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USL Announces Merger with Major Indoor Soccer League

2011 May 17
tags: ,
by Brian Quarstad

The United Soccer Leagues announced on Monday a merger between the United Soccer Leagues (USL) and the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). The announcement states that the USL will run the MISL for the 2011-2012 season.

The League will be led by Chris Economides, senior director of USL’s professional leagues. Scheduling, competition and playoff format and rules for the MISL will be determined by the league’s Board of Governors.

MISL operated their league with 5 teams last season. The Baltimore Blast, Chicago Riot, Milwaukee Wave, Missouri Comets and Omaha Vipers all participated in the 2010-2011 season.

The MISL was a team-operated league and Big Apple Soccer is reporting that the merger between the two leagues has been ongoing since the USL announced the formation of a new indoor league called the I-League last July.

Not all the MISL teams will be merging into the USL’s new indoor league. The Baltimore Blast, Milwaukee Wave and Kansas City Comets and a team from Wichita which had already been announced as an expansion team will be joining the league. The Omaha Vipers have not agreed to the merger and will be joining the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL-Pro). It’s also unclear what will happen to the Chicago Riot, whose President & CEO is Peter Wilt.

Formerly announced I-League teams Norfolk, Rochester and Syracuse will also join the league. It is also believed that USL and MISL had been negotiating for the inclusion of several other new indoor teams. The Minnesota Twin Stars of the NPSL announced on their website this winter that they had purchased the rights to a franchise in the Twin Cities, which spokesperson Youssef Darbaki has claimed will play in 2011.

The long range goal of the USL’s new indoor league is to have enough teams to reduce travel costs by having regional leagues much like USL PRO had announced, before the addition of their International Division which had teams flying from Los Angeles to New York and Antigua.

Here is the press release in its entirety:

The TAMPA, Fla. – United Soccer Leagues is pleased to announce it has entered into an agreement with the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) and will operate North America’s most storied and tradition-rich professional indoor soccer league beginning with the 2011-12 season.

The MISL represents the top level of professional indoor soccer in North America and currently consists of seven franchises for 2011-12, with additional announcements expected in the coming weeks.  The league roster includes existing MISL franchises in Baltimore, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Wichita.  They will be joined in the MISL by a trio of first-year USL indoor franchises in Norfolk, Rochester and Syracuse.

The League will be led by Chris Economides, senior director of USL’s professional leagues. Scheduling, competition and playoff format and rules for the MISL will be determined by the league’s Board of Governors.

“We are obviously pleased to bring the top indoor soccer league in North America into the USL family,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “We announced several months back that we would be operating a professional indoor soccer league in November of 2011, and this agreement with the MISL allows us to move forward with our plans. Combining the experience and tradition of the MISL with USL’s team services and league management resources will ensure the MISL reaches new levels of success.” The MISL will follow a financial model that is viable for team owners.  USL intends to seek affiliation under the U.S. Soccer Federation umbrella, consistent with its other league properties. “We are all pleased to join USL which has many strong leagues and numerous franchises,” MISL Chairman Ed Hale said.  “This will give us a platform for future expansion of our indoor game throughout the country.”

MISL indoor soccer was developed to appeal to sports fans around the world. The fast-paced, fiercely competitive game is played on artificial turf on a hockey-rink-sized field surrounded by dasher boards and Plexiglas with eight-foot high by 14-foot wide goals receded into the end boards. Creative dribbling, pinpoint passing, acrobatic goalkeeping and rugged defensive play are all skills demonstrated by MISL players.

A typical MISL game features end-to-end-action resulting in approximately 60 shots and 11 goals per game. Each game includes four 15-minute quarters and a popular feature is multi-point scoring, with goals from long distance worth more. Other unique characteristics of the MISL include action-packed power plays and free substitution of players while play continues.

11 Responses
  1. Bart permalink
    May 17, 2011

    While there are outdoor soccer purists out there, I for one like the change of pace that indoor soccer has to offer. It is faster, with more goals, and up here in the north……. is warm!!!

    From a soccer business side, I think having a combination of indoor and outdoor soccer teams helps the team front office as well as gives the players more continuity over the full fiscal year.

  2. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 17, 2011

    I, for one, agree with Bart.

    *shocking*

  3. Vegas Vic permalink
    May 17, 2011

    This league has a good chance to make it if the established teams like Baltimore and Milwaukee can co-exist with the new teams like Rochester and Syracuse in a model that reduces some of the overspending that has hurt the MISL in recent years.

