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United Soccer Leagues Announces I-League; Rochester Lancers Founding Team

2010 July 21
by Brian Quarstad

As expected, the United Soccer Leagues announced today a new indoor league called I-League which will begin play in November of 2011 and conclude with its inaugural championship in February/March, 2012.

The USL made the announcement from Rochester, New York where a new Rochester franchise was also announced. The name of the NY franchise will be the Rochester Lancers and the team will be owned and operated by Saving Soccer, LLC, which is comprised of several local business leaders, including Chris Wilmot and Salvatore “Soccer Sam” Fantauzzo.

The USL expects to make additional announcements soon regarding franchises in Syracuse, New York and Hampton Roads, Virginia. The press release also states that the league has “other markets currently participating in advanced discussions with USL.” They also claim that short-term plans for the league include regional divisions in the Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South and Southeast.

The press release also states that the USL intends to affiliate the I-League directly with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which is currently without a sanctioned professional indoor soccer league.

Tim Holt, President of the USL, was quoted in the press release as saying: “Additionally, the teams would have the opportunity to retain many of their established players for the entire year.” While this has always been true of indoor teams that contracted with players, it was interesting that it was noted almost as a selling point of owning a team. If a team owns a player they can then loan that player to an outdoor team. Of course the opposite is true as well.

Official Press Release

40 Responses
  1. ERic permalink
    July 21, 2010

    Actually, now that I think about it, what this says to me is that the USL is acknowledging that they’ve lost the USL1 (as rumored by GoalSeattle on Big Soccer). This is an attempt to gain back a little of the higher-level professional talent that will be leaving their umbrella next season.

    At least, that’s one way to read these tea leaves.

    It’s also a way to compete with the NASL teams while not directly competing with them.

    Petty, and stupid, IMHO. But maybe I’m not as smart or competitive a businessman.

  2. Bart permalink
    July 21, 2010

    Actually, this creates a venue for outdoor soccer team owners to use their front offices to continue to market during the off season, as opposed to having no income during that period and continuing to have ongoing expense administratively.

    Much like the minor league baseball team owner looking for more ways to use their stadiums, this, on a nationalized, but regional level could boost profits for D-2 owners that need to have more consistent income.

    I don’t think this has anything to do with USL1 being lost, it is another revenue generator that helps team owners do better as well. Smart move by USL.

    There has been a lot of discussion on the decline of indoor soccer here in the US. This is largely because the individual leagues have been fragmented, unprofessional attempts to have local endeavors. If USL does this right, it creates demand even at the MLS level.

  3. Soccer Boy permalink
    July 21, 2010

    Nice logo-NOT! Maybe they could of had a design contest? I think I could have given a box of crayons to my 4-year old and she could have come up with something better. Hopefully they will not tap Pat Forciea to finance a team in MN.

  4. Sounder75 permalink
    July 22, 2010

    LOL The writing is on the wall. They should jus sell the USL to the MSL and get some back before they piss it all away.

  5. CoconutMonkey permalink
    July 22, 2010

    Man that logo reminds me of Iowa State!

  6. Demolition Man permalink
    July 22, 2010

    What a ugly ugly ugly logo.

  7. July 22, 2010

    From the announcement of a single team so far, to the depressingly defensive name they chose for their company (“Saving Soccer, LLC”? Really?), I think this has “long shot” written all over it. But we’ll see, I guess.

  8. July 22, 2010

    The group was named Saving Soccer because when they formed they were trying to save the Rochester Rinos before Rob Clark stepped in and purchased the team in 2008.

  9. July 22, 2010

    The first thing I thought of when I heard this “news” was exactly what ERic said above. It smacks of desperation, IMO. Regardless, I couldn’t care less about indoor soccer.

  10. ERic permalink
    July 22, 2010

    After years of being hot and cold on the USL, I can safely say that as long as the Aztex are around, I’ll follow them in whatever league they’re in.

    I would be stunned if the I-League was one of them.

  11. July 22, 2010

    “Actually, this creates a venue for outdoor soccer team owners to use their front offices to continue to market during the off season, as opposed to having no income during that period and continuing to have ongoing expense administratively.”

    Sounds good, doesn’t it?

