That time of the year, folks. Time to reassess the league that the Milwaukee Wave plays in, the teams that disappeared, and the new teams that have formed.
Last year, the MISL (the third incarnation of that acronym) had five teams in one table. Your Milwaukee Wave won the title of 2010-11 Best Dasherboard Indoor Soccer Team on the Planet, defeating long-time nemesis Baltimore Blast, while three expansion teams (Missouri Comets, Omaha Vipers and Chicago Riot) served to pad the Wave's and Blast's victory columns.
Since the Wave won their title last March, the Vipers and Riot vaporized amidst rumors that their players hadn't been paid. But the Wave, Blast and Comets couldn't be in a three-team league... that would be zany. This year's savior was the United Soccer League, which had been preparing the fledgling I-League for their first season of indoor soccer. The USL and MISL merged, resulting in four new teams for this season... the Wichita Wings, Norfolk SharX, Rochester Lancers and Syracuse Silver Knights (Side note about Syracuse; one rostered player is Zoran Karic, an indoor soccer legend with the Cleveland Crunch in the mid-1990s. Of course, the mid-1990s were 15 years ago, but if Satchel Paige and Minnie Minoso could play later in life...).
Seven teams allows for two divisions (well, there was going to be an eighth team - the expansion Chicago Kick - but they didn't quite have their stuff ready so they are sitting out.) For ther first time in, well, forever, the teams in the league and the regional layout makes sense. The Comets (which are really in Kansas City, but for contractual reasons with the arena in which they play in Independence, MO, they have to disavow knowledge that the city of Kansas City exists, while drawing about 98% of their fans from that imaginary locale) is a three-and-a-half hour drive from Wichita, while Milwaukee and next year's Chicago team are 80 miles apart. Rochester is just down the road from Syracuse, while Norfolk and Baltimore are separated by 200 miles as the crow flies, but Chesapeake Bay means you can't get there from here. Having nearby teams saves on travel costs for all teams... important savings for a niche sport with an average attendance of 4000 or so.
"Enough of that folderol", says you, the reader. "Get to the Wave".
You got it.
The Wave returns a significant portion of last year's championship roster. Former league MVP Greg Howes is back for a full season, the outstanding GK tandem of Nick Vorberg and Marcel Feenstra return, and Fabinho (from Omaha) joins the Wave to anchor the defense.
But who are we kidding? Milwaukee and Baltimore - with each city boasting over 25 years of indoor soccer play - are the class of the league. They have tenure over the other five teams which boast a combined one season and three games. No reason to expect anything less than these two teams battling it out for this year's championship.
The Wave opens their season this Sunday, November 13th at 3:00 PM at the US Cellular Arena against the Wichita Wings (Side note; Don't despair. The Packers have moved their game this weekend to Monday night to avoid conflict and to maintain their consecutive sellout streak... network ratings be damned). So check out the promotions, bring a teddy bear, get a(nother) towel to Wave, and have a Blast (sorry, I couldn't fit Wings in there. But you get the point). See you down there.