Tales of soccer survival: MISL’s Milwaukee Wave

For a few years, indoor soccer was the dominant form of the game in the United States, with more than 10,000 watching the hybrid of hockey and outdoor soccer. Serbian-born Preki carved out a nice career in the indoor game before going outside with MLS and proving that his skills translated to a bigger field without those pesky walls.

These days, the outdoor game is alive and well, and indoor continues on its own path. The MISL went away for a while, leaving two competing leagues that eventually came together and became the MISL again, except last year, when the league was the NISL. The PASL, which operates a pro league and amateur divisions, opted to affiliate with FIFRA. No, not FIFA, the custodians of the World Cup. The PASL actually has its own U.S. Open Cup, with the reborn San Diego Sockers (first version immortalized in this not-quite-Super-Bowl-Shuffle video) traveling to take on the Louisville Lightning this weekend.

Anyway: The Milwaukee Wave led Sunday’s MISL final 6-0 in the third quarter. Then came a three-point goal by Monterrey’s Chile Farias, quickly followed by a two-pointer to make it 6-5. La Raza took the lead late in the third, made it 9-6 in the fourth and tacked on an empty-net three-pointer for a 12-6 win. (Video highlights)

Not the way any player, coach or fan wants to end a season, but after what Milwaukee went through last year, the city’s soccer community still has plenty to celebrate.

In 2008, the MISL (formerly NPSL, incorporating the WISL) fell apart. The Wave, along with a couple of other teams, formed the short-lived XSL — Xtreme Soccer League, not the programming language that renders XML into something publishable. The California Cougars moved to the PASL, which was launching a pro division. The remaining MISL teams limped through a season as the NISL.

As the XSL collapsed after one season, the Wave came close to extinction. Indoor teams have come and gone, but the Wave would be a tough loss — formed in 1984, they’re the longest-running pro team in the USA.

New Jersey Ironmen

Artwork of the now-extinct New Jersey Ironmen alongside the New Jersey Devils outside Newark's Prudential Center.

Enter new owner Jim Lindenberg, who kept the team afloat and brought it back into the NISL — which would change back to the MISL for reasons too complex to detail here. And then Lindenberg brought back a one-time Wave executive who had gone on to front-office stardom — rare status indeed — with the Chicago Fire and Chicago Red Stars: Peter Wilt.

“This was a good year both for the Wave and the MISL,” Wilt said by e-mail. “Both the League and team have established a solid foundation and are positioned for growth.  The Wave grew its ticket revenue by 30% and its sponsor revenue by 35% over last year.  The Commissioner is reporting that expansion prospects are very positive for 2010-11.”

The Wave dealt with more strife during the season as popular player Marco Terminesi was diagnosed with a brain anomaly that could be a tumor. Further tests are scheduled this week, he tells Inside Minnesota Soccer. Yet the team finished 14-6, good for first place in the regular season and the right to host the final.

And so a local columnist who admits to little knowledge of indoor soccer, Michael Hunt, devoted his column today to the Wave’s survival.

Longtime Wave coach Keith Tozer: “We saved the franchise. Now we’ve got to go out and keep selling it in the off-season.”

Wilt sees the indoor game itself a good complement to the game on grass (and FieldTurf):

“Outdoor soccer fans are, and always have been, a sub-segment of indoor fans.  Indoor soccer has a broader, though, shallower fan base.  There are many indoor fans who don’t like outdoor soccer (and vice-versa). Youth soccer players and parents continue to form the core base of indoor soccer, but there are plenty of traditional mainstream sports fans who don’t like outdoor soccer, but do enjoy indoor soccer.”

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7 Responses to Tales of soccer survival: MISL’s Milwaukee Wave

  1. Jason says:

    “The MISL went away for a while, leaving two competing leagues that eventually came together and became the MISL again, except last year, when the league was the NISL.”

    Which was one of the two competing leagues.

    See, that’s good writing right there, folks.

    The MISL went away after the 2007-2008 season, to be replaced by the two competing leagues (the XSL and the NISL). Then the XSL went away and the Wave joined the NISL, which became the MISL right before the start of this season.

  2. Beau Dure says:

    Go back a little farther — I was thinking of the NPSL and the WISL.

  3. Sgc says:

    As someone who thinks indoor is basically a bastardized cotton-candy version of the game that could never have advanced us to where we are today in world soccer, let alone where we want to go, I had the following thought once, and shuddered:

    What if Freddy Adu had come along in the 80s?

    Seriously, would there even be an MLS today if Freddy had come along in the 80s? His skills would have translated perfectly to the indoor game, where he would have lived up to the hype, regularly scored the goals the audience expected, and kept the houses full probably through two decades.

  4. Jason says:

    “Go back a little farther — I was thinking of the NPSL and the WISL.”

    Then you’re still wrong.

    “The MISL went away for a while….”

    The ORIGINAL MISL went away for a while, but it didn’t leave two competing leagues, and they weren’t the NPSL and WISL. When the original MISL went away for a while (1992-2001), it left the NPSL.

    The WISL didn’t come along until after the Dallas Sidekicks bolted from the CISL (which didn’t come along until 1993) in late 1997. In essence, there was the NPSL and the PSA/WISL from 1998-2001. By 2001, the NPSL had reorganized as the second MISL. And the WISL kinda-sorta merged with that entity the next year.

    So, no, not only were you wrong, you worded it really strangely.

  5. Beau Dure says:

    From a literal point of view, you’re right — the CISL didn’t pop up immediately after the MISL’s demise.

    But frankly, a full-scale timeline wasn’t what I was intending here. I wanted to give just enough of the indoor game’s history to show that we’ve seen a lot of changes, some of which I covered in far greater detail as they happened:
    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/dure37.htm

    (Yes, that’s the one in which Steve Ryan says the future of the game is indoors.)

    It may be a little too cutesy and flippant for your tastes, which is understandable. I just felt that more of an explanation would be too long and too dry, and I wanted to get on with it and talk about the final.

  6. Beau Dure says:

    @Sgc – Adu actually struggles a bit in a tight, physical game. Wide-open spaces suit him better. Jozy Altidore, on the other hand, would’ve been an indoor monster.

  7. Sgc says:

    I don’t know, man, I think the footskill and first-step quickness would blow guys away, and all you have to do to protect him is carry an enforcer. Where Freddy hurts is on a dead sprint.

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