Tropics SC will have same division rivals as MASL readies for season

by Brian Ackley

The Florida Tropics SC will have the same three divisional rivals -- the two-time defending champion Baltimore Blast, Harrisburg Heat and Syracuse Silver Knights -- when they start their second season in the Major Arena Soccer League in November.

The Tropics home opener will be Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7:05 p.m. in the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. Their opponent that night, and the complete 22-game regular season schedule, will be announced in the coming days.

Getting better against the eastern division will be a key for the Tropics this year. Last year, they went 3-1 against Syracuse, but a combined 0-7 against Baltimore and Harrisburg, who earned the two playoff spots in the division. Despite that, the expansion Tropics battled for a playoff spot right ot the final weekend of the regular season, before losses in Harrisburg and Syracuse allowed the Heat to claim a post-season berth.

Now entering its fourth season, the MASL has taken measures to stabilize and grow the league and heads into the 2017-2018 season with a roster of at least 24 teams in the MASL pyramid, including an expected 8-12 teams in the newly formed MASL2.

With many teams having already released dates for their respective home-openers, the full 2017-2018 MASL schedule is set to be released in the next week. The league will be split into an Eastern and Western Conference with two divisions in each conference.

The schedule will highlight both traditional and regional rivalries, putting more importance on each regular season victory.

Joining the four Eastern Division teams in the Eastern Conference are the Cedar Rapids Rampage, Kansas City Comets, Milwaukee Wave and St. Louis Ambush in the Central. The Western Conference is made up of the Ontario Fury, San Diego Sockers, Tacoma Stars and Turlock Express in the Pacific Division and the El Paso Coyotes, Monterrey Flash, RGV (Rio Grande Valley) Barracudas and Soles de Sonora in the Southwest Division.

The MASL is excited about the return of the RGV Barracudas and Monterrey Flash to the schedule, with the first Canadian franchise set to begin play in Toronto in 2018-2019. In addition, the Kansas City Comets will remain in the MASL 1st Division after an offseason restructuring of the team’s ownership and management. Commissioner Joshua Schaub will continue to explore options for further league expansion in future seasons.

“Last season was so exciting for me, as I’m sure it was for many of our fans,” said MASL commissioner Joshua Schaub. “I am very excited to continue with the MASL and watch as the sport of arena soccer continues to grow across North America.”

The Chicago Mustangs have elected to play this season in the brand new MASL2. This new league will be focused on discovering and developing arena soccer players in a competitive atmosphere, while expanding the reach of arena soccer across North America. Atletico Baja is exploring the option of playing in MASL2 while they reorganize their operations as well. The Dallas Sidekicks will be inactive for the 2017-2018 season, but the team is already working with the league and the Allen Event Center to make the Sidekicks return in 2018-2019 a smooth one.

For more information and tickets for the Tropics home opener Nov. 11, call the team office at 863-240-0101. The Tropics season will start in early November and run through early March.