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Nov 30, 2020

For the first time since Episode 47 with Dennis Seese, we dial back to US pro soccer's optimistic but tenuous late 1960's reboot, with Derek Liecty - the founding general manager of one the period's most successful (yet historically overlooked) teams, the Oakland (née California) Clippers.

One of ten inaugural franchises in the renegade National Professional Soccer League - one of two competing attempts to launch true "Division One"  soccer in North America (the other being an officially FIFA-sanctioned 12-team United Soccer Association) in the spring of 1967 - the Clippers were unquestionably the NPSL's best club.

Stocked with a pipeline of top Yugoslavian imports (including NPSL All-Stars Ilija Mitic and Mirko Stojanovic), the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum-based club captured the regular season title with 19-8-5 record (23 points better than the second-best Baltimore Bays), and were undefeated at home.  The Clippers bested the Bays in the two-game NPSL championship final (4-2 on aggregate) and also claimed an unprecedented "treble" by defeating the division runner-up St. Louis Stars for the league's post-championship "Commissioner's Cup."

Survivors of an off-season NPSL-USA merger, the Clippers continued their winning ways in the new 17-team North American Soccer League - tying for most wins (18), scoring the most goals (71), posting the second-best point total (185), and sending five players to the 1968 NASL All-Star team.  But due to a quirk in the league's distortional divisional points system, the club oddly missed the four-team playoff cut - and were denied a chance to defend its NPSL title. 
When the NASL contracted to just five clubs at season's end, Oakland owners Joseph O'Neill and H.T. Hilliard opted instead for a more lucrative series of independent international exhibitions; renamed again as the California Clippers, the team played top teams such as Atlas, Chivas, USSR champion Dynamo Kiev, and Italian champion Fiorentina at stadiums across the state (including LA's Memorial Coliseum).
O'Neill and Hillard pulled the plug for good in June 1969, when the US Soccer Federation refused to sanction further matches.