    If they can get to 10-12 teams and keep travel down then this could really take off. It will be interesting to see if other USL outdoor teams look to operate teams in this league this year or next.

  4. Yankiboy permalink
    May 17, 2011

    This caught me by surprise, big time!

    Back in September, when the I-League was announced, I casually asked the Baltimore Blast’s General manager, Kevin Healey what the MISL response was. He more or less stated that the I-League wouldn’t have any effect on what the MISL was doing and that it only made sense, given that Marcos started the USL as an indoor league.

    Like a good exec, he held his cards close to the vest, never gaving any indication that they were even considering a merger.

    Soccer Sam can now bring his never-boring persona to Baltimore.

    Good times.

  5. Ski Dawg permalink
    May 17, 2011

    Looks like this combined league will use the MISL name.

    And one minor correction: while they do play in the KC area (Independence), they’re actually called the Missouri Comets.

  6. Teresa permalink
    May 17, 2011

    @Ski Dawg – corrected. Thanks!

  7. May 17, 2011

    Ski Dawg:
    Point 1) It could be but one report I saw said it still wasn’t decided.
    Point 2) Corrected, thanks
    Point 3) There was no point 3 but this gives me a chance to thank my editor Teresa for the correction. :)

  8. Soccer Boy permalink
    May 17, 2011

    Can I think the USL in advance for screwing up MISL? You know that league will fold soon.

    PS: Okay BQ, feel free to give it to me, because I know it is coming. I just have a lot of concerns about USL given their track record.

  9. meh permalink
    May 18, 2011

    “While there are outdoor soccer purists out there, I for one like the change of pace that indoor soccer has to offer. It is faster, with more goals, and up here in the north……. is warm!!!”

    Meh, indoor soccer: who cares? I watched some as a kid back in the 1970s and 80s, but it is to soccer what miniature golf is to golf and what arena football is to football: a lesser imitation of the real thing. An indoor soccer fan saying that “there are outdoor soccer purists out there” is rather ironic since “outdoor soccer purists” outnumber indoor soccer fans by a millions-to-one ratio, at the very least.

    Also, is the USL run MISL going to retain their ridiculous multi-point goal scoring system? That takes what little credibility indoor soccer had left and flushes it down the crapper.

    “From a soccer business side, I think having a combination of indoor and outdoor soccer teams helps the team front office as well as gives the players more continuity over the full fiscal year.”

    That’s precisely the “brilliant” thinking that helped contribute to the demise of the original NASL. There’s a reason why it has not been tried since.

  10. meh permalink
    May 18, 2011

    “Can I think the USL in advance for screwing up MISL? You know that league will fold soon.

    PS: Okay BQ, feel free to give it to me, because I know it is coming. I just have a lot of concerns about USL given their track record.”

    Well, true enough, but, MISL is hardly stable itself. Isn’t this at least the third incarnation of the MISL name? I”ve lost track. MISL is so screwed up, it is hard to see how USL could make it any worse.

    Of course, this looks a bit like a hostile takeover to me. USL threatens to create a rival league, tells MISL “that’s a nice league you have there, it would be a shame if anything were to happen to it”, and next thing you know, USL is taking over MISL.

    So now the MISL owners get to pay tribute to Holt & Co. instead of run their own league. I guess they decided it was cheaper than trying to compete with the USL.

  11. May 18, 2011

    “From a soccer business side, I think having a combination of indoor and outdoor soccer teams helps the team front office as well as gives the players more continuity over the full fiscal year.”

    Yes, Peter Wilt has spoken out against this in the past. He said it’s impossible for teams to plan properly in the offseason if they are always in high alert mode dealing with their current season. (Paraphrased)

    Indoor soccer, in general, draws a different sort of fan than outdoor soccer. Many outdoor purest won’t watch it but then again many Eurosnobs won’t watch MLS let alone local pro soccer (D2 or D3). It’s a good alternative and it is what it is especially in cold weather climates. The action can be fun but it’s all the hype, glitter, lights and noise that drive me nuts. Of course that is exactly what causes others to like the sport.

    I think we also need to remember indoor soccer could be a gateway for new soccer fans. I’d say there was a better chance of getting a newbie to an indoor game than an outdoor game if they know nothing about the sport. If the game grows on them you just never know, they could be converted to the outdoor game.

    Lastly, we all think of Brazil as one of the best breading grounds for soccer talent in the world. Yet futsal in Brazil is very popular and to me that game is not as exciting as indoor soccer in the US.

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