Welcome to Kick-ins, a summary of recent arena soccer news.
Wings to Take Flight in Wichita Again – The Wichita Wings, one of arena soccer’s biggest names, will be back this winter when they begin play in M2. The team, owned by Blake Shumaker, who owns the NPSL’s FC Wichita, will once again play at Hartman Arena, where the Wings and B-52s played from 2011 to 2015. Shumaker flirted with placing a team in the Professional Arena Soccer League in 2013, but could not finalize a deal. Before their two-year return in 2011, the Wings played from 1979 to 2001.
The Wings will address their future with a press conference this Thursday.
The Tropics are Heating Up – The Florida Tropics “won” the MASL’s free agency Live Period in May and haven’t stopped bulking up for the 2019-20 season. After signing high powered gunslingers like Gordy Gurson, Ricardo Carvalho and Joey Tavernese, top defenders like Victor Baez and Stephen DeRoux, shot-stopper Rainer Hauss, and a pair of champion Milwaukee Wave players, Ricardo Sobreira and Drew Ruggles, the Tropics could have called it a day, but this month they inked 2017-18 Defender of the Year Robert Acosta, 2013-14 MVP Wilo Martinez, and traded for 2018-19 Rookie of the Year Zach Reget. They currently have 31 players under contract and will have to get that down to the new MASL limit of 26 by November 8.
The Comets Cometh – The third Kansas City Comets near death experience in three years was resolved when the team announced on September 16 that team founder Brian Budzinski was returning to the ownership group, replacing Colin Weaver. Weaver’s tenure was off to a promising start with a new turf and a partnership with the ad agency of the original ’80s-era Comets, but after an opening night sellout, attendance plummeted, resulting in a 46% drop in overall announced average attendance from the prior year.
The Comets were not players in free agency this offseason and lost James Togbah to Utica City, while Bryan Perez announced his retirement in April. Leo Gibson remains unsigned, but there is speculation he could replace Kim Roentved, who the team mutually parted ways with on September 27.
The good news is the team set up a new office at what was once Kemper Arena, and signed a three-year lease extension at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, their home for the last nine years.
No Mistake by the Lake – Last week, the Milwaukee Wave and Muskegon Risers announced an affiliation agreement that could serve as a model for the envisioned future of M2.
Unlike the open-practice-style atmosphere of Sockers 2 and Fury II games last year, the Risers are a professional standalone operation, who have played out of LC Walker Arena the last three years, attracting some of the Premier Arena Soccer League’s and M2’s largest crowds.
As part of the agreement, the teams will hold joint tryouts and will face each other in a November 21 preseason game at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The Wave will hold the MASL rights to Risers players, and the Risers will benefit from shared coaching and marketing expertise from the Wave. The Risers get to bask in the glow of the MASL champions and have the chance to field some of the Wave’s younger players or players who are rehabbing, which should be a boon to a team that went 3-9 and 1-11 the last two years.
While the Milwaukee-Muskegon arrangement is quintessential, only three other current M2 teams play in a major arena, the Wichita Wings, Austin Power, and New Mexico Runners. If all goes well, Wichita will be back in the MASL in a year, and the Runners are 650 miles from the nearest MASL club, making an affiliation difficult. The Power or the Chihuahua Savage could be good potential partners for the Dallas Sidekicks, Mesquite Outlaws, or Monterrey Flash.
The Biggest Thing in Minifootball – MASL players had a big presence at the 2019 WMF World Cup in Perth Australia, October 1-11. Every player on the US and Mexico teams came from the MASL and five of the league’s players suited up for Brazil. Former Las Vegas Legend Luis Suarez and his impressive mustache took the field for Guatemala.
While the US fell in the Round of 16 for the second straight World Cup, Mexico advanced to the finals for the third straight time and were joined by Brazil in an all Pan American Minifootball Federation team final.
Mexico survived scary-looking injuries to Brandon Escoto and Bernaldino Valdovinos to prevail 4-0 and win their first WMF World Cup. Mexico only allowed four goals in seven games and recorded four shutouts. Moises Gonzalez, who scored eight goals in the tournament, was named Top Player and Valdovinos was named Best Goalkeeper.