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MISL has interest in Canadian expansion

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In the wake of its decision to take over operations of the Major Indoor Soccer League, the USL says it has interest from Canadian markets that could serve as potential expansion franchises.

The USL announced Monday that it was taking over the MISL, which has surviving franchises in Baltimore, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Wichita. Three expansion cities, Norfolk, Syracuse and Rochester, will be added to make the MISL a seven-team circuit.

And, while the priority is to stabilize the MISL’s American base, USL will entertain Canadian suitors, president Tim Holt stated in an e-mail to The 11.

“While our immediate focus is on ensuring the strength and performance of our current seven member teams going into the 2011-12 season, there is a high level of interest in the MISL from prospective teams in the United States and Canada,” stated Holt.  “The MISL will expand in the United States and Canada as qualified ownership groups with suitable arenas in regions that make geographic sense for our current members exist.”   

Right now, Canadian indoor soccer interests lie with the MISL’s direction competition, the Professional Arena Soccer League. The Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League is affiliated with PASL. The CMISL champion earns the right to play in the season-ending PASL championship, which also includes the Mexican champs. CMISL teams play an interlocking schedule against PASL clubs in the United States.

CMISL president Mel Kowalchuk said Tuesday that the three Canadian clubs, which should all return for the 2012 winter season, remain committed to the PASL model.

“From my understanding everyone in our league is coming back to the CMISL,” said Kowalchuk.

Those three teams — the Edmonton Drillers (which has an affiliation with FC Edmonton of the NASL), Calgary United and Winnipeg Alliance — represent the best in Canadian indoor soccer. But they don’t play in NHL-size arenas. Their players retain their amateur statuses.

MISL uses a scoring system similar to the old North American Professional Soccer League, which folded in 2001. It’s a gimmicky brand of the game where goals that were scored from outside the arc were worth three points, other run-of-play goals worth two and penalty shootout goals were worth one each. You’d often see scores like 20-14 in NPSL matches.

PASL doesn’t use that system.

The Omaha Vipers left the MISL for the PASL earlier this month, and the PASL is aggressively expanding, with the Vipers joined by the Anaheim Bolts, Phoenix Monsoon, Kansas Magic as new PASL teams for 2011-12. The Kansas Magic will feature former Toronto FC defender Nick Garcia in the lineup.

For Canadian indoor fans, the nadir of the pro sport occurred in the mid- to late-‘90s, when the National Professional Soccer League tried franchises in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. Toronto Shooting Stars and the Montreal Impact never took off, but the Edmonton Drillers — launched when Peter Pocklington bought the Chicago Power franchise in 1996 and moved it north, and survived until 2000 until the finances of new owner Wojtek Wojcicki faltered — occasionally drew more than 10,000 fans to what was then Edmonton Coliseum (now Rexall Place). Still, the support the Drillers did earn — which far surpassed what the indoor Impact could generate in Montreal or the Shooting Stars got in Toronto — was not enough to keep the team alive. The ThunderHawks played in Toronto in the league’s final season.

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