There’s a new kid on the arena soccer block called the United States Arena Professional Soccer League and it will start play later this month with four teams. Unlike most of the indoor leagues which have evolved over many years (like the MASL, M2, and WISL, which all sprung from the Premier Arena Soccer League and various iterations of the Major Indoor Soccer League), the USAPSL has been made from whole cloth by arena football team owner Stephanie Tucker, her husband Toby, and Dr. James Parker.
The trio, led by Stephanie Tucker, who serves as the league’s Commissioner, will initially own all four teams until individual owners add new teams. “We are looking, and having much interest, in teams to join our league,” said Tucker.
Each team will have a “mascot”, but in a nod to consistent branding each team will carry the generic FC moniker and the same logo in various colors. FC Amarillo was the first team announced and they have already staged a pair of exhibition games. The Tuckers own the Amarillo Venom of the Champion Indoor Football league.
FC Amarillo took on FC Lubbock in a well-attended exhibition last April. Those two teams will be joined by FC Wichita Falls and FC West Texas (Odessa).
So how do relative newcomers to arena soccer become the progenitors of a new league?
“I have been the owner of the professional arena football team in Amarillo for the last eight years,” said Tucker. “I started looking about five years ago at what I could add to the sports family, and arena soccer was the best option. I went to a few arena soccer games and fell in love. Then last year, I held two exhibition games to test the water. After much success we looked into joining a league. There wasn’t really a league like that I wanted, so that is why we created the league and started the four teams that we now own and manage.”
Major Arena Soccer League 2 would have seemed like a natural fit, but Tucker says the season, travel, and structure didn’t fit their needs. The USAPSL will play an eight game schedule from April to June with playoffs in July. M2 plays a 12 game schedule from December to March. Each of the four USAPSL teams are within 300 miles of each other, while M2 has teams spread out from Rochester, New York to Stockton, California.
Owning all four teams means Tucker will have to depend on people like FC Wichita Falls General Manager Michelle Cramer. “I met Stephanie in September and officially joined this organization on November 7, 2018,” said Cramer. “Stephanie had been looking into having a team in Wichita Falls for about a year by then. Since she doesn’t live here, she knew she needed someone local to help move things forward.”
Cramer thinks FC Wichita Falls can bring new life to Kay Yeager Coliseum.”I like projects and building things up that have value to my community,” she says.
All four teams are being built from scratch and that includes the on-field product as well. The league will use straightforward traditional arena soccer rules. The players and coaches don’t have a wealth of professional arena soccer experience, but the coach of FC Wichita Falls, Brandon Schwartzendruber was a player/coach for the PASL’s Skyline Eagles.
Schwartzendruber is looking to make some signings to shorten the learning curve. “A few of the players that we hope to sign toward the end of this month are currently playing with the Dallas Sidekicks,” he said. “They will hopefully bring a lot of good experience and talent for us.”
As for the existing players, the indoor game is not new to them, they just haven’t had the opportunity to play it at a higher level. “A good bit of the guys on my team have played around Wichita Falls in local indoor leagues in the past. Probably all of them, actually,” Schwartzendruber says.
Schwartzendruber sees the USAPSL as an gateway to professional soccer for his players. “I think a lot of the players we have are aspiring to play in bigger and better leagues one day, whether it be indoor or outdoor,” says the coach. “For a lot of them, they just want an opportunity to play at the professional level, and that’s what we are giving them here with our team. It is my hope, however, that I can help them move on to the next level.”
The season officially kicks off on April 27 when FC Lubbock visits FC West Texas at the Ector County Coliseum. If all goes well, this season is just a preview of things to come for the USAPSL.
“With the interest and the plan I see us having 20 teams in the league,” said Tucker. “I see us being a great avenue for local players with much talent. Also, players that want to advance to the next level get the experience and film they need.”