Not indoor soccer, not Bruce Arena — it’s ARENA soccer

Writers use Game of Thrones to explain everything these days. I don’t have HBO, so maybe someone can explain Game of Thrones to me in terms of indoor soccer history. Is the Stark family the equivalent of the MISL? Is “Lord Littlefinger” Tatu?

When we last left the Indoor Soccer Wars, the MISL had a new plan for moving forward without any of the teams that played in it. The teams themselves were all going to play … somewhere.

If you’re one of the diehards who checks the BigSoccer indoor soccer forum, you’ve watched as the rumors of a new league building on the existing PASL have come true. If you’re not one of the diehards, you woke up Monday to this:

Major Arena Soccer League? What does THAT mean??

It means a couple of things:

1. The PASL has won the latest Indoor Soccer War, though I’m not sure they really intended to fight. They were a low-budget alternative to the MISL, which just ended a three-year run under the auspices of the USL. Six of the seven teams from last year’s MISL departed to join this new league. The seventh, the Pennsylvania Roar, shall rest in peace.

2. It means the powers that be are trying to phase out the name “indoor” in favor of “arena.” In Mexico, it’s actually “futbol rapido,” because it often takes place outside, neither in a stadium nor an arena.

It's more scenic than the place I play, but half my clearances would end up in the trees. (Photo from Mario Ortegon via Wikimedia Commons; click image for original)
It’s more scenic than the place I play, but half my clearances would end up in the trees. (Photo from Mario Ortegon via Wikimedia Commons; click image for original)

3. It means the Baltimore Blast, Dallas Sidekicks, Milwaukee Wave, San Diego Sockers and the Not-Tacoma Stars (more explanation on Facebook) will be in the same league, just like the old days. In several cases, they’ll have more ties to their glory days than the current Seattle Sounders, New York Cosmos, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Portland Timbers, etc.

4. With 24 teams, this will be the largest top-level indoor (er, arena) league since … ever. The NASL had 24 outdoor teams in the 70s, and it had an indoor league, but not all the teams participated. Spoilsports.

(I’m not going to sum up indoor soccer history because I already did it. And that includes the infamous San Diego Sockers rap video.)

The PASL’s pro league (they also have amateur competitions) contributes 14 teams. Their average attendance early last season ranged from 6,144 to 242. The lack of parity showed in the standings, as the San Diego Sockers claimed a record win streak that the Washington Kastles (World Team Tennis) also claimed. (Sadly, the new league is not taking Dan Steinberg’s suggestion – United Alliance of Super Awesome Amazing Indoor Soccer Playing Awesome People.)

Beyond that, a lot of things are up in the air. They still haven’t settled the argument over Multiple Point Scoring (2 points for most goals, 3 points for a goal shot from beyond an arc), which is to arena soccer fans what promotion/relegation is to outdoor soccer fans.

The Baltimore Blast, by most measures the most stable NPSL/NISL/MISL team, is one of the big movers and shakers behind the new league along with the San Diego Sockers and Missouri Comets. Next step: Re-signing all the players.

(Yes, those are the same Missouri Comets whose sibling team is FC Kansas City of the NWSL. In Vlatko we trust.)

There is still a World Cup scheduled for March, pushed back from February. The organizing body used to be FIFRA — futbol rapido accounts for the “FR” of the name — but it’s now the Confederation Panamericana de Minifutbol (warning — my SiteAdvisor rated that site “yellow), an affiliate of the World Minifootball Federation, which is an umbrella of various 5-, 6- and 7-a-side games. Except futsal and beach soccer, which are under the control of FIFA. Got it?

But back to this continent: The indoor game has a consistent, coherent direction now. There’s a pro/amateur organization. All the indoor teams in the USA are on the same page.

And that really can’t be a bad thing.

If you don’t like indoor soccer, ignore it — which you already are. If you do like it, a lot of the clutter of the past 15 years is gone, and that has to be encouraging.