By Michael Lewis
While nothing is official yet, it looks like the Major Arena Soccer League is heading to a regional schedule for its 2020-21 regular season.
During a league meeting Monday, it was decided that the Eastern Division of the indoor league will be composed of the Rochester Lancers, Harrisburg Heat, Baltimore Blast, Utica City FC and possibly the Florida Tropics, according to Lancers owner Salvatore “SoccerSam” Fantauzzo.
There was no mention of the Orlando SeaWolves.
Fantauzzo said the teams had voted that they would play even if only half the fans were allowing into an arena.
“We’re going to play,” he told co-host Andrew Battisti on the Soccer is a Kick in the Grass radio show Monday night. “It’s going to be a great season, we hope. But a lot of this is out of our control.”
That is because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The MASL was forced to shut down late in its regular season in March due to the outbreak.
Most travel is expected to be by bus in the East. If there are any games scheduled in the Midwest against the likes, the Lancers will use a plane.
“Maybe a Milwaukee or St. Louis trip,” Fantzuzzo said. “Either they come to us or we go to them or Kansas City. It’s going to be no air travel for regular season for most teams in our division. The west has to obviously travel a little bit more.”
It was not known how many teams will make up the league.
In the middle of the country, five teams competed last season – Milwaukee Wave, St. Louis Ambush, Kansas City Comets, Dallas Sidekicks and Mesquite Outlaws.
Out west, the San Diego Sockers, Ontario Fury, Turlock Cal Express and Tacoma Stars played in 2019-20.
It was not immediately known how many teams will return for 2020-21.
At least three teams won’t play this upcoming season – the Monterrey Flash and Soles de Sonora in Mexico and the Mississauga MetroStars. On Aug. 17, the MASL granted the two Mexican clubs a sabbatical for the season.
“This difficult decision has been made due to the unknown immigration rules, international travel restrictions and unpredictable timelines related to league events and scheduling,” the league said on its website.
The MetroStars, who dropped out right before last season, had plans of returning, but face similar travel restrictions and challenges as the Mexican teams.
The season probably will kick off in late December or early January, depending on the teams’ preferences, Fantauzzo said on the show.
“Some teams are going to play their traditional Dec. 31 game, but most teams are going to start after January,” he added.
The Lancers plan on returning to the Dome Arena in Henrietta, N.Y. for the third consecutive season as the team is in the midst of securing weekend dates.
“We’re hearing a lot of things that are usually at the Dome are cancelling for next year, which opens up more weekends for us,” Fantauzzo said. “So, we’re going to submit as many great weekends as we can and hopefully have the 12 home dates and the 12 away games.”
The Lancers will announce the signing of 21 players with local ties on Rochester television stations Sunday, Sept. 13, which is the 50th anniversary of the Lancers winning the North American Soccer League championship.
Fantauzzo was hopeful of the 21st century indoor version of the team reaching the postseason as well.
“With the players we’ve signed and the players that are going to sign with us, that we’re going to announce closer to the beginning of the season, I think we most likely will be in the playoffs,” he said.