Imagine if, in 2002, five MLS teams had broken away from the league to seek a stronger future in the A-League.
That’s roughly what we’re seeing now in the latest twist of indoor soccer, which had a fractious history in its heyday and continues to have as many views on the way forward as it has prospective owners.
In another sport, perhaps we would have been surprised to see a championship game immediately followed by a statement about the USL’s commitment to moving forward with a top-quality league … without a few teams.
Fundamental to the resulting reforms that will be implemented is ensuring that our most important partners, the team owners, not only share our vision, but are also capable of meeting the operational, economic, and legal standards of participating in a high-level indoor professional soccer league. As a result, several teams that possess a different philosophy on how to structure and operate an indoor professional soccer league will not be returning to the MISL.
As a follow-up, the USL released a video explaining the situation:
It didn’t take long for the “several teams that possess a different philosophy” to reveal themselves …
Syracuse president/head coach Tommy Tanner, whom some may remember playing on some “physical” N.C. State teams of the late 80s: “What I want to see is a league that’s sustainable, that year after year we don’t lose teams, that we can grow the sport. We definitely are on good terms with the MISL. But we need to find more teams.”
MISL champion Missouri Comets president Brian Budzinski: “We told the league a year and a half ago that we’re committed to this league, but we need to see some sort of growth. We need you guys to step up and get more teams, basically. They haven’t done enough to make us happy. The four of us, if we don’t see some sort of immediate changes, then we’re leaving.”
The other two teams besides Syracuse and Missouri — Rochester and, the unkindest cut of all, indoor soccer cornerstone Baltimore.
Left out of the mix at the moment is another venerable indoor franchise, Milwaukee.
They have another option besides the MISL — the PASL, which launched a professional league a few years ago. It’s not a model of stability, either, and most of its teams would be thrilled to have the attendance figures posted by MISL clubs. But it has more teams, including two that have some institutional links to the glory days — the Dallas Sidekicks and the San Diego Sockers. You may remember the Sockers, who claimed the record for longest professional winning streak ahead of the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis.
So will we see these four teams move to the PASL? Or will they grab the Sidekicks and Sockers and a couple of as-yet-nonexistent teams to form yet another league? Or will the MISL make a massive comeback again?