Recently, a series of events dealt huge blows to the state of professional indoor soccer. After Major Indoor Soccer League Commissioner Steve Ryan resigned in late May, the league decided to halt operations in favor of creating a fresh league with a new system. To the dismay of indoor soccer fans everywhere (insert jokes here), the future is in great question.
Sure, there is still the emerging Premier Arena Soccer League (PASL) Pro League. However, longtime fans of the MISL (even the original MISL from decades ago) still want to see the league return stronger, better, and more business-savvy than ever. Regardless of what the new league may be called, there are certain “do’s and don’ts” that the owners will face when mapping it out.
1 DO: Hold on to some of the more well-supported teams. Clubs such as Milwaukee, Chicago Baltimore are pivotal to the success of any indoor soccer league, as there is significant history in all of these cities.
2 DO: Continue to expand smartly. The Detroit Ignition have done well both on and off the field in their two years of existence, and bringing the New Jersey Ironmen into the league also brings in ownership with experience in the NHL and other bigger sporting events. This strategic expansion includes more balance in the geography of the teams. Having one team in California, one team in Mexico, and the next closest team in Milwaukee is detrimental to any league. Also, bring back some of the old teams whose names carry weight and who have long time fans – San Diego, St. Louis, Cleveland.
3 DO NOT: Think that such an initiative should mean that expansion should be rushed. Though the Orlando Sharks franchise claims to be returning to the field next year, they suffered a dismal inaugural season – one of the worst ever on the field, and poor attendance off of it.
4 DO NOT: Forget the little things as owners. Simple stuff such as keeping websites updated and creating some interesting promotions will keep people happy and make them return customers. Too often with MISL.net, the score of a game could not be found and updated merchandise could not be bought. This is not something that keeps fans happy, and the team and league communications and public relations departments will need to get their acts together.
5 DO: Keep the rules the way they are (for the most part). Team owners should not be worrying about drawing the purists to see their product, because the game is already too different from outdoor soccer for them to ever consider giving it a chance. So, keep those three-point and two-point goals, those sixth attackers, and those blue cards. They keep the game fun, and as long as the players are skilled, everything works out.
While the struggles of the Major Indoor Soccer League show that the sport still has a lot of work to do, there are still many well-supported teams in the now-defunct league. As the MISL owners have said in their respective press releases, the system in place for the MISL was “inherently flawed,” and needed to be more business-driven. This is absolutely true, and hopefully the new league, whatever it may be named, will return stronger than ever.
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: email@example.com
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