Tropics open 7th MASL season Dec. 10 in Baltimore; home opener Dec. 17 vs. Utica

by Brian Ackley

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Florida Tropics, presented by Bond Clinic, will open their seventh season of Major Arena Soccer League play Dec. 10 on the road against the Baltimore Blast before returning  to the RP Funding Center in Lakeland a week later for their home opener Saturday, Dec. 17 against Utica City FC.

The Tropics, who advanced  to the MASL Finals series last spring, will play a 24-game regular season schedule as part of the seven-team Eastern Conference. Twenty of the 24 games will be against conference foes, while the remaining four will be against four different Western Conference teams.

The home slate includes four Friday night games, one on Saturday and six Sunday matinees which have proven to be popular with fans at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. In addition, the team will play at home during Christmas week on Wednesday, Dec. 21.

Florida will play Utica four times  (two home and two away) the Baltimore Blast three times (all within the first four games of the season, with the last two in Lakeland) and  the Harrisburg Heat (two home, one away.) In addition, they will have three games each against the Kansas City Comets who the Tropics eliminated in the MASL semi-finals last year (one home and two away), Milwaukee Wave (one home two away), and the St. Louis Ambush (two home, one away.) 

Western Conference teams vising Lakeland include the Tacoma Stars and Chihuahua (Mexico) Savage, with away games in Dallas and Ontario, California (Empire Strykers) accounting for the non Eastern Conference portion of Florida’s schedule. A format for the Ron Newman Cup playoffs will be announced in the coming weeks. 

The Tropics have five-game and four-game road trips in the middle of the MASL season – which will start Thanksgiving Day weekend with an Interstate 70 rivalry home-and-home between Kansas City and St. Louis – and continue through the first weekend in April. Longer mid-season road trips are nothing new to Florida since the RP Funding Center is taken over for several weeks in February and March by the Florida High School Athletic Association Boy’s and Girl’s basketball state championship tournament. Because of that, Florida will play seven of its first nine games at home in December and January. Last year, the Tropics played an unprecedented nine-game home stand early in the season. 

After their early March four-game road trip with stops in Milwaukee, Utica, Kansas City and St. Louis,  Florida will finish the season with three straight at home with matchups against. Utica and St. Louis twice.

“As always, this is a very competitive schedule and we can’t wait to get started on the bit of unfinished business from last season,” Head Coach Clay Roberts said. “It’s a good schedule, with better balance and less travel implications than last year, given the constraints we have at our home arena in February and March. Our road trips are broken up by back to back games at home. And then finishing with three at home is something that hasn’t ever happened to us in the past, so we’re looking forward to that too as a way to make that final strong push into the post-season.” 

The Tropics (18-3-2, wins-losses-overtime losses )defeated the Blast (12-9-0) for last season’s regular season Eastern Division title before advancing to the championships with playoff series wins over St. Louis and Kansas City along the way. Over the past three years, they have more regular season wins than any team in the Major Arena Soccer League (46).

Following is the full 24-game slate, with start times listed for eastern time zone. 

Saturday, Dec. 10     at Baltimore Blast            7:05 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 17    Utica City FC                       5:05 p.m.

Weds., Dec. 21     Baltimore Blast              7:05 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 23        Baltimore Blast                   7:05 p.m.

Wedz., Dec. 28         at Utica City                         6:05  p.m.

Friday, Dec. 30        Chihuahua Savage               7:05 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 3        at Empire Strykers             9:05 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 6            Harrisburg Heat                  7:05 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 8          Harrisburg Heat                  3:05 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 15        Milwaukee Wave                3:05 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 20         at Milwaukee Wave         8:35 p.m.

Saturday, Jan 28        at Harrisburg Heat         7:05 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 4          at Dallas Sidekicks            8:00 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 10             at Kansas City Comets     8:05 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 11        at St. Louis Ambush          8:05 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 19           Kansas City Comets         3:05 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 26           Tacoma Stars                    3:05 p.m.

Saturday, March 4       at Milwaukee Wave         7:05 p.m.

Sunday, March 12       at Utica City FC                  2:05 p.m.

Saturday, March 18     at Kansas City Comets    7:05 p.m.

Sunday, March 19        at St. Louis Ambush     4:05 p.m.

Sunday, March 26       Utica City FC         3:05 p.m.

Friday, March 31         St. Louis Ambush     7:05 p.m. 

Sunday, April 2            St. Louis Ambush     3:05 p.m.