Blast officials optimistic despite MISL breakup

The Baltimore Sun

Despite the dissolution of the Major Indoor Soccer League this past weekend, Blast officials yesterday expressed confidence that professional indoor soccer will be played in Baltimore next season under a restructured format.

While portraying the shutdown as a procedural move, Blast owner Ed Hale said, "We're going to play next year with the number of teams and number of games to be determined. This is to streamline the league. We just closed the door on the corporation and we're opening another door. This is not the end."

Said Blast general manager Kevin Healey, "We don't think that this is doomsday at all."

The Blast won its fourth championship in the past six MISL seasons in April after the league functioned with nine teams. One franchise, the California Cougars, then decided to pull out of the MISL and last week league commissioner Steve Ryan resigned after eight years in office.

California's exit will help other league members achieve a cutback in travel expenses, one of the future goals. To that end, proposals will be offered to divide play into two divisions (one in the East, one in the Midwest) and conduct an unbalanced schedule with more games inside a team's own division.

Technically, all MISL players are now free agents able to sign with any organization in the new league. But Healey doesn't consider that a major hurdle.

"Their contracts were with the league," Healey said. "But that shouldn't be a problem for us as soon as we have a new league."

Players look at Baltimore as one of the MISL's most attractive places to play because of league-leading fan support and on-field success.

"We expect our core group of players to come back," Hale said.

Among the items current owners will discuss this week is the addition of another franchise in Mexico to join Monterrey, which lost to the Blast in the championship game. If Guadalajara joins, visiting teams could play two games on their longest road trip, further alleviating travel costs.

The Blast also wants the league office to be located in a member city, rather than in Connecticut, where Ryan lived. As yet, there is no urgency to name a new commissioner.

"That way [relocating], the commissioner can see all the teams come in and have contact with the players and coaches," Healey said. "It would be a lot easier to be in touch with what is happening."

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