January 17, 2012
by Charles Cuttone
Indoor soccer is alive in Kansas City
Indoor soccer is alive and relatively well in Kansas City. Even if it is in a bit of a time warp. But hey, that's always been part of the beauty of indoor soccer. Turn out the lights, pump smoke on the field, blare 80s disco music and watch guys run around on the turf like they were in a pinball machine.
After a decade of ups and downs (mostly downs), it seems like the indoor game is once again starting to find its niche. While it's not at the level it was 30 years ago, it has once again found a place in markets like Kansas City and Wichita, while continuing to hold its own in Baltimore and Milwaukee. This year, the MISL went into some new markets, with mixed results. The team in Rochester, always a soccer hotbed, is drawing well, but Syracuse and, not surprisingly, Norfolk, VA, are bringing up the rear in attendance.
The acquisition of the MISL by the United Soccer Leagues has, for the first time in more than a decade, given the sport some sense of stability, and exposure that the league hopes it can grow on.
On Saturday night, in conjunction with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention in Kansas City, the Missouri Comets hosted the Wichita Wings at the Spring Center in downtown KC. The Comets don't usually play their games in 17,544 seat building, instead calling the more intimate Independence Events Center in Independence, Mo. home, but for Saturday's special event, the downsized Sprint Center proved a perfect home away from home, as the Comets drew their largest crowd of the season, 8,276.
Further adding to the time warp feel of when the Comets, Wings, Cleveland Force and St. Louis Steamers drew Major League-sized crowds was the reunion game played at halftime. Familiar old timers such as Tatu, Gino Schiraldi, Alan Mayer, "Scorin’ Goran” Hunjak and Otto Orf donned their turf shoes once again, and proved the spirit is still willing, even if the middle aged bodies aren't always.
Comets coach Kim Roentved even joined the game for a quick shift, still wearing a shirt and tie from being behind the bench.
There is no doubt the Comets, whose marketing slogan is “Same Game, New Era,” accomplished what they set out to do, by combining the nostalgia of the old timer's game, with a match against their biggest rival and bringing it downtown while more than 5,000 soccer coaches were in the city.
The crowd, and the ones some of the teams in the MISL are drawing, prove the indoor game still has a place in the landscape. It even looks like there are some team operators who finally know how to take advantage of it.