• Fred

Top 10 Indoor Soccer Players of All Time


So I was doing the equivalent of Writers Spring Cleaning and came across an unpublished original article that I wrote back in 2012. I'm going to dust it off and dump it here with a short addendum at the end.

Let me get this straight, there's ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Desportes, ESPN Classic, and ESPN+, but somehow there's zero hours of programming dedicated to the indoor version of the world's most popular sport? Indoor soccer, in some form, has been played professionally since the 1970's. Sadly, indoor soccer has also been mismanaged worse than boxing, and even its inception can be debated. The NASL (North American Soccer League) started in 1968, but its indoor version didn't start until 1979, a year after the MISL (Major Indoor Soccer League). This time frame also coincided with 1978's aborted Super Soccer League. Simple concept, build a wall around the field for less time stoppages and more action. As time went on, business plans never meshed, leagues feuded and folded, and there were no indoor soccer specific arenas being built. Often teams were the second (or third, or forth) tenants in mid-major markets. Throughout the years, who could have imagined that teams like the Connecticut Acedemica FC (AISL), Cincinnati Kids (MISL), Detroit Safari (yikes!) (CISL), or even the Austin Sockadillos (SISL) wouldn't all still be playing today? This list is inclusive to those artists of the turf on the North American side of the Atlantic and not those who retired into the Masters Football League in Europe.

Note: {} Signifies Outdoor League [] Signifies other Sport

Best Active: Sagu - Goalkeeper

The Leagues: WISL & MISL (& More?)

The Achievements: Sagu played part of his career backstopping the Dallas Sidekicks on the #3 player on this list's team in the old WISL. Having won (at least) 5 Goalkeeper of the Year Awards, finding stats on Sagu's whole career is almost like tracking down a white whale. Some average video clips exist on YouTube, but there are rumors that he started his career in Brazil's brutal soccer underground

Note: In case you haven't figured out, Sagu is no longer active.

10. Stan Stamenkovic - Forward

The Leagues: {SFR Yugoslavia} & MISL

The Achievements: Tenth all time in points in the MISL, MISL MVP in 1984, Stamenkovic's achievements are more arbitrary. He only played indoor seven seasons before returning home to his native Yugoslavia to open his own business. On multiple websites, he is referred to as the "Greatest player in the MISL history," including on Wikipedia. Granted, he made amazing plays, and his footwork was unparrelled, but these facts are qualitative data. Died tragically at the age of 39.

9. Rudy Pikuzinski - Forward

The Leagues: AISA, MISL, NPSL, {USL}

The Achievements: Beginning with the expansion AISA's Canton Invaders in 1984, Rudy immediately started winning championships. By his third year, he was the league's leading scorer. The Invaders won 5 of the first 6 championships in the AISA, with Rudy winning 3 of the first 6 MVP's. He moved to the MISL, where the league folded (the first time) and returned to the NPSL (where the league had changed its name) for 10 more years with the Buffalo Blizzard. He ended his career 5th in the NPSL all time in goals and in 2006 was inducted into the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

8. Zoran Karic - Forward

The Leagues: MISL & NPSL

The Achievements: Came into the league setting up the #4 player on this list leading the San Diego Sockers to two championships, then was traded to the Cleveland Crunch of the NPSL where his precision passing set up the #2 player on this list in 7 of the next10 NPSL championship games. 9 time NPSL first-teamer, Zoran had the uncanny ability to pass the ball anywhere. Not a pure scorer, he set things up in transition and was more of a two-way player than most forwards. Ended his career as NPSL's second leading scorer.

7. Genoni Martinez - Defender

The Leagues: CISL, MISL & Mexican Indoor National Team

The Achievements: Member of the Mexican Futbol Rapido National team, Genoni's tenacious defense carried him, and his team, wherever he would go. Again, it's important to note how hard it is for a defensive player to excel in a sport geared toward the offensive end. He may also be the unluckiest guy around. In 2003 Genoni was the Defender of the Year for the Harrisburg Heat, they folded. In 2004, he was the Defender of the Year for the Monterrrey Fury, then the MISL terminated the Fury franchise. In 2006, he was the Defender of the Year for the St. Louis Steamers, they suspended operations. In 2007, he was the Defender of the Year for the MISL champion Philadelphia Kixx, then they tore down their historic home of the franchise, the Spectrum. In 2010 he won MVP and Defender of the Year for the Monterrey La RaZa, and guess what happened?