    Unfortunately, you NEED a cyclical operation unless you’re going to have a really large staff (which would defeat the purpose). It’s not that they can ‘continue to market during the offseason,’ it’s that they have to do that AND be in operations mode through their offseason (the indoor season). That’s a lot to ask from a front office. Especially a USL one, which is simply not usually that large.

    Plus, the benefits of marketing your outdoor team using your indoor team aren’t as big as you might think, given that it’s a different product and (believe it or not) a fanbase that doesn’t overlap as much as you might think.

    The year-round NASL teams didn’t find a lot of success doing both (in fact, it split the league into factions – some wanted to play just indoor, some wanted nothing to do with indoor). The Montreal Impact bought the Columbus Invaders and had a team in the NPSL for a few years, that didn’t go well for them. Milwaukee Wave United was an experiment in the other direction, with the Wave adding an outdoor team (it lasted two years).

    Sounds good. Sounds workable. I’m not sure it is.

    See here: http://www.bigsoccer.com/forum/showpost.php?p=5129501&postcount=94

  12. Bart permalink
    July 22, 2010

    I don’t see where this smack of desparation. I see it as leveraging resources already in place to create another income stream for USL. Like it or not, it is about the income stream that creates longevity. And that is called, good old American ingenuity.

    For the purists, you are not getting this at all. Soccer is part of the entertainment sports industry. If you listen to DiVeronica’s epod, Soccer Sam is clear that it will all be about an entertainment show.

    Essentially, that is what we do here in the good ole U S of A.

  13. July 22, 2010

    This, itself, does not smack of desperation. But when combined with the expansion to Orlando and Antigua and the beefing up of the league office, it at least does feel like USL got the fear of God put in it by the whole NASL/TOA thing.

    Which is fine, actually. Whatever it took to shake up the status quo.

    As for purists, they’re not into indoor anyway, so I don’t know why they care.

  14. July 22, 2010

    (BTW, it’s United Soccer LeagueS. Plural.)

  15. July 22, 2010

    Kenn, not sure if you had seen my comments on this other post about this. Looks like we are on the same page.

    http://www.insidemnsoccer.com/2010/07/21/ready-or-not-another-pro-indoor-soccer-league/#comment-8838

  16. Bart permalink
    July 23, 2010

    KT,

    Now that aspect is one I have not considered and it does make some sense. Over a fiscal year, there are different responsibilities the front office has to deal with, and this may place an individual team office on overload.

  17. July 23, 2010

    And any economies of scale may be eaten up in wear and tear on the staff. Seriously, if you have, basically, a season that never ends, it’s really hard to get things done because you’re always putting on a game. In short staff situations, that’s not conducive to getting the most out of them or generating the amount of revenue you need.

    Of course, you could hire an entirely separate staff, but USL teams don’t all have that ability and it eats up any economies of scale.

  18. July 23, 2010

    Any economies of scale you might get by using the same front office for both teams would be negated if you expanded staff to handle the overload.

    It’s hard enough for USL teams that have a men’s and women’s versions – believe me, been there. If it sounds like a vacation in the off-season, it’s really not. Adding an indoor component to your offerings sounds good on paper, but I would have to see it actually work more than once to be convinced it’s a good idea.

  19. July 23, 2010

    “I don’t see where this smack of desparation.”

    No, but combined with the Orlando and Antigua things and the ramping up of staff in Tampa, it certainly looks like USL had the fear of God put in them by the whole TOA/NASL thing. Which may not be such a bad thing. The status quo needed to be shaken up.

    “For the purists, you are not getting this at all. Soccer is part of the entertainment sports industry. If you listen to DiVeronica’s epod, Soccer Sam is clear that it will all be about an entertainment show.”

    Purists don’t usually care about indoor. So, just like I tell the football and basketball people who rip on soccer, I don’t really care about their opinion on this matter.

    The original MISL was all about entertainment at a time when sports as performance art and spectator experience was still fairly nascent. Now, everybody does it (and you can thank the MISL for that, largely). It’s not novel anymore.

  20. tomASS permalink
    July 23, 2010

    Soccer Boy – LOL !

  21. tomASS permalink
    July 23, 2010

    won’t they actually incur more expense from the rental or lease of facilities, additional marketing costs to promote the league and games, and additional travel costs? Not knowing how the player contracts are written, but this is a new season of participation that the players knew nothing about when signing the original agreements.

    I’m sure sharper tools and brighter bulbs have thought all this through.

