MASL superstar Ian Bennett will suit up with Tropics for upcoming 2020-21 season

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla. –  One of the greatest players in the history of the Major Arena Soccer League will be playing for the Florida Tropics during the 2020-21 season.

Milwaukee Wave forward Ian Bennett, who has been a first-team All MASL pick in three of the last four seasons, has been signed by the Tropics for the upcoming season. Players on multiyear contracts with the Milwaukee Wave will revert back to the Wave at the conclusion of the 20/21 season. Bennett has spent his entire MASL career in Milwaukee, which in an announcement earlier this month, announced the team is unable to participate in the 2020-21 campaign due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wave remain active members in good standing in the MASL and plan to return for the 2021-2022 season.

The 37 year-old native of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Bennett has appeared in 273 indoor games in his career, scoring 381 goals and adding 104 assists. He was also a second-team All MASL selection in 2018-19 and 2015-16. Last year, Bennett was second in the league in goals scored  with 44. In the three seasons prior, he scored 47, 50 and 53 goals respectively.

The Wave are the defending league champions, having won the last contested title in the 2018-19 season. In the last three years, in 13 playoff games, Bennett has scored 21 goals. Four times last year, he scored four goals in a single game, and he scored six in a game twice.

“This is truly a watershed moment for this franchise. To add a player of Ian’s talents, stature and class is truly a game-changing move,” Head Coach Clay Roberts said. “The Tropics and its ownership are committed to finishing what we started last season when we won the Eastern Conference championship. Bringing in someone of Ian’s immense skill, leadership and championship mindset will be a big boost in helping us in trying finish the job this spring.”

The Florida Tropics, presented by Bond Clinic, was 18-3 when the MASL season came to an end last year because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, a season which included a franchise record crowd of 4,318 on Feb. 22 when they defeated Sonora, 8-6. The Tropics were declared the official Eastern Conference champions after the final three games of the regular season and playoffs were canceled.

It was a remarkable turnaround for Florida, which finished an injury-ravaged season in 2018-19 at just 6-18. With the core of the team in players like Victor Parreiras, Lucas Montelares and Lucas Teixeira returning, added to an influx of free agent talent like Ricardo Carvalho (All MASL Third Team) and MASL Defender of the Year Drew Ruggles, the club surged to the top of the conference standings, outdistancing the likes of the Milwaukee Wave (14-6), Baltimore Blast (15-8) and Utica City FC (14-6). Monterrey, who the Tropics did not meet in the regular season, was named champions of the Western Conference with a 20-2 record.

The Tropics return most of their championship roster, including key players like Parreiras (Second Team All MASL), Carvalho, Ruggles, goalkeeper Hugo Silva (Second Team All MASL), Zach Reget, Guilherme and Antonio Manfut.

They have also added two key free agents in defender Chad Vandegriffe, a key starting backliner on the Milwaukee Wave’s championship team of 2018-19, and Kiel Williams, the second leading scorer for the Kansas City Comets last year.

In Carvalho, (23 goals, 23 assists), Reget (21, 15), Parreiras (21,15), Guilheme (18, 12) and  Ruggles (14,7), Florida returns its top five scorers. Carvalho’s 46 points were a career high and fifth best overall in the league. Silva was tops among all netminders with a sterling 4.14 goals against average, a career best, and he was third overall in the league in save percentage at .716 and third overall in wins with 13. Defensively, the Tropics gave up just 86 goals in 21 games, by far the fewest in the league, and only one of two teams to not allow triple digits in goals allowed. Milwaukee gave up 96 goals, and actually played one less game than the Tropics. 

The Tropics will start their fifth season in the Major Arena Soccer League in early January. The MASL is finalizing team schedules, with teams playing from between 12 and 24 games, with playoff seeding determined by overall winning percentage. Several teams are still weighing options for playing this coming season based on Coronavirus restrictions in their home markets.