Blast among 24 teams to join new Major Arena Soccer League

Year after year, Baltimore Blast owner Ed Hale grew tired of the same question as another new season approached: Who is the Baltimore Blast going to be playing this year?

He provided an answer on Monday.


Hale announced the creation of the Major Arena Soccer League at a news conference at Canton Dockside restaurant, a 24-team operation that includes teams from the Major Indoor Soccer League and the Professional Arena Soccer League.

Joining the Blast from last year's seven-team MISL are the Missouri Comets, Milwaukee Wave, Rochester Lancers, Syracuse Silver Knights and St. Louis Ambush.


Six of the seven franchises had their contracts with the United Soccer Leagues, which runs the MISL, expire at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.

The Blast also will be reunited with some familiar rivalries as the San Diego Sockers, Dallas Sidekicks and Harrisburg Heat are among the 16 teams coming aboard from the PASL.

Hale believes the new coast-to-coast league will give indoor soccer a broader national scope with the possibility of a national television contract and national sponsorships. It's an international brand with three Mexico-based teams also in the mix. The Tacoma Stars and Texas-based Brownsville Barracudas are two new franchises to complete the current 24-team makeup of the league.

"What this does is it gives us much more size and if certain teams need some help, we'll help them. And if they don't make it, it won't be the end of the world," said Hale, who was named the league's chairman of the board. "When you have seven teams and somebody isn't doing well, it's a disaster. So we now have more girth and we'll be able to adapt easier."

Kevin Milliken, who was the PASL commissioner, assumes the same position in the MASL. Missouri Comets owner Brad Likens has been named league secretary with San Diego Sockers owner Phil Salvagio assuming the role as league treasurer. The group met with the various franchise owners here over the weekend to finalize deals and continue to iron out details.

Milliken said the league could add more franchises and has put a June 1 deadline in order to compete in the 2014-15 season.

The league, which will be split into geographical divisions at a later date, will play a 20-game regular-season schedule with the top three in each division advancing to the playoffs. The inaugural MASL game will take place Oct. 25 with the Dallas Sidekicks taking on the Missouri Comets, who defeated the Blast for the MISL crown last season.

The next order of business for Blast management is getting the players back under contract. When the team's contract with the USL expired, it voided all individual player contracts. Blast general manager Kevin Healey has kept the players updated on the status of the new league and will now begin negotiations with players.


"What I told them was after these league meetings, which ended this weekend, we'll begin to talking contracts with them," Healey said. "I anticipate we'll get the majority of our players back without a doubt. We want our players to return and I feel very confident we'll be able to get them to come back and play for us."

The expanded league will bring more competition for the Blast, which has won six championships since 2003 and seven since the original MISL came to Baltimore in 1980.

Blast coach Danny Kelly welcomes the challenge and, just as important, the potential stability the new league may provide. In recent years, franchises have come and gone with constant turnover in the MISL.

"Going from year to year not knowing who you're going to play, potentially not knowing if you are going to have a job, it's not easy to do. I think this gives us a great foundation to build on with some great franchises and I'm excited about all the possibilities," he said. "We want to continue to do what we've been doing every year and that's to build a team that can compete for a championship. I think our job just got a bit tougher, but we relish the challenge."