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  • Writer's pictureFred

Why Your 10 Year Old's Favorite Sport Fails to Thrive

Of course we're talking about Indoor Soccer.

Just this week, I read with astonishment as the MLIS (Major League Indoor Soccer) announced that it was merging with the NISL (National Indoor Soccer League.) Why is that so surprising? Despite writing about the struggles of the MLIS's Ohio Extreme earlier this year, I didn't know that the NISL existed. Hell, the MLIS barely exists. MLIS split from the MASL (Major Arena Soccer League) a few years back and has been on life support this season, shrinking both in the length of the season and the number of teams.

Arguably the MASL is the biggest minnow in a pond full of minnows. (Also unmentioned thus far are the WISL (Western Indoor Soccer League) and the PASL (Premier Arena Soccer League).) How did we get here? MASL's current Champion is the Chihuahua Savage and they play in a 2,500 seat stadium in the city of Chihuahua.

Now before you read this article, had you ever heard of the Chihuahua Savage?

The MLIS team, 5 minutes from my house, the Cleveland Crunch, play at an indoor soccer complex with permanent seating that numbers in the hundreds. High school basketball pulls better numbers. 40 years ago, Indoor Soccer was the next big thing, with attendance figures mirroring weak NBA or NHL teams, how did they become relegated to a sport that barely exists?

Television - When you go to MASL home page, it says their television partner is Twitch. That is bad. Very bad. If you're the MASL, any of the leagues mentioned above for that fact, you have to get on TV. Local TV, Cable TV, or Streaming, even if you don't get paid, your commissioner has to get you exposure, even if its giving away your product. I am not using hyperbole, last week I watched Women's College Water Polo on ESPN+. If you, as a sports league, can't figure out how to get your teams on TV, maybe you don't deserve to exist.

Gambling - Go on over to DraftKings, you can bet on almost anything. Can you bet on European Soccer? Yep. Can you bet on Indoor Soccer? Nope. It's really that simple.

George Steinbrenner - Do you know why arguably the most famous baseball owner in the history of the game isn't in Cooperstown? It's because he didn't give a rats ass about Major League Baseball, he only cared about the New York Yankees. Isn't that the same thing? No, it isn't. Steinbrenner only cared that the Yankees won, if MLB disintegrated, he would have found other baseball teams to beat, he believed his team was bigger than the sport. That's why there's no salary cap in baseball, almost single-handedly because of Steinbrenner.

What does that have to do with indoor soccer? Since the days of the NASL in the 70's, if your team didn't win consistently, you wouldn't exist. It's hard to have a big picture vision for your league when winning meant survival.

Alcohol - Back when I was growing up, MISL was the "family-friendly" sports brand. What did the NHL and NBA do? They made their tickets too expensive for families and jacked up the price of alcohol. If you're going to be family-friendly, you need to do it in a way that makes money, like Disney.

No Tradition - Some fans of the Cleveland Browns can still recite stats of Jim Brown in the 1960's. Would you like to know the tradition of indoor soccer in Cleveland?

Cleveland Force 1978-1988 - One of MISL's most prolific franchises. Folded in 1988.

Cleveland Crunch 1989-2005 - Played in the MISL, MSL (Major Soccer League), and NPSL (National Professional Soccer League). Technically the Crunch played in two different MISLs and changed their name back to the Force for the last 2 seasons---before both the team, and then the league, folded. For a very brief time, a few MISL games were on ESPN 2 around the year 2005.

Cleveland Freeze 2013-2014 - One season in the PASL. The Abominable Snowman was their mascot, which was probably the most remarkable thing about that season

Cleveland Crunch 2020- Today - In the year 2020, a different Cleveland Crunch returned to play in MASL2. After 2 seasons, the team bolted to where they play today, in the MLIS.

So in 46 years, there have been, at least, 8 different leagues with Cleveland teams. Did I miss another obscure indoor league? I probably did.

I love Indoor Soccer! I made a movie about it. I write about it when possible. One of our most popular articles at Beacon of Speech was: Top 10 Indoor Soccer Players of All Time...

You argue that I never answered my own question: Why did Indoor Soccer Fail to Thrive? That's because my real answer is: I don't know.

I still think that someone with deep pockets, patience, and vision can make Indoor Soccer work-

But so far, time has proven me wrong.

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