Baltimore Blast find new league

The Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team has been around in some form or another since 1980 when the Houston Summit moved to town. That original team was the home to many well-known players in the region, but the most famous was Stan “The Magician” Stamenkovic. Stan played for the Blast from 1983 until 1988, at a time that indoor soccer players made big money and were true star athletes. You will still find people around the Baltimore area who talk about Stan’s amazing ability. Besides his talent and creativity Stamenkovic was popular with fans because he looked like them. His love of pizza, beer and cigarettes often showed in his non-athletic-looking body, but it was the fact that he put on a show every night that gained him the fans’ love. Unfortunately Stan died at a very young 39 in 1996 from a fall in his home country. His #10 is retired by the Blast and a banner flies in the Baltimore Arena.

That original Blast team went out of existence when the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) folded in 1992. Almost immediately a team known as the Baltimore Spirit was created and joined the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). Six years later Baltimore businessman Ed Hale bought the team and changed the name back to the Blast. Most fans consider the Blast/Spirit/Blast as one consistent team. The banners in the Baltimore Arena would also make you believe they are one team.

The Blast has not had a consistent league to play in. The NPSL folded and the team joined a new version of the MISL, which also folded later in 2008. So the team had to move again into the  National Indoor Soccer League which, of course, changed their name to the MISL. Confused? Well, you should be.

The Blast have not been too happy with this third iteration of the MISL. First there was a troubled and failed merger into something called the I-League. Second was disagreement with how the league was managed by the United Soccer Leagues (USL), which had assumed control during the I-League fiasco. And the biggest problem from the Blast’s viewpoint is that this latest version of the MISL has offered inconsistent team memberships. It is hard to sustain rivalries when one does not know who you will be playing from year to year.

So it looks like the strongest and most consistent MISL teams from the past few years, the Baltimore Blast, Milwaukee Wave, Missouri Comets, Rochester Lancers, St. Louis Ambush, and Syracuse Silver Knights will join into an existing league known as the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL) now that the existing management contract through the USL is finished.

The PASL has some teams that should be well-known to indoor soccer fans. The Harrisburg Heat, Dallas Sidekicks and San Diego Sockers have had rivalries with the Blast over the years. Harrisburg also provides the Blast another regional team to play against.

This “merger” into the PASL seems to be orchestrated by Ed Hale of the Blast, along with ownerships of the Missouri Comets and San Diego Sockers. So there may still be some questions about who is really running this new PASL.

Other questions will be addressed in the next few months:

  • The combined PASL will have way over 20 teams. Is that too many teams?

  • The PASL has many teams such as the Cincinnati Saints, Cleveland Freeze, Detroit Waza, Illinois Piasa and the Turlock (CA) Express who play in indoor facilities of less than 1000 seats. Will they continue as is, or does the PASL create an upper and lower division format?

  • What to do with the successful Mexican teams in the PASL? They have a good fanbase, but will travel be problematic?

  • Will travel to west coast teams such as San Diego, Turlock and Ontario (CA) be too costly, especially for the east coast teams?

  • The last remaining MISL team, the Reading, PA-based Pennsylvania Roar, was not doing well at the gate. Does this mean they are done for good?

Tags: Baltimore Blast Ed Hale Harrisburg Heat Indoor Soccer Major Indoor Soccer League MISL PASL Professional Arena Soccer League United Soccer Leagues

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