The Major Indoor Soccer League’s Pennsylvania Roar is halfway through its inaugural season and fell to 0-10 with a 16-5 loss in Baltimore Saturday night. (This actually marked an improvement for the Reading-based expansion team, as their three previous losses to the Blast were by a combined score of 74-2.)
The Roar has a chance to be the worst professional indoor soccer team of all time, but which of the teams of the last 35 years would currently hold that title? And where would Pennsylvania rank among the 10 worst teams ever?
After the jump, one man’s bottom ten based on a combination of the teams’ records, point or goal differentials, losing streak(s) and general instability.
10. 1989-1990 Memphis Rogues (6-34) (AISA): After three years as the Memphis Storm, the American Indoor Soccer Association club re-took the name of the River City’s old NASL team that had enjoyed some success in the late 1970s. The new era began inauspiciously, as the new Rogues started 1-8 (costing coach Don Tobin his job). They didn’t improve under Tony Carbognani, going 2-18 before beating the Indiana Kick 14-5 on February 2, 1990. Kicked out of the Mid-South Coliseum, the Rogues played a home game in Albany, New York, before moving to the Show Place Arena, a 4,500-seat facility built in 1985. The Rogues didn’t need half the seats in the place and were expelled from the league after their final game for not paying debts.
9. 1996-1997 Toronto Shooting Stars (6-34) (NPSL): There have been honeymoons in Niagara Falls that lasted longer. The expansion Shooting Stars became wards of the league just four games into their first season, wound up playing “home” games in Rochester and finished 0-20 on the road. In retrospect, we should have sensed something was up when ownership made them bus (755 miles) to St. Louis for their inaugural game. My man Art Kramer wound up taking over as the team’s coach after their 1-8 start and actually kept them mostly competitive the rest of the way.
8. 2007-2008 Orlando Sharks (4-26) (MISL2): The expansion Sharks were actually competitive in their first-ever match, losing 7-4 at home to co-expansionist New Jersey on October 26, 2007. It was pretty much downhill from there, as the Sharks lost their first 16 games before beating California 16-13 on January 18, 2008. (In fact, half of their four wins came against the Cougars.) They took the next season off to “reorganize,” (“but we’re totally coming back, you guys“) but were never heard from again. And their normal crowd looked about like this.
7. 1994-1996 Chicago Power (12-68) (NPSL): The first of two two-year nightmares on our list (because it’s as hard to choose between the seasons as it is to have such sustained suckitude). The Power were once an NPSL…well, power. They made the finals in their first year and won it all in their third, but by 1994, the bottom had fallen out. The next two years, during which they were league-owned and (barely) operated, were a tragicomedy that I couldn’t really do justice to, but which this guy can. The Power became the Edmonton Drillers in 1996 and lasted until 2000, when they abruptly folded after nine games.
6. 1994-1996 Canton Invaders (11-69) (NPSL): The Chicago Power was a perennial contender, but the Invaders were the first kings of the NPSL (when it was the AISA). They won five of the first league championships and their 36-4 mark in 1989-1990 is still the best in the history of the indoor game. But after a (losing) appearance in the 1992 NPSL finals, the Invaders muddled along for a couple of years, going 13-27 and 18-22 under Oscar Pisano and Andy Smiles (barely missing the playoffs the second year) before things really went pear-shaped. With player-coach Denzil Antonio at the helm, the Invaders went 6-34 and 5-35, with Antonio only escaping when he was traded at 4-31 the second year. Canton lost 16 straight from January 27 to March 18, 1995 (including a then-record 30-point loss to Cleveland) and went 1-19 on the road. They started the 1995-1996 season 2-1 before losing 21 of the next 22 and only breaking a 12-game losing streak in their final home game ever (a 16-10 win over Milwaukee on St. Patrick’s Day 1996). The Invaders moved downstate to Columbus the next year and became team #3 on this list.
5. 1986-1987 New York Express (3-23) (MISL1): Begun with the best of intentions and with plenty of lead time, the Express lost their first 13 games, averaged under four goals an outing and called it quits on February 17, 1987. The Express did have some players who either had been able to play a bit or still could (Hubert Birkenmeier, Michael Collins, Fred Grgurev, Rick Davis, Mark Liveric and Shep Messing) but they had no money (a planned IPO fizzled) and were just, in general, a circus.
4. 1992-1993 Denver Thunder (3-37) (NPSL): Relocated to Denver after two mediocre seasons in Rockford, the Thunder fizzled early and limped to one of the worst records ever. They were only able to secure McNichols Arena for their home opener with a payment made the day before the game, and they were taken over by the league after ten games. Even new ownership couldn’t help, as they ended up playing 25 of 40 games on the road and lost their final 32 games, an all-time record.
3. 1996-1997 Columbus Invaders (5-35) (NPSL): If you thought the Canton Invaders at the end of their run couldn’t get worse, guess again. The move to Columbus was a disaster of epic proportions. The Invaders went through 47 players, at least three coaches, losing streaks of 10 and 11 games and were at the wrong end of the record 52-18 scoreline to Cleveland (at home no less) as well as losses by scores of 32-2, 32-4, 37-5 and 30-4. They did manage to win five games (two in overtime), including a 29-25 win over the Crunch.
2. 1990-1991 New York Kick (3-37) (NPSL): When NPSL Commissioner Steve Paxos said “We’re very confident in the ownership group out there and the fan base,” before the Kick’s one and only season began, it was the kiss of death. The 40 local businessmen who made up the upstate New York team’s ownership group were out of the picture within 30 games. They played in two arenas (and couldn’t draw in either), had four coaches, went winless (0-20) on the road and lost their final 24 games (including a then-record 34-4 loss to the aforementioned Illinois Thunder).
1. 2008-2009 Mass Twisters (1-17) (NISL): Added from the AISL at the eleventh hour to give the newly-reconstituted NISL (now the third MISL) five teams, they went 1-17, were outscored by an average of almost 19 points per game and absorbed the worst shutout loss in indoor history (43-0). The Twisters had no players of any reputation or ability, and could not draw fans at all.
I have high confidence the Roar will find their way onto this list within 60 days, and may become the first team to go winless for a full season. If you’ve got a team you think should be considered one of the worst of all time (I’ll do the 10 best soon), tell me about it in the comments below.