By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

The Rochester Lancers won’t be playing indoor soccer this year.

On Friday, the Lancers announced that they won’t be competing in conjunction with the league’s COVID-19 voluntary opt out policy.

They had hoped to play in an Eastern Division along with the Harrisburg Heat, Utica City FC and Baltimore Blast. The Heat and Utica also announced they weren’t participating due to the pandemic. The Blast had made the decision not to play two weeks ago.

Those teams joined Milwaukee, Mesquite, Turlock, Sonora and Monterrey among the indoor franchises that are not playing this season.

The Lancers wanted to play game at the Dome Arena in suburban Henrietta, N.Y., but their venue wasn’t available as it will continue to be used as a COVID-19 vaccination site well into the current, club owner Salvatore “SoccerSam” Fantauzzo said.

“The Rochester Lancers indoor team will return in 2022,” he added. “I will watch and support the players and teams that can play this season.”

The MASL, which usually kicks off in November or December, started in January with a limited number of teams.

Only six teams are competing this season – the Florida Tropics, St. Louis Ambush, San Diego Sockers, Tacoma Stars, Kansas City Comets and Dallas Sidekicks. The league was hoping for the four Eastern Division teams to compete as they were listed in its standings as late as Thursday night.

Fantauzzo said the Lancers will turn their focus on the outdoor seasons for the men’s and women’s teams in t he National Premier Soccer League and United Women’s Soccer, respectively, this spring and summer.

“The Lancers will focus on their NPSL and UWS teams and they will continue to support the local soccer community,” he said.

Added Lancers vice president of operations Kayla Kent-Moreira: “Our players, staff, season ticket holders and sponsors have been notified earlier today. We are thankful for the continued support during these difficult times and we hope everyone stays safe and healthy.”

Both Rochester  teams were unable to compete in 2020 because both leagues cancelled their respective seasons.

Utica City FC general manager Tommy Tanner, who played seven seasons with the Rochester Rhinos, also was disappointed with what he called “an extremely difficult decision.”

“After several months of planning, monitoring public health guidelines, and agreeing on an initial return-to-play date of March, this was an extremely difficult decision to make,” Tanner said on Utica City FC website. “It has become apparent that we will not be able to play in front of the best fans in the MASL. The reality of no attendance and the challenges of having to play so many games in such a short period of time under current Covid-19 restrictions, we determined it was in the best interests of our players, fans, staff, and soccer community to sit out the current season. We plan to immediately start planning for the 2021-22 season.”

Heat owner Carl Delmont agreed.

“Decisions like these are never easy or taken light,” he said in a statement on Facebook. “We have worked diligently toward finding a path forward which ensures the safety of our players and staff, but with the pandemic coupled with a lack of playing facilities in our division, we feel it is the best interest of all to opt out and focus our energies on next season as well as toward some things we are working on currently.”