6. Victor Nogueira - Goalkeeper

The Leagues: NASL, {NASL}, MISL, NPSL & [National Futsal team]

The Achievements: The whole sport of indoor soccer is built around the notion of offense. Somehow, Nogueira not only survived 100 m.p.h. shots bouncing off of walls at weird angles, but became the greatest goalie in indoor history. Championships in the NASL, MISL, and the NPSL. MVP's in the MISL and NPSL. 11 time Goalkeeper of the Year. Statistics are a bit dicey early in the era, but Victor played in about 675 games. Kasey Keller, former U.S. National team goalie, has played about 600. Indoor goalies average about 25 saves a game, outdoor goalies, about 10. If you get out your calculators, that adds up to about 10,000 MORE SAVES for Nogueira than, arguably, the most recognizable outdoor keeper in American Soccer.

5. Preki - Midfielder

The Leagues: MISL, CISL, {Premiere League} & {MLS}

The Achievements: Preki could have been the greatest indoor player ever, but he moved onto MLS. The seventh leading scorer in MISL history when it comes to total points, Preki won MVP's in both the MISL and the CISL. After winning the MVP with the San Jose Grizzlies, who only existed 2 years, Preki, in his prime, moved back to the outdoor game where he was an MLS MVP, MLS Coach of the Year, U.S. National Team member and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010.

4. "Branko" Segota - Forward

The Leagues: NASL, {NASL}, MISL, CISL, WISL, NPSL & {CSL}

The Achievements: Second all time in the MISL in points, but he led the MISL in the most important category, championships. He earned 3 with the New York Arrows and 6 more with the San Diego Sockers. He played with 6 different indoor teams and multiple outdoor teams, but he was probably on his biggest stage in 1986 for the Canadian National team at the World Cup. He was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2002.

3. Tatu - Forward

The Leagues: NASL, {NASL}, MISL, CISL, WISL & NPSL

The Achievements: Tatu was known for scoring spectacular goals, then tearing off his jersey in jubilation and throwing it into the crowd. To me, his most impressive feat was staying with the same team, the Dallas Sidekicks for 20 years. (Because Dallas moved from the MISL, to the WISL, to the NPSL, then back to the reformed MISL) Tatu led the Sidekicks to 4 championships and in 1998 won an MVP while he was Coach of the Year. Third all time in MISL history in points, three time MVP in the CISL, and he led his team to the championship game every season the Sidekicks were in the WISL.

2. Hector Marinaro - Forward

The Leagues: MISL, NPSL, {CSL}, {APSL} & {A-League}

The Achievements: Despite dabbling in outdoor leagues and controversy with the Canadian National Team, Marinaro's mastery of the indoor game is what he's known for. 7 time NPSL league MVP, all time NPSL leader in points, and all time NPSL goals leader are all facts that top his resume. Hector also led the Cleveland Crunch to multiple championships (Cleveland's only titles since 1964's Browns) with linemate Zoran Karic. Karic to Marinaro should be in the modern sports vernacular like Tinkers to Evans to Chance, or Montana to Rice.

1. Steve Zungul - Forward

The Leagues: {SFR Yugoslavia}, MISL, {NASL} & NASL

The Achievements: The nickname says it all, for he was the "Lord of All Indoors." After playing for the Yugoslavian National Team in the 1970's, Slavisa was "loaned" from his club team Hajduk Split to the New York Arrows of the MISL, but once in America, Steve was born. Zungul put up a Gretzky-esque number of goals leading the Arrows to the first four MISL Championsips, where he was the league leader in goals and the MVP each year. He briefly returned outdoors with the Golden Bay Earthquakes, where he won another MVP, and returned indoors with the San Diego Sockers and won more championships and 2 more MVP's. As Father Time claims all great athletes, Zungul ended his career with just about every offensive record in MISL history. From 1979-1986 Zungul was simply an unstoppable machine.

Special 2019 Update:

Franck Tayou: The leading goal scorer in the new MASL over the past 3 seasons (2017,2018 & 2019), the Cameroon native plays on the lower rungs of the American Soccer ladder during the summers. Before his career is over, he could easily break into the Top 10 on this list.

Langdon Donovan: You may have heard of him. After a stellar career with the U.S. National Team, and outdoor campaigns that saw him lead the L.A. Galaxy to multiple MLS Cups, Donovan surprisingly popped up on the roster of the San Diego Sockers at midseason. The Sockers are currently 23-1 and are bulldozing through the regular season.

Donovan's 2.0 points per game average would be enough to place him in the Top 20 in the league if he had played in enough games to qualify in that category.

#MASL

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