By Michael Lewis
Is there an indoor soccer team in the future of the newly refurbished Nassau Coliseum?
The Major Arena Soccer League certainly is interested in moving into the Long Island market.
“We are very much interested in the Long Island market,” MASL commissioner Josh Schaub said Tuesday afternoon.
The MASL is a 17-team league that is divided into four divisions that has teams in the northeast, midwest, southwest and west coast. It completed its season and playoffs Sunday.
“Is there interest in Long Island? Yes, we are trying to build up our eastern seaboard,” Schaub said in a telephone interview. “We would love to be in that area. And I just said in a recent press conference in Baltimore, I would love to be in the largest media market in the country. I would love to be in all 30 of them at some point in the future for our league. Yes, there is interest.”
No indoor soccer team has played at the Coliseum in more than 20 years, when the Long Island Rough Riders played an exhibition at the facility in the mid-1990s.
“It’s simple factor for us when you look in any market,” Schaub said. “We have to have a facility and we have to have investors. In the direction we are moving in the league, the investors have to be people of substantial worth. That’s becoming more and more clear. So, I’ve asked for patience from our fans who are looking for expansion in certain markets. We’re not going to expand for the sake of expanding.”
No potential investor has reached to the league for Long Island, at least not yet, said Schaub, who indicated the door was open.
“I would love it,” he said. “We’re trying to build up that eastern seaboard. we have been talking to some NLS owners leading up to the season, just couldn’t pull it together in the right amount of time. If there are interested parties, I would love to talk to them.”
Unless an expansion candidate has started the procedure vetting, a club would have to wait until the 2018-19 season at the earliest to join the league.
“We’re going to do it in a correct way and we’re going to make sure that whoever our investors are, are well vetted, well financed and have a proper business acumen to run a professional sports franchise,” Schaub said. “That’s what’s very important for us. Yes, we are very much interested in the Long Island market if all those pieces fall into place.”
Formerly the Professional Arena Soccer League, the MASL was established in 2008.
The Coliseum, which re-opened with a Bill Joel concert April 5, seats 13,500 for hockey, which should be the same set up for indoor soccer.
The 2016-17 MASL regular-season schedule ran from the end of October through mid-March.
The Baltimore Blast earned this season’s championship, defeating the Soles de Sonora (Hermosillo, Mexico) Sunday, winning the second game of the season to force a mini-game it won, 1-0, immediately afterwards.
The New York Arrows, the Major Indoor Soccer League’s first dynasty, performed at the facility from the league’s inaugural season from 1978-79 to 1983-84 before the franchise went belly-up. Coached by Don Popovic and anchored by record-scoring striker Steve Zungul, the Arrows captured the first four MISL crowns. Despite the huge success, it struggled to fill up the Coliseum.
The New York Express entered the league as an expansion team for the 1986-87 campaign, but dropped out of the MISL midway through the season with severe financial difficulties.