By Michael Lewis
The Rochester Lancers are back — in the Major Arena Soccer League first division.
The MASL board of directors Monday approved the Lancers’ return to the MASL.
The Lancers, who finished third in the MASL2 last season, will play a 24-game schedule — 12 home and 12 away — and will kick off the 2019-20 campaign probably in late November or early December. Their division foes will include Utica City FC, the Baltimore Blast, Harrisburg Heat and Toronto MetroStars.
The announcement prior to the annual MASL fall meetings in Orlando, Fla. Tuesday through Thursday. Rochester will be represented at the meetings as the league’s executives will meet to finalize the details of the 2019-2020 MASL season.
“We are one of the founding members of the MASL and we belong back in division one,” Lancers patriarch SoccerSam Fantauzzo said.
“We appreciated all the support of fellow MASL owners for allowing us back in the league and commissioner Joshua Schaub.”
For the second consecutive season, the Lancers will call the Dome Arena in suburban Henrietta, N.Y. home. They will play all dozen matches on six weekends throughout the winter. They sold out all their six games at the Dome during the 2019 season.
“We worked hard to prove we can make the Dome Arena work and our fans and sponsors have been amazing!” Fantauzzo said.
The Lancers’ goal is to use local players on the squad, which includes past and present performers who have worn the blue and gold.
“All teams in all league use local players from other cities,” Fantauzzo said. “We want to give our local Rochester players an opportunity to play against the best players in the indoor game.
“So many local clubs have been training players since the 90s. It’s time for them to shine in the first division MASL.”
Schaub welcomed the Lancers back into the MASL fold.
“SoccerSam has been a very important part of arena soccer for many years,” he said. “Between his work with the Lancers and his radio show, ‘Kick This’, his influence can be seen across the soccer landscape. We were happy to return the Lancers to M2 last year and excited to see them in MASL this season.”
Many familiar names and faces will return to the team — on and off the field.
Doug Miller will return as president of team operations and head coach as will Marc Mandell as general manager. Adam Schwartz, John Berardiruci, Rey “Boom Boom” Martinez will be assistant coaches again.
Ashley Maria King will be back as president of soccer operations and ditto for Kayla Klark Kent Moreira as director of soccer operations.
The Lancers, Inc. is a not for profit company that is operated by Fantauzzo Family Brands. It will continue to help raise money for several Rochester charities.
The club is celebrating the 50th anniversary of winning the 1970 North American Soccer League championship.
The team last performed in the top division during the 2014-15 season before going on hiatus.
Rochester returned to the arena fray last year in MASL2 – aka M2- and enjoyed a successful season, reaching the final four before losing to Cuervos of Juarez, 11-10, in overtime of the semifinals. The Lancers rebounded by defeating the Las Vegas Knights, 8-7, on an 11th-hour goal to secure the third-place trophy.
After leaving the original incarnation of the North American Soccer League in 1980, the Lancers returned to soccer in 2011, joining the Major Indoor Soccer League.
The outdoor Lancers qualified for the National Premier Soccer League playoffs for the first time in their three-year history this summer before it was eliminated in the second round by Cleveland SC in extratime, 6-4.
The Lady Lancers recently completed their third season in the United Women’s Soccer and will return in 2020 for more action.
Season tickets are available are RLancers.com.