    Why not try something different – indoor beach soccer during the winter. Players wear swim suits and play without shirts to attract the female and gay dollar. The referees are all Maxim Models in thongs.

    KT’s points are very solid, I just wish to have a more of a light hearted view of this. I’m a hockey fan also. My winter expendable dollars are all spoken for

  22. Maddox permalink
    July 23, 2010

    “Why not try something different – indoor beach soccer during the winter. Players wear swim suits and play without shirts to attract the female and gay dollar. The referees are all Maxim Models in thongs.”

    Already got the gay market in mind with that handle-bar mustache included in the logo!

  23. July 23, 2010

    “won’t they actually incur more expense from the rental or lease of facilities, additional marketing costs to promote the league and games, and additional travel costs?”

    Yes, and won’t they actually generate concurrent revenue from the sale of tickets and sponsorships? At least, that’s the plan. Nobody doubles their expenses without a revenue stream to support it, do they?

    Also, most D2 contracts are not year-round. A player who is currently playing for Team A that decides to start an I-League component doesn’t necessarily have to play for the I-League team. In fact, unless things have changed radically, a lot of D2-type contracts are year-to-year, meaning not a lot of guys are currently signed through the 2011 outdoor season (some probably are).

    You could either sign a guy to a year-round deal that would include playing outdoors and indoors or one that includes one or the other. Some outdoor players simply don’t make good indoor players and vice versa and some guys don’t necessarily WANT to play both (both for wear and tear and other personal reasons). You’re bound to have some guys who come in and out with the solstices. If you want some continuity, you’d like to have a few guys who will play both, and I’m sure there will always be SOME guys for whom a year-round job in one city that they can plan for and don’t have to pick up and move back and forth every six months is an attractive proposition.

  24. July 23, 2010

    (Oh, and it’s United Soccer LeagueS. I’m sure you know that.)

  25. July 23, 2010

    No idea what you’re talking about.

    Seriously, I do know that and should know better. Usually I try to catch that but you can probably find a hundred other instances on my site where I’ve boneheadedly done the same thing.

  26. tomASS permalink
    July 23, 2010

    KT wrote ” Yes, and won’t they actually generate concurrent revenue from the sale of tickets and sponsorships? At least, that’s the plan. Nobody doubles their expenses without a revenue stream to support it, do they?”

    That would be called a business plan, however a plan and the execution of it is another matter. The revenue you refer to does not come in before the expenses go out. They operate from a deficit unless they are capital rich and can afford the initial expense. There is no guarantee the revenue stream will be sufficient. It is just their plan. To me they are taking a financial gamble and I think the odds are better in Vegas. The double dip in the recession is about to take place. If I own the arena I’m asking for full payment up front to limit any financial exposure.

    Hey, it’s their money. I have no right to tell them how to spend it or invest it.

    I do appreciate your explanation of how the contracts are probably structured. Good insight

  27. July 24, 2010

    Of course there are startup expenses. In the case of the Rochester Lancers, there are a bunch of startup expenses because they don’t have an existing infrastructure.

    But take your average D2 team. Let’s say they decide to add an I-League component. They’ll have some startup expenses, but not nearly as many as Rochester. And, yes, you wouldn’t do it without planning to lay out some cash before the ticket and sponsorship revenue rolled in. If you started now (or soon) and didn’t play until 2011, you could bank some before kickoff. You’d be in a slightly better situation than Rochester.

    Of COURSE there’s no guarantee the revenue stream will be sufficient. THAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH SOCCER IN GENERAL AND INDOOR IN PARTICULAR. But you said, basically, “wait, they’re going to vastly increase their expenses.” All I said was, “Yes, and they hope they’re going to increase enough revenue to cover that, because they’re not going to stage an indoor season for free.”

    That’s all.

  28. Trevor permalink
    July 25, 2010

    I’d be interested to see the number of players who would play in both an indoor and outdoor league. My guess is that it would be very small. We do see some players who have played the indoor game make the transition to outdoor, but playing both? These are two completely different games, and (as has been said) they’ve got completely different marketing strategies.

    I think that this new league is more about Marcos needing some more franchising fees to make a proper bid for the D2 crown than anything else. It’s not as though America is clamoring for more indoor soccer.

  29. Jane permalink
    July 25, 2010

    Trevor has figured it out except it won’t help their D2 bid which will be DOA.

