Shep Messing: “I’m always interested in indoor soccer in general and why Rochester? I just think there’s a better appetite for the team to be a success than it would be to put it here on Long Island.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Shep Messing wants to help revive the Rochester Lancers indoor team.
The former goalkeeper wants to invest in the team, which is owned by Sam Fantauzzo.
“I need more people involved,” Messing said earlier this week. “I have an interest in launching an indoor team in Rochester with the Rochester Lancers.”
Messing, who made his reputation with the original Cosmos in the North American Soccer League and New York Arrows championship teams in the Major Indoor Soccer League, played with the outdoor Lancers in 1979.
“Rochester was special for me,” Messing said. “I wasn’t there a long time, but it was very special for me.”
He also has some more recent bonds with the Lancers. Earlier this week, it was announced he would be inducted into the Lancers Wall of Fame in June. The United Women’s Soccer team he owns with soccer announcer JP Dellacamera, the Connecticut Fusion, will play the Lady Lancers in the latter’s home opener at Marina Auto Stadium in Rochester, N.Y. Sunday at 2 p.m. The Lancers men’s team also will hold its National Premier Soccer League home opener the same day at 5 p.m.
“I am aware of it. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Shep,” Fantauzzo said Friday morning. “I was hoping he would come to the Lady Lancers home opener where I could talk to him. I would be honored to be involved with him in any capacity. He is one of the biggest stars in the history of American soccer, in my opinion.”
Messing, 68, who lives on Long Island and is a color commentator on Red Bulls games on MSG Networks, looked into the possibility of operating a Major Arena Soccer League franchise at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y, but the costs to run a team would be through the roof.
“I’ve been looking at it and its prohibitive to do it in New York,” Messing said. “I looked this year at the Nassau Coliseum and putting a team in the MASL. That would be my preference. but I think Rochester has better economics and better chance of success, if done right. The cost of the Nassau Coliseum is just too much.
“I’m always interested in indoor soccer in general and why Rochester? I just think there’s a better appetite for the team to be a success than it would be to put it here on Long Island.”
A member of four MISL championship teams with the Arrows, Messing was the president of the New York Express, which folded midway through its only MISL season in 1986-87.
“I’ve had some great, great moments and great, great history — in the outdoor game, but I love indoor soccer beyond belief,” Messing said. “I would love to launch an MISL type league. I looked at it two years ago, when [Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail] Prokhorov contacted me. I think a big-time indoor league, $5 million budget per team … with the way soccer has grown, is a natural. Television, national sponsors. I don’t have the time and money to do that.”
Messing said he has texted and emailed Fantauzzo through an intermediary.
“I’ve got to pick up discussions,” he said.
Messing said he spoke to the Cosmos about the possibility of placing an indoor team at Nassau Coliseum, but the club wanted to concentrate on outdoor soccer.
The Lancers indoor team competed for four seasons, three in the MISL from 2011-12 through 2013-14 campaign, and the 2014-15 season with the MASL. The team was forced to go into hiatus due to the high cost of New York State workman’s compensation, Fantauzzo said. It costs $300,000 a year, he added.
The team tried to return to the MASL last year, but had trouble securing a suitable venue in Rochester and in its suburbs.
Fantauzzo said he still has hopes of bringing back the indoor Lancers. He said that he was hopeful the MASL would find a solution via a group insurance policy. That would bring down the cost considerably.
“The MASL, which I believe is the strongest reincarnation of the indoor sport in its history, the way it’s being operated right now, I think this thing could be really special,” he said. “They are working on a group insurance policy. If that happens, the Lancers will be back.
“I just think this indoor soccer is about to explode. The speed of the play, the quality of the play, could be the biggest league in American soccer. If done right. I would love Shep to be involved either with us, or bring back the Arrows, bring back the Express. Bring back something in the New York City area. With the amount of talent that’s in the area, he could have an amazing team.”
The indoor Lancers could play in either MASL Division 1 or MASL2.
Concerning MASL2, Fantauzzo said that there “there’s not as many teams as there could be, but if the Lancers would join, we have the ability to bring in four or five teams in this region. They’re kind of waiting on us. So, the difference between MASL1 and MASL2 is very similar to the NPSL. Players wouldn’t be paid. Former pros, future pros, there wouldn’t be very many college players because it’s during the college season. So, we wouldn’t have the insurance risk because there would be no payroll.
“I wouldn’t want Shep or anyone to invest in the Lancers until this insurance situation is settled because it would be difficult to make any money. I wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting money from an investor.”