic corporate attorneys, with a long track record of legal representation from all sides of the ball - including as a former candidate for the US Soccer Federation's highly contentious presidential election in 2018.
Few, however, are aware that the Boston-born-and-raised Gans - who also spearheaded the Foxborough, MA venue bid for the US-hosted 1994 World Cup - began his long professional association with the 'beautiful game" as a teenaged marketing/PR intern with two of the most regionally peripatetic franchises in North American Soccer League history: the Boston Minutemen (1974-76) and the New England Tea Men (1978-80).
The Minutemen played two successful and one dismal outdoor seasons in the NASL spread across six different home fields - including a hodgepodge of 1976 venues completely outside of Boston proper (Quincy, Foxborough, New Bedford). Star players like brash American goalkeeper Shep Messing and Portuguese international legend Eusebio dotted early lineups, but team owner John Sterge's sketchy and ultimately criminal business dealings soon undermined the club's fledgling success.
After a year's absence, the NASL returned to the area in 1978 with the expansion New England Tea Men - owned by the Lipton Tea Company and domiciled in Foxborough's Schaefer Stadium. The composition of the team belied its nickname, as a largely British-flavored roster - led by Charlton Athletic loanee and eventual league MVP Mike Flanagan - topped its division and even knocked off the mighty Cosmos twice. But the wheels started coming off in 1979, when Charlton refused to loan Flanagan again, and a dispute with nearby Foxboro Raceway forced the club to hastily move to Boston University's Nickerson Field, where attendances dropped precipitously. By 1981, the club had fled to Jacksonville, and the region was bereft of pro soccer until the MLS Revolution in 1996.