Is Indoor Soccer Dead?

With one weekend left in the 2009-2010 Major Indoor Soccer League season, the playoffs are set: Baltimore will face Monterrey in a two-game set in the semifinals, with the winner1 meeting the Milwaukee Wave (who were dead, just not buried over the summer) in the championship game on Sunday, April 42.

But does it really matter anymore?

I love indoor soccer – have for some 30 years. But it’s hard to ignore the sad landscape of this sport right now. With three games to play (all this weekend), this latest MISL (there have been three, give or take) is on pace to have an overall average attendance of somewhere around 3,700 fans per game. Except for last season’s Xtreme Soccer League (which averaged 3,435 for its mere four teams), a league hasn’t gone under the 4,000 mark in average attendance since the NPSL of 1991-923.

Here’s a chart showing indoor’s attendance averages for the last 25 years (where there have been more than one league – which has happened on several occasions – their totals have been combined). The trend is not positive.

They can still draw a crowd in Baltimore, but their owner is dealing with some serious financial issues of his own. Rockford is rumored to be closing its doors. As there have been as long as I’ve been following indoor, there’s talk of new (or revived) teams coming in next year or the year after.

I know lots of “soccer people” don’t cotton to indoor because of what it isn’t, but I’ve always liked it for what it was – fun. Intense. It’s a great game. Unfortunately, I fear it’s on its last legs. I hope it can be rescued. I’m just not optimistic.

(The data that goes with that chart is after the jump)


1 – They’ll play sudden death overtime if each team wins one game, which is very possible.
2 – Easter Sunday. I know. Long story. Don’t ask.
3 – The NPSL, of course, was originally the AISA, eventually became the second MISL, some of its teams split off and formed the NISL, which re-took the old MISL name right before last season. Clear?

Season League(s) G Total Average
2009-2010 MISL III 50 188,065 3,761
2008-2009 NISL/XSL 81 308,078 3,803
2007-2008 MISL II 135 617,880 4,577
2006-2007 MISL II 90 423,955 4,711
2005-2006 MISL II 90 426,328 4,737
2004-2005 MISL II 145 628,948 4,338
2003-2004 MISL II 162 905,141 5,587
2002-2003 MISL II 144 780,490 5,420
2001-2002 WISL/MISL II 192 1,009,744 5,259
2000-2001 WISL/NPSL 286 1,397,717 4,887
1999-2000 WISL/NPSL 349 1,864,523 5,342
1998-1999 PSA/NPSL 287 1,750,705 6,100
1997-1998 CISL/NPSL 415 2,562,714 6,175
1996-1997 CISL/NPSL 455 2,617,452 5,753
1995-1996 CISL/NPSL 471 2,455,571 5,214
1994-1995 CISL/NPSL 437 2,307,890 5,281
1993-1994 CISL/NPSL 339 1,846,453 5,447
1992-1993 NPSL 261 1,331,940 5,103
1991-1992 MSL/NPSL 336 1,815,265 5,403
1990-1991 MSL/NPSL 402 2,049,643 5,099
1989-1990 MISL I/AISA 382 2,276,066 5,958
1988-1989 MISL I/AISA 319 1,833,474 5,748
1987-1988 MISL I/AISA 392 2,821,885 7,199
1986-1987 MISL I/AISA 480 3,043,911 6,341
1985-1986 MISL I/AISA 419 2,729,284 6,514
1984-1985 MISL I/AISA 459 3,084,970 6,721

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8 Responses to “Is Indoor Soccer Dead?”

  1. The Sweeper: CONCACAF’s Copycat Champions League A Failure? | Pitch Invasion Says:

    [...] Is indoor soccer dead, asks Kenn Tomasch? [...]

  2. Timoteo Says:

    Futsal interest is growing all over the country. I would like to see all the indoor soccer become futsal. I think it would attract a wider audience. Once people watch and play futsal, they rarely want to watch or play indoor soccer.

  3. admin Says:

    At the risk of sounding like I have this on macro: no.

    Futsal has absolutely no future as a spectator sport. Indoor soccer may be dead (or dying) but futsal is a complete non-starter.

    Futsal may be great for Brazilians. It may be wonderful to develop skills in young players. But it has no value as a spectator sport.

    Futsal is what baseball would be if all you could ever hit was singles. Its slogan should be “Like Outdoor Soccer, Only With None Of The Excitement.”

  4. Jeff Says:

    I didn’t think indoor soccer is dead. Yes attendance is going down each season. I think the MISL will make it. It will never be like the old MISL, getting crowds like in 1980’s but you will see attendance around 5,000 to 6,000. The PASL-Pro I give it a year or two before it folds.

  5. admin Says:

    Where are the crowds of 5,000 to 6,000? There have been 12 this season: 9 in Baltimore, 3 in Milwaukee, 1 in Philadelphia. And those are announced, not actual.

    I’m no big believer in the PASL-Pro, but they’ve at least minimized their expenses, which is something other indoor leagues haven’t. To their detriment.

  6. Jeff Says:

    Like I said you will see crowds around 5,000 to 6,000. We saw 12 of them this season in the MISL.

  7. admin Says:

    Out of 50. To quote Derrick Coleman, woop-dee-freaking-doo.

    You will occasionally see those things. But you will also see teams hemorrhaging money and folding. THAT’S why this sport is dying.

  8. Ready Or Not, Another Pro Indoor Soccer League | Inside Minnesota Soccer Says:

    [...] as Kenn Tomasch pointed out several months ago, indoor soccer has been on the decrease since the mid 80′s. So you have to ask why a new indoor league and why now. I guess we will [...]