  30. Leroy permalink
    July 25, 2010

    Jane,

    Why do you say that the D2 bid is DOA? Is USSF banning USL from D2 participation totally?

  31. July 25, 2010

    It’s jut Janes opinion but both sides have big issues at the moment. If you’ve not read my 4-part article on “Rethinking Division 2 Soccer in North America” it might be helpful to get a better grasp on what’s happening.

  32. July 25, 2010

    Right now, neither side’s bid for DII sanctioning looks all that healthy, but I guess we’ll know more in two weeks when USSF (supposedly) lays out its actual standards. I’m still skeptical that either USL or the NASL can reach them, realistically.

  33. Jeff Wolter permalink
    July 25, 2010

    KT-
    “Yes, and won’t they actually generate concurrent revenue from the sale of tickets and sponsorships? At least, that’s the plan. Nobody doubles their expenses without a revenue stream to support it, do they?”

    LOL… Welcome to the USA soccer scene… Don’t try reason as a method of understanding it, you might get a bit frustrated. Remember USL is not about making leagues work, they’re about creating start up fees as revenue to stay afloat as long as possible. Nike took one look at USL and said “OH BOY, LETS GET OUT FAST, SELL THIS MONSTER BEFORE IT DESTROYS US…”

  34. July 25, 2010

    It is hard for me to understand how this league will be able to make a profit. Sometimes, I get the impression that stuff like this is there just to satisfy some wealthy guy’s hobbies. The premise is good. It is a valuable ideal. But, the expectations are so low. They say that they do not expect to ever play at Madison Sqare Garden or Staples Center, yet they think it’s okay to be a ‘minor’ Minor league. If it were me in this project, I would expect to play the biggest and best venues, period. I would be in this to make money.

  35. Leroy permalink
    July 25, 2010

    Americanizingsoccer.com

    That may be why you get a W-2 each year instead of a K-1.

    Bigger is not necessarily better. A complete strategy is good for all businesses, and the doomsdayers on this blog seem to have separate agendas.

  36. JOE permalink
    July 26, 2010

    this site is clearly USL biased

  37. Jane permalink
    July 26, 2010

    Jeff has now joined Trevor in understanding USL. It is all about franchise fees with little to no regard to a well executed growth business model that helps the teams. Does anyone out there really believe that an indoor soccer league will grow the outdoor game? Do you really believe that outdoor owners and players want their players playing year around?

    You are all certainly right in criticizing the NASL owners with regards to how they have approached the problem. However, you cannot criticize them for trying to create a business model that is trying to increase their attendance in order to stop the bleeding of cash. And they are trying to do this by creating an owners controlled league that focuses on growing soccer across the U.S. and Canada at the D2 level. They can achieve this goal, albeit may take several years, by (1) a well executed expansion plan that includes many more cities with strong financial owners groups, and (2) league wide marketing, etc. This goal is totally opposite of the USL goal….just look at the USL history….teams come in with franchise fees with no regard to the strength of the owners, and go out creating another slot for franchise fees. This strategy has stunted growth and most certainly the reputation of a D2 league. And this reputation also had a lot to do with Vancouver, Montreal, and Portland giving up, paying the $40M franchise fee and moving to the MLS. As I recall both Vancouver and Montreal were key leaders in the TOA/NASL movement which means they were committed to the new league before giving up the fight and moving to the MLS. And by the way rumors have it that both Vancouver and Montreal want to have teams in the D2 league if the MLS will approve of it.

  38. Leroy permalink
    July 26, 2010

    Jane,

    Interesting comment that Vancouver, Montreal and Portland are “giving up” and then go pay $40,000,000 to MLS as a result. I would love to have folks give up in the manner you raise.

    It is a step up for these teams, folks, not a measure of desperation. These markets can take it to a higher level. And contrary to your persumption, if Vancouver and Montreal want to continue with a D-2 team, that is hardly the action of one “giving up”.

  39. July 26, 2010

    “Nike took one look at USL and said “OH BOY, LETS GET OUT FAST, SELL THIS MONSTER BEFORE IT DESTROYS US…”

    That “one look” took two years. So, yeah.

  40. Jeff Wolter permalink
    July 27, 2010

    One budget and they made their decision to go to an exit strategy that took time to implement, yep two years, your right about that.

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