Winter is here, and so is indoor soccer!
The Kansas City Comets kicked off the new Major Arena Soccer League season with back-to-back wins against the St. Louis Ambush, sweeping the series. The first on the road in St. Louis on Friday, November 26, and then back home at Cable Dahmer Arena a day later.
*Image courtesy of Kansas City Comets
While the rest of the league watched clubs drop out of the competition each month due to Covid-19 regulations and financial reasoning – twelve clubs will return for the 2021-2022 season.
The teams will be divided into three conferences with four teams each:
- St. Louis Ambush
- Kansas City Comets
- Dallas Sidekicks
- Milwaukee Wave
- Baltimore Blast
- Utica City
- Harrisburg Heat
- Florida Tropics
- Ontario Fury
- Chihuahua Savage
- San Diego Sockers
- Tacoma Stars
The Monterrey Flash, Rochester Lancers, and Mesquite Outlaws chose not to participate this season due to Covid protocols. However, they will return to action for the 2022-23 season.
Each team will play twenty four regular-season matches. Each division winner will receive automatic postseason bids and will be seeded from No. 1 to No. 3. The next five best regular-season finishers will book a playoff spot.
*Image courtesy of San Diego Sockers
The San Diego Sockers are the reigning MASL Ron Newman Cup champions after defeating the Ontario Fury at Toyota Arena earlier this year for the title.
*Image courtesy of Ontario Fury
“I think it was very competitive last season because a lot of players [from teams that did not join] were on loan to other teams, so they had ‘super stacked’ teams. So this year it’s good, it’s back to normal, hopefully. [..] After all, we have been through – were back,” Ontario Fury’s forward Nestor Hernandez said. “I’m excited to play and travel again. And see some faces I haven’t seen in awhile. Our job is not finished.”
Rule changes because everyone loves a good rule change.
I have to admit. As someone who has covered Major League Soccer for most of her career, switching from outdoor to indoor can cause a little confusion. Especially, when it comes to shots on target ratio, the use of the sixth attacker, duration of regulation time, and penalty cards. For example, the MASL uses blue cards in addition to yellow and red cards.
The league announced a goalkeeper possession rule change on Sunday, November 7th – it is expected to increase the attacking pace of a match.
According to MASLsoccer.com, the new rule reads:
“Once the goalie or sixth attacker releases the ball by his foot, he is not allowed to touch it again in his defensive half of the field until a foe touches the ball, the ball goes out of bounds or there is a stoppage of play via a whistle.”
Both players and fans had strong feelings regarding this change, with some seeing it as beneficial. It is important to note that the announcement came days before the Central Cup – receiving criticism that it was giving the four teams (two from MASL2) who were participating short notice.
Comets’ Goalkeeper Nicolau Neto discussed that the team received notice before the first Central Cup match to incorporate the new rule into training:
“It’s been a couple of days and we’ve been working on it. It is going to be hard. Gameday is different. The intensity and speed of play are completely different. We are going to have to adapt in the goal and see how we can form without utilizing [the keepers] as much.”
The Comets went on to reclaim their title as Central Cup champion in back-to-back wins after defeating the Wichita Wings (14-2) and Omaha Kings FC (9-2).
Utica City FC’s Joey Tavernese explained to the hosts of In The Box podcast:
“I think some of the guys you’re already accustomed to seeing being really good players; they will impress you even more. Because it takes a lot to get out of that pressure when you can’t constantly play the ball back to the goalkeeper.”
Naturally, any change will potentially cause confusion between the players and refs in the beginning, but as Tavernese said, “The game has evolved.”
And with the Major League Soccer season coming to a close, MASL is a fast-paced, high-scoring game that is enjoyable to watch. MLS fans will even recognize a few of their favorite players like Kevin Ellis (Kansas City Comets), Israel Sesay (Ontario Fury), and Mike Jones (Dallas Sidekicks).