MISL Could Revolutionize Indoor Soccer in U.S. with Adoption of Futsal Rules
By Tim Sheldon
U.S. Futsal Head Coach Keith Tozer has done much for the game of Futsal in this country, but we cannot agree with a recent comment he made in an attempt to equate Futsal with the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) wall game. .
Tozer, who also coaches the Milwaukee Wave in MISL, asserted that MISL indoor soccer is essentially the same as Futsal, the World Indoor Game that is played with side and end lines.
“The way we play is basically Futsal with an extra player and walls,” Tozer said.
There's a big difference between the two games, but we can understand why Tozer would want to attempt this comparison.
The original MISL had a great run from 1978 through 1992. It averaged 7,644 in regular season attendance over 14 seasons and 9,049 for the playoffs. There were stars such as Steve Zungul, Jorgen Kristiansen, Kai Haaskivi, Preki and Tatu who brought in the fans.
We can understand why this current, third incarnation of the MISL would want to stay with the same system and bring back the popularity. It has been a very successful business, so why change the product?
That part of it is all very logical, but what is not logical is the attempted comparison of the MISL with Futsal.
There is a huge difference between using the sideline and kicking the ball off a wall. The walls are like trainer wheels on a bicycle. The creators of the wall game didn't seem to trust the ability of players to keep the ball in bounds. They seemed to think that the ball would go out of bounds as frequently as a hockey puck skimming over ice.
While Futsal players are keeping the ball in play within side and end lines, the wall gamers are purposefully kicking the ball against the wall in an attempt to create an offensive opportunity. Every time the ball hits the wall, it is virtually being kicked out of bounds, suggesting a lack of skill and robbing the game of its natural focus. When the ball is against the wall, it blocks the view of half the fans in the arena. All they can see are upper bodies pushing and shoving.
The side and end lines in Futsal are a fine point of the game, a delicacy, where some of the greatest skill is displayed. The ball is kept in play and transferred from sideline to sideline with great skill, and it creates a visual feast for the fans.
Neto's winning goal for Brazil against Spain in the recently-concluded FIFA Futsal World Cup started with a chip past the defender and precise use of the left sideline to create a left-footed shot inside the far post.
An MISL player would not have the best reflexes to execute that technique under pressure, because he never uses the sideline.
The MISL seems to think walls make the game more dynamic, when in actuality they rob the game of its focus and generally dumb it down. A kick against the wall is a kick out of bounds, a reflex that belies any attempt at skill, precision and control. If you take that reflex onto a Futsal court, it will lead to disaster.
We respect the fact that the MISL is a business with an existing product that it wants to keep in place, and we wish them the best, but the attempt to equate the game with Futsal clearly misses the mark.
The only way for the U.S. to succeed in international Futsal competition is to play the game professionally at the highest level. The MISL produces some very good players, but they do not have the correct reflexes or understanding of the tactics of Futsal to advance very far in international competition.
If Keith Tozer wants to correlate the MISL game with Futsal in a logical way, he should implement a rule change in which the MISL reduces its playing area enough to create side and end lines and turns the walls into advertising boards. They could retain their business template but adopt the rules of Futsal, the World Indoor Game.
That would revolutionize pro indoor soccer in this country and help turn the U.S. into a strong international competitor.