SoccerSam: “I’ve been doing this crazy soccer thing since 1980. Most of my friends have normal hobbies; mine was promoting the game of soccer.”  (Photo courtesy of the Rochester Lancers)

By Salvatore “SoccerSam” Fantauzzo

Special to FrontRowSoccer.com

Recently the Lancers brand celebrated 54 years.

The team was formed in 1967 by members of the Italian American Sport Club. The Lancers won the North American Soccer League championship in 1970. With all the original teams from the American Soccer League and NASL, in 1967 and 1970, respectively, gone the Lancers are the oldest soccer brand in America.

I hope the Lancers brand continues for years to come with my good friend Doug Miller continuing his youth club and someone helps keep our indoor Lancers going here in Rochester if the Dome Arena reopens. Our outdoor teams will have new owners for 2022.

Flower City Union will take over our United Women’s Soccer and National Premier Soccer League teams after this season.

After meeting with the Flower City Union group, I realized that their team had the ability to make outdoor soccer great again in Rochester, N.Y. Our outdoor Lancers had filled the soccer void with the WNY Flash and the Rhinos leaving Rochester.

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It’s been an amazing run since 1980, supporting Rochester Soccer including the IFSL, the Rochester Rhinos, helping the Rochester Ravens host our U.S. women’s national team, supporting the Western New York Flash, bringing indoor pro soccer to Rochester, creating the UWS Lady Lancers, NPSL Lancers and having each of you in my soccer life!

I’ve been doing this crazy soccer thing since 1980. Most of my friends have normal hobbies; mine was promoting the game of soccer. I fell in love with the game in 1970 after attending my first NASL Lancers game. I lived with the pain of the original Lancers and Rochester Flash folding and I regretted not helping save them. I did everything in my power to try to keep the Rhinos, WNY Flash and my Lancers alive.

I played soccer all my life and in 1980 I was asked to take over the IFSL adult soccer league. My wife Linda and I ran the league for 20 years and that’s when the addiction started. I saw the joy the sport gave to so many and the lifelong friendships the game brought. Players that missed their chance at stardom shinned in the IFSL. Several original Lancers and Flash legends played some bonus years in that great league.

In 1993 I started testing soccer on this new thing called Cable TV. At first it was the IFSL All-Star games and soon we covered a tournament in Italy that changed my life. I was watching a soccer show while in Italy and the host was wearing crazy clothes and his wacky character attracted my attention. I knew that’s what American soccer needed.

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Soon, the SoccerSam character was developed with the hope to get non-traditional soccer fans to watch my weekly TV show. I soon brought the same character to radio in 1995. I used my TV and radio shows to help promote local soccer, Buffalo Blizzard and the new Rochester Rhinos in 1996. I immediately saw the affect this new exposure had on the fans and players. Producing weekly TV and radio shows became part of my crazy soccer hobby.

I was fortunate to be part of the Rochester Rhinos from 1996-2009. It was Soccer Town USA with championships and record crowds! I traveled the country covering the Rhinos and studying what worked and didn’t work in several cities. My role changed several times throughout the years with the Rhinos as I had the privilege to work with some of the greatest owners, players, fans and staff members this sport has ever seen.

In the late summer of 2009 (June 23, 2009) I took a break from the Rhinos and soccer. I lost 200 pounds and more but didn’t loose my passion for indoor soccer!

In 2011 the indoor Lancers joined the MISL. Several of my long time Rhinos friends joined me and we enjoyed great crowds at the Blue Cross Arena for four amazing seasons. I got to meet several Lancers Legends we inducted in our Wall of Fame! We lead the league in attendance and workmen’s comp claims and we took a break after the 2015 season.

I was going nuts not being part of a team and in 2017 the outdoor Lancers returned to play with two teams, our UWS Lady Lancers and our NPSL team. Again, I brought my Rhinos and indoor Lancers friends along for the ride and we had great crowds for both teams. Our Lady Lancers was the only women’s soccer team in town and after the Rhinos folded our NPSL Lancers is the only men’s professionally operated team in Rochester N.Y.

