August 24, 2022
The fledgling Major League Indoor Soccer has indicated the sport might return to Rochester.
On Aug. 17, the league said that it will kick off in December of this year with a Midwest flavor with teams in Chicago, Indiana, Cincinnati, Michigan, Ohio and Rockford, Ill.
According to an MLIS press release, the league has received applications from Buffalo and New York, Erie, Pa., Hartford, Conn. and Detroit.
Each team will play 12 games - six at home, six away - in the league's inaugural season.
"Indoor soccer in the U.S. has established a foothold across the country as a backbone to the outdoor game, keeping players fine-tuned during the off-season and also allowing specific markets across the U.S. to play indoor soccer during the winter season, where otherwise no soccer could be played due to cold weather," MLIS president Dr. Sev Hrywnak said in a statement. "Indoor soccer has had a storied history with multiple leagues over the years, creating some of the most historic games and memories. We have established a pro league that will give team owners the opportunity of becoming league owners as well."
Hrywnak has some strong Rochester ties as the majority owner of the Rochester Razorsharks pro basketball team that competed in the Premier Basketball League from 2005-19.
SoccerSam Fantauzzo, who brought back the Rochester Lancers as an indoor team from 2011-2015 and then from 2018-20, wondered where a new indoor team would call home.
"My phone has blown up after the announcement and potential Rochester team in this new indoor league," he said, adding that the Lancers were "still part of the MASL [Major Arena Soccer League] and M2."
"Rochester only has two legitimate buildings for pro indoor soccer! I’m not aware of the Dome Arena re-opening full time or the Amerks allowing other outside sports tenants," he said.
The Amerks are the Rochester Americans, who play in the American Hockey League.
The Lancers began playing indoor games at the Community War Memorial before moving to the Dome Arena in suburban Henrietta for two seasons.
"I’ve tried for years to keep all the soccer gods and my soccer friends united for the good of the game," Fantauzzo said.
"Lower levels of outdoor soccer would be successful without all these different leagues that our fans and media can’t keep up with.
"In my professional soccer opinion, we have the MLS and MASL as our top leagues in American soccer."
Fantauzzo worked with the outdoor Rochester Rhinos, who helped set the pace in the A-League.
"I was fortunate to have worked for Steve Donner, Frank Duross and Chris Economides during the heyday of Rochester pro soccer [1996-2005]. We were Soccer Town USA with an amazing team on the field thanks to the players Economides and coach Pat Ercoli signed. More importantly, we had the top organization in the country with over 20 key office people working hard at Steve’s AHL hockey office and Chris’s Rhino office to sell out every game and make each Rhinos game an event."
Fantauzzo revealed that other A-League and USL teams tried to copy the Rhinos' success.
"Most people don’t know this," he said. "The original Rhinos were so successful that other A-league/USL teams sent their key staff members to get trained by our staff. Montreal, Vancouver and others that came are now in the MLS."
Seeing how successful the Rhinos were, Fantauzzo said he tried to duplicate the Rhinos' blueprint with the Lancers.
"I tried hard to bring that same Rhinos philosophy to my Indoor Lancers in 2011," he said.
"I was fortunate to have several of the same people that worked with me at the Rhinos help our new team and I won the lottery with several new Lancers hires including my dream team of Ashley King and Kayla Kent. We led the league in attendance and sponsorship for years and it wasn’t an accident. Lots of hard work by an office full of great people that loved the game."
The Lancers fielded a team in United Women's Soccer - the Lady Lancers - this past season and there are plans for a men's side to participate in the National Premier Soccer League in 2023.
“Today soccer in America has become like the pizza business," Fantauzzo said. "Slap in an oven and you think you’re in the pizza business! If you have a whistle and a ball, you now can own a team and think you’re in the soccer business.”
Fantauzzo is the founder and owner of Salvatore's Old Fashioned Pizza with 33 restaurants and two outlet branches in the Rochester area.