- Keith Hickey

In 2011, American domestic soccer is the most secure it has ever been. The league as a whole, and most of its clubs, are in zero danger of collapse. It's hard for us to imagine a time when the very existence of top flight domestic soccer was under threat. But in 1984, that was the case. The halcyon days of Pele and Beckenbauer over, the North American Soccer League was limping into its sixteenth season. Just nine teams remained, down from a high of 24 just four years previous. But as we read in this article from the Sports Illustrated vault, the NASL introduced a revolutionary concept just before its final season:

"We've changed direction onto a course that may eventually affect all professional sports in America." By that he meant a total cap on player salaries, which is a main element of the new agreement—an $825,000 per annum maximum payroll for each club, to be achieved by mandatory annual 10% reductions. "The National Basketball Association has a salary cap system based on a percentage of team revenues, but, for the first time in America, this is a total cap," Samuels says, "and one day, even though this was forced on us, all of American pro sport will thank us."

And although 1984 would be the last, desperate hurrah for the NASL, and it would be nearly a decade before MLS took up the flag for top-flight pro soccer in the US, that salary cap had reverberations throughout the American sporting landscape. Today, the NFL, NBA, MLS, and NHL all have a salary cap, and they can thank the NASL for that.

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