New league takes bite

The Baltimore Sun

The National Indoor Soccer League has not conducted a game yet, and already it has suffered a setback.

With the decision by the Orlando Sharks to suspend operations at least for this season, the league has been reduced to four teams and is scrambling to revise its schedule.

"This is another step we'll have to overcome," Blast general manager Kevin Healey said. "No doubt this was a surprise because they [the Sharks] were part of putting this league together, then at the last minute they pull out because of arena problems."

The Blast was scheduled to open Nov. 15 at 1st Mariner Arena against Orlando and hopes to retain that date against a different opponent. The idle team that first weekend is Monterrey La Raza from Mexico, but its players have not yet obtained visas to cross the border into the United States.

"We'll probably go with the four teams and stay with an 18-game schedule, playing everybody six times," Healey said. "The chance of transferring a team to another city is remote."

The owners of the remaining franchises - the Blast, Philadelphia KiXX, Rockford (Ill.) Rampage and La Raza - will discuss the options this week and settle on a new schedule. Healey expects the majority of the dates to stay intact.

Orlando's players will become free agents for this season and be able to sign with any other team in the NISL or the rival Xtreme Soccer League, which was formed with four other franchises from the old Major Indoor Soccer League from last season.

In an interview with The Examiner, Orlando president Rich Bradley said the team was saddled "with pretty horrid dates" for home games, threatening its financial picture. Orlando, which had a league-worst 1,789 average home attendance last season, finished last (4-26) in the MISL.

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