Blast announces return to MASL for 2016-17 season

Blast announces return to MASL for 2016-17 season.

The Blast will be returning to the Major Arena Soccer League for the 2016-17 season, the team announced Monday.

After winning the championship in April, the team promptly left the league because of owner Ed Hale Sr.'s disappointment with its business structure and the stability of some of its franchises.

In May, Hale founded and launched the Indoor Professional League, but it never got off the ground with only three other teams officially committed to play. With the MASL hiring a new commissioner, Joshua Schaub, and making changes to its business plan, Hale felt returning was in the best interest of his franchise.

On Friday, the MASL voted to reinstate the Blast in addition to bringing back the St. Louis Ambush and Harrisburg Heat, which also left for the now-dissolved IPL. The Florida Tropics SC, the fourth franchise that had planned to play in Hale's proposed new league, also jumped to the MASL.

Hale said he's impressed with Schaub and that the league made the structural business changes he had been recommending since shortly after it was founded in 2014. The MASL will no longer use a single-entity business model, which means each team owner is now only responsible for his own franchise as opposed to having a stake in the entire league as a whole.

"I wasn't looking to do anything earth-shattering — I just wanted to make sure we were on the proper legal footing," Hale said. "It's pretty dry business stuff, but they did it and we talked and we're back, and we're going to defend our championship."

The league, which will open its third season in late October, now has 22 franchises in the fold.

"After an offseason of dialogue regarding how to push arena soccer forward, all parties have found it in their respective best interest, and that of arena soccer as a whole, to maintain one unified league," Schaub stated in a written news release. "We look forward to kicking off this upcoming [season] as a true international league."

The Blast's 2016-17 season will be the team's third in the MASL and mark an unprecedented 37th consecutive professional indoor soccer season in Baltimore. Last season, the Blast defeated Mexico-based Soles de Sonora to claim an eighth championship for a Baltimore franchise.

"Defending our crown is really good compared to starting fresh," Hale said. "We'll play hopefully to get into the playoffs and then go on to defend our title. I'm excited about that and like the idea of coming back."

glenn.graham@baltun.com

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