UTICA — The Major Arena Soccer League could be back on the field by the end of the year, but so far there’s no definitive plan in place for the league in which Utica City FC plays.
The league announced it is reviewing several options, “with the target of playing as soon as Dec. 31, 2020.”
The Monterrey Flash and Soles de Sonora have been granted a sabbatical for the 2020-2021 season. The remaining teams have expressed a desire to play, “although it is unclear if some teams will be forced to sit out due to factors outside of their control.” The league’s priority is the safety of fans, players, and staff at all venues, it stated. One complication will be adhering to the different guidelines and recommendations of the municipalities in which teams play.
The previous season started on Nov. 22, 2019, with 24 games for each team that were to run through March 23. The season was cut short by a few games for each team due to COVID-19 and the playoffs were not played. The league crowned the Monterrey Flash and Florida Tropics as Western and Eastern Conference regular season champions, respectively.
Normally, UCFC and head coach Ryan Hall would be in preseason mode. “We’re in the office,” he said by phone of the staff. The current focus is on integrating the organization into the local soccer scene, “trying to get into the community as much as possible to help with youth soccer.” That includes local communities where high schools are not playing soccer due to the pandemic. The organization is part of the City Cup Premier College Showcase hosted at Batavia Soccer Park Oct. 11 (girls) and Oct. 18 (boys).
More than half of UCFC’s players are in the Utica-Syracuse area, Hall noted, but there are international players on the roster too. The staff is “Trying to make sure they’re at least doing something,” so that when there’s a green light to start the season there isn’t an extensive process to get up to speed. He said the staff checks in with players once or twice a week to check on their health. “Staying in contact to keep their spirits up.”
Hall said there’s “definitely a concern” for getting international players back to the US to play in the league. That’s a league wide issue, as there are more than 150 MASL players who live outside the US.
For now, Hall awaits a decision on what the season will look like. It could be a shorter season, perhaps only 16 games. Another option is to push the season back but still get in all 24 games. That, however, “comes down to the venues teams play at,” and their availability, as many teams are not the only ones using their arenas. “Everything’s been discussed. Nothing’s been finalized.”
Last season, UCFC was in a three-game losing streak when the season was halted. The team was getting players healthy and back from injuries though, Hall noted. “When we were full tilt and healthy we were a dangerous team,” he said. He said the team would have matched up well against Florida if they’d gotten a chance to play them in the playoffs.