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Sports Soccer

Seeking to 'become more relevant,' Blast breaks away from MISL

The Blast has been released from the United Soccer Leagues and its affiliate, the Major Indoor Soccer League, Blast owner Ed Hale said Wednesday.

The team is working on becoming part of a new, expanded league, Hale said.

The team’s three-year contract with the USL, which runs the MISL, expired at the end of 2013-14 season. A number of other MISL franchises, including the Blast’s longtime rival Milwaukee Wave, also have been released from the USL/MISL and are pursuing play in a new league.

Hale said the departed MISL teams are looking to combine with teams from the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL) and possibly bring in new franchises to form a new league.

Negotiations are continuing, he said, and nothing has been finalized. The PASL has 20 franchises, including the Harrisburg Heat, San Diego Sockers and Dallas Sidekicks.

“It could be pretty sizable,” Hale said. “It makes us seven teams to double digits immediately, and it would give us a national scope. That’s what we’re hoping to achieve here, so that we can become more relevant.”

The original Blast franchise moved to Baltimore from Houston -- where they were known as the Summit -- before the 1980-81 MISL season. The Blast won their first MISL championship at the conclusion of the 1983-84 season.

Hale bought the team in 1989, but the MISL folded following the 1991-92 season. A new franchise, the Baltimore Spirit, began play in the National Professional Soccer League in July 1992.

Hale bought the Spirit in 1998 and renamed it the Blast. When the NPSL ceased operation in 2001, a new MISL replaced it. The league's third iteration began in 2008, when the National Indoor Soccer League acquired the MISL.

There has been a steady decline in the number of regular season games played by MISL teams. Though the schedule once included 44 games, the MISL reduced the number of regular season games last season from 26 to 20.

It's inclear what impact the Blast's departure will have on the league.

The Blast won MISL titles in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2013.

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

twitter.com/GlennGrahamSun

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