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 Will Birmingham join the Major Indoor Soccer League?

 
  

May 1979

  
         
    The Major Indoor Soccer League indicates that Birmingham is on a short list of cities they will be expanding into for the 1979-80 season. The official announcement, made by league commissioner Earl Foreman, read, "The league has decided to consider expansion for the 1979-80 season into Birmingham, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis and Miami areas. These are consistent with the concept of the Major Indoor Soccer League - play in major markets with first-class arenas and first-class people (ownership)." The MISL is the first indoor professional soccer league in the United States.

1978-79 was the MISL's first season and it has franchises in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Buffalo and Hartford. Buffalo and Hartford are the league's newest members, joining the MISL following last week's owners meeting. Doug Verb, director of media relations for the MISL said, "We've heard so many great things about Birmingham and about the Civic Center there and we're encouraged about possible expansion to the city. At first, we found it a little hard to believe soccer was that big in Birmingham and Alabama. When you think of Alabama, you think of football. But we've learned different. Because we've just expanded to eight teams, we're really not in a hurry to expand again. We don't like to get ahead of ourselves. We want to do what's proper and right for the growth of the league. We have one helluva product and one helluva game. It's going to grow and we've learned a great deal from other new leagues. We don't want to fall into those pitfalls that took other new leagues." This was a dig at the Super Soccer League, which was created last summer and wound up folding before playing a single game. Ironically, the city planned to have a team in the SSL, named the Birmingham Bandits.

Casey Jones, Manager of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Civic Center, confirmed he has had contact with the MISL. "I have talked with the league. I met with Ed Teper and our conversation dwelled on a professional soccer franchise locating in the city. We'd welcome another tenant, and I think the city has an excellent chance of landing a franchise. All we need is for someone to apply for the franchise and pay the franchise fee and we're in business," Jones said.

Verb went on to explain what makes the MISL special, "In outdoor soccer, the field is 110 yards by 60 yards wide. Our field is 200 feet long and 80 feet wide. Instead of an 8 feet high and 24 feet long goal, Ours is 6 1/2 high and 12 feet wide. Instead of two 45 minute halves (90 minutes), we play four 15 minute quarters (60 minutes). Instead of 11 players on the field, we have 6. Last year in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the two teams combined scored an average of 3.4 goals a game. In the MISL, the two teams combined scored almost 12 per game. All that adds up to excitement for the fans." He went on to add, "You don't find many American players on the outdoor squads, but you'll see our 14 man rosters dominated by American players."

A prominent Birmingham businessman, Francis Falkenburg, is rumored to be the major investor if the team materializes. Falkenburg said, "We were represented at the meeting (last week's owners meeting)." Falkenburg has been interested in the MISL since its inception 2 years ago, and his first contact with the league came last year when he contacted them. That led to a meeting with the MISL's Executive Vice-President, Ed Teper, in Birmingham. On Teper's visit, Falkenburg said, "He made a trip down here to discuss some things about the league, along with checking out Birmingham as a possible franchise location. He absolutely loves the city. I think it was obvious he was anxious to have Birmingham in their league. However, Falkenburg went on to say, "Our interest has been more of a waiting approach. We've wanted to find out all we could about the league. The game packaged by the Major Indoor Soccer League is exciting. but right now, it's not a time to get excited about expansion. We've made no commitment to the league and the league has made no commitment to Birmingham. The talks have been discussions."

  
         
  

Epilogue

  
         
      Although the Major Indoor Soccer League outlasted their chief rival, the North American Soccer League, they had been severely weakened.

In 1990, the MISL changed its name to the Major Soccer League.

When the American Indoor Soccer Association started a second bidding war, the MSL didn't survive and ceased operations in 1992. However, four of the seven teams didn't fold. Cleveland and Wichita joined the National Professional Soccer League, formerly the AISA, while Dallas and San Diego helped create the now defunct Continental Indoor Soccer League.

  
         
 
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Last Update: October 14, 2006