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Toronto FC to honour Toronto Metros-Croatia on the 40th Anniversary of Soccer Bowl Championship

On Saturday before kickoff against the Montreal Impact

FC Dallas v Toronto FC
Toronto Metros-Croatia to be honoured under the lights at BMO Field
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

There was a dinner this evening up at the Kia Training Grounds ahead of tomorrow's match against the Montreal Impact at BMO Field.

A group of old friends, teammates really, got together to celebrate, to commemorate, a special event in Canadian soccer history.

The year was 1976, the old NASL was in it's heyday – Pele had signed for the New York Cosmos the year before, ushering in a flood of global stars – and Wings and Elton John topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles list. What a grand time to be alive.

But it was a plucky group of upstarts from Toronto, who, were it not for a collection in a church basement, may not have even existed, that lifted the trophy on August 28 in Seattle's Kingdome, having beaten the Minnesota Kicks 3-0 in the final.

The names spread amongst the league in those days are stunning. New York had Giorgio Chinaglia alongside Pele. San Antonio had Bobby Moore – yup, that Bobby Moore. And George Best was in Los Angeles.

But Metros-Croatia had a pearl of their own, the great Eusebio.

And it nearly didn't happen at all. The club had to win their final four regular season matches to earn a berth in the post-season, then dispatch the Rochester Lancers and the Chicago Sting, in order, the latter in a shootout, before setting a Conference Championship date with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the defending champions.

On little rest, they then went to Tampa, dispatched the Rowdies 2-0, earning a spot in the Soccer Bowl.

Eusebio opened the scoring before half-time, his sixteenth goal of the season, and Ivan Lukacevic added a second shortly after the restart. Brazilian Ivair Ferriera, who set up Lukacevic, sealed the result in the 83-minute to win the first and only championship in club history.

Check out this swinging feature from CBC Sports.

That side, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of that memorable night, will be honoured at TFC's home match.

Speaking at the dinner, Bob Iarusci, a defender on Metros-Croatia, said, “It’s an honour for our team to be recognized by Toronto FC after winning the Soccer Bowl 40 years ago.”

“That team was fantastic,” continued Iarusci. “A great group of players with a lot of talent, including one of the greatest of all-time, Eusebio, and the Brazilian Prince, Ivair Ferreira. We had a great mix of young and old and bringing the team together brings back a lot of wonderful memories.”

“This is the third reunion we’ve had after the 25th anniversary and [the induction] into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame, five years ago. Sadly, we’ve lost a number of great teammates over the years, but it’s always nice to bring the group together and it’s something we’ve all been looking forward to.”

The match is the third of four Heritage Series Matches – the first two saw Danny Dichio and Jimmy Brennan honoured. The fourth will be played on September 18 vs. New York Red Bulls, with Dwayne De Rosario the honoured guest.

There will be opportunities for autograph signings, and, of course, admission to the Canadian National Exhibition is free with a match ticket.

Toronto Metros-Croatia will be represented by: forwards Ivan Grnja and Pat Ercoli; defenders Bob Iarusci, Paul D'Agostino, and Mladen Cukon; goalkeeper Zeljko Bilecki, and coach, Marian Bilic.

Be sure to arrive early, and partake of all that the CNE entails. Matches under the midway are also special. Enjoy!