Indoor soccer is my true passion. I fell in love with this game in the 70’s, watching the original Lancers play in the first ever indoor soccer tournament. In the 80’s and in the 90’s I traveled around the country supporting the Buffalo Stallions and Blizzard.

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Over the years I took notes on what worked and didn’t work in American pro soccer, and I used all my notes to create a book called Saving Soccer. I’ve shared this book with teams around the country including several MLS teams.

My 2011-2015 indoor Lancers was a very special time for me. Each home game was a party, and our away games was an adventure. I met the greatest owners, players, fans, staff members and lifelong friends during this amazing era.

In 2018, I had the opportunity to return to the great game of indoor soccer and the Lancers joined the M2 league. Some of the newbies call my sport arena soccer but it will always be indoor soccer to me! Our indoor Lancers returned with 6 sell out games at the new Dome Arena and a wild playoff run through Chicago and LA. Again, the same cast of crazies joined me for this kickin’ great ride.

In the off season of 2019, our M2 indoor Lancers experienced several league changes. We soon had the opportunity to return to the major leagues and join the MASL. The league had grown to 17 teams in three countries. I decided to bring the team back but only on my terms and beliefs, 100 percent local players that would learn the game and stay grounded to my team and city. I wanted local youth players to have local roll models and fall in love with this sport like I did in 1970. I underestimated how good the league had become.

We had an amazing pre-Covid indoor season in 2020. We again had sellout crowds at the Dome arena and our fans witnessed our local Lancers playing against some of the greatest teams and players in the sport. I was able to induct 20 key people that had been loyal to our club since 2011.

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Our final home game of 2020 was extra special with the Gary Boughton retirement game and 51-year-old Doug Miller scoring plus a huge victory against the KC Comets. Our indoor season was cut short because of COVID-19 and our outdoor season was cancelled for both our outdoor teams.

In December 2020 two Lancers Wall of Famers and friends, Doug Miller and Jeremy Ortiz represented us in the first MASL All-Star game in Kansas City. I was honored to be the honorary captain for the East side.

COVID-19 cancelled our 2020 UWS, NPSL and MASL seasons. Original indoor Lancers star Jake Schindler was loaned to the Florida Tropics and I was cheering hard for my friend “Earthquake” Jake “The Snake” Schindler and other former Lancers in the 2021 MASL Tournament.

The 2021 NPSL and UWS season will be my last season, and I hope the Flower City Union is scouting our players, coaches and our amazing game day staff. I promised my beautiful wife years ago that I would retire at 60 and it’s time for me to start the next chapter of my life.

Shoutouts: Doug Miller, I couldn’t of done this without you! My Rhinos buddy Tommy Tanner, we joined the MISL together in 2011, congrats on being the new president of the MASL board. Ed Hale “The Godfather” of indoor soccer has been my role model and good friend since getting into this sport. Chris Economides gave me my pro soccer start in 1996 with the Rhinos, my lifelong friend is now the commissioner of M2. Michael Lewis, the Lancers Wall of Famer continues to be the only reporter covering our Lancers.

The year 2021 was my 41st anniversary of trying to promote a sport I love as a hobby and things have changed. It kills me when family and friends don’t support my teams and I usually put them on a special list. Soccer has become a money grab for many with more leagues than stadiums. Few coaches and clubs see the importance of bringing teams to games. The Rochester media is now stuck in Buffalo and New York State is the toughest state to get workers comp insurance!

During my 41-year run I’ve had an amazing time helping Rochester youth and adult soccer. I loved supporting the Buffalo Blizzard, Rochester Rhinos, our women’s national team playing the Ravens, MLS teams visiting Rochester, the WNY Flash, Team Brazil, the Orlando SeaWolves and my Lancers team and family!

I appreciate all the amazing people that helped me over the years with my crazy hobby especially my beautiful wife Linda and my Dream Team of two, Ashley Maria King Solomianko and Kayla Klark Kent Moreira.

I hope my 12 beautiful grandkids and kids throughout the country and Rochester continue to…..

Feel The Lancers Kick For Life!

Thank You! ss ❤️⚽️