Kyle Rote Jr.:America’s first football star


The United States of America had relatively very few successes in football prior to the 1990s when from that moment never missed a qualification for the World Cup and the sport in finally growing thanks to the domestic league,the MLS (Major League Soccer) and the successes of both women’s and men’s national teams.Prior to the MLS era which began in the mid 1990s,the only professional league which existed was the North American Socccer League which was famous for the New York Cosmos where Chinaglia,Beckenbauer and Pele played.During the NASL era of the mid 1970s and early 1980s many famous foreign players made their mark like Johann Cruyff which played for the LA Aztecs or Gerd Muller for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers,between veteran foreign players which entered NASL in the last years of their careers very few domestic American and Canadian players were given the same spotlight.However there was one American player which amazed the country like never before.Born in Dallas,Texas in 1950 Kyle Rote Jr. was the son of Kyle Rote who played American Football for the Southern Methodist University and later for the New York Giants as a wide reciever,while his cousin Tobin Rote was the quarterback of Green Bay Packers,Detroit Lions,San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos where his biggest successes came with the Packers and Chargers where he won the NFL and AFL Championships and the AFL MVP in 1963.Kyle Rote Jr. was destined to be another great in sports,probably in American Football where he followed the footsteps of his father and cousin.However he in his youth played the European version of the game for the Black Bandits in the Dallas youth football (soccer) league in order keep himself in shape,also he was an all-Texas high school as quarterback and defensive back.However after suffering an injury when he broke his leg after practice at Oklahoma State University,his career in American Football was over.With dreams of playing in the NFL gone,Rote turned to the European version of the game where he was forced to transfer the University of the South in Sewanee,Tennessee since very few universities in the south had soccer on its sports programs.That was in a period before Pele would spark a boom in interest of the sport in the US.In 1972 the NASL decided to hold a college draft in order to recruit players from colleges,Rote was selected in the 1972 NASL draft by the Dallas Tornado which was owned by Lamar Hunt who also was one of the founders of the NASL and owned the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL and later the Kansas City Wizards,Columbus Crew and FC Dallas of the MLS.Besides being selected in the 1972 draft,he began to play in next 1972 season where American players dominated the league,but in case of Rote  Jr. fate intervened onece again since 2 foreign players had immigration problems which left Dallas Tornado coach Ron Newman with very few options.In his first season Rote Jr. didn’t dissapoint and became a sensation,that season Dallas reached the final of the NASL playoffs by beating the New York Cosmos with Rote Jr.’s header,however in the final against the Philadelphia Atoms they lost 2-0.Rote Jr. left a good impression in his 1st season on the field with 10 goals and 10 assists and Sports Illustrated called him “Soccer’s Great American Hope”.Years after he became the highest paid American soccer player in a time where American players where paid below the poverty line and when he signed for the Houston Hurricane in 1979,the club paid 250000 $ for his services,however after a dissapointing season he decided to retire at the age of 28.In the end in 7 seasons he 143 games where he scored 38 goals,after he ended his career he became an indoor soccer commentator,General Manager of an indoor team in Memphis and also was a sports agent for 28 years.Besides retiring at the prime of his career and never playing abroad or in the World Cup,Kyle Rote Jr. was America’s first football star in period where soccer struggled to gain attention in country’s sports landscape and in 2009 the soccer community remembered him by inducting him in the National Soccer Hall of Fame.


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