Oklahoma’s first professional soccer team, Tulsa Roughnecks, started when the club moved from Hawaii to Tulsa in 1978. The club competed in the North American Soccer League, the top level of professional soccer in the U.S. at the time. Matches were played at Skelly Stadium on the campus of the University of Tulsa, and huge crowds as big as 30,000 saw the Roughnecks win multiple championships over the club’s early history. The largest soccer crowd in Tulsa history occurred on April 26, 1980 when Tulsa hosted and defeated the New York Cosmos 2-1.
The Roughnecks were crowned NASL Indoor champions in 1978 via a tournament title. Then in 1983, Tulsa Roughnecks captured Oklahoma’s only professional sports championship to date when it defeated Toronto Blizzard 2-0 in Soccer Bowl ’83 in front of over 53,000 fans. After the disbanding of the original NASL in 1984, Tulsa continued to play friendlies during its final year of operations in 1985.
A member of the USISL Indoor and Pro Leagues, Tulsa Roughnecks found second life in the 90s. The team won multiple division titles in both indoor and outdoor leagues and finished as Runners-up for the USISL Indoor League title in both the 1996/97 and 1997/98 seasons.
Nearly 40 years since the founding of the original Roughnecks, professional soccer returned to Tulsa with the expansion Tulsa Roughnecks FC of the United Soccer League, then the third division of pro soccer in the U.S. Owned by the Tulsa Drillers, Tulsa’s MiLB AA baseball team, the Roughnecks competed for five years in the league, making the playoffs once in 2017. That year, the Roughnecks also made it to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup before falling to FC Dallas of Major League Soccer.
The Roughnecks competed at ONEOK Field, sharing the facility with the Drillers. During the five-year stretch, the Roughnecks featured two players who made USL Best XIs in Juan Pablo Caffa (2017 Second Team) and Rodrigo da Costa (2019 Second Team).
Beginning in 2017, with sanctioning granted by the USSF, the USL and now USL Championship have been the second division of pro soccer in the U.S. Because of its involvement with the league, Roughnecks FC has been a Division II team since 2017, it’s highest place on the U.S. soccer pyramid since 1984.
In August of 2019, J.W., Ryan and Kyle Craft, brothers native to Tulsa, purchased the franchise, ushering in a new era of professional soccer in Tulsa. Two months after taking over as owners, the Craft brothers hired James Cannon to be President of Tulsa Roughnecks FC and stated their commitment to a new level of investment in the club on the field and in the Tulsa community.
On December 4, 2019, the Crafts, Cannon and the club announced that team name would change to FC Tulsa with a beautiful new crest featuring the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, the state bird of Oklahoma, and a vibrant new color scheme.
The club's new direction has continued to manifest itself during the 2020 offseason as FC Tulsa has made splash signings to bolster the roster. With a number of elite players, FC Tulsa's roster stands up to the USL Championship's best as it looks to make its mark near the top of the Western Conference standings.