American soccer writing, history & data.
The United States Interregional Soccer League expanded to the west coast for the 1992 outdoor season adding four clubs in the Bay Area plus two provisional teams in San Diego. A number of long-serving teams dropped out after the 1991-92 outdoor season: Amarillo Challengers; Colorado Comets; Tulsa Renegades; Permian Basin Mirage; and Phoenix Hearts. The Lubbock franchise sat out the 1992 season - its first time not playing since the league was founded in 1986. The Dallas Kickers became the Dallas Americans. The Mid-Cities Flyers did not return after the 1991-92 indoor season.
Both Atlanta franchises again changed hands. The Soccer Academy in Lilburn returned the league (the organization had operated the Georgia Steamers during the 1990-91 indoor season) taking over the Atlanta Lightning and renaming the team to the Gwinnett County Steamers. After two months, the league terminated the Gwinnett County franchise with the team's remaining games forfeited to their opponents. Just one day before the Steamers were to go on a road trip to Memphis and Nashville owner Bruce Gershong met with coaches to let them know the franchise was closing. The league immediately revoked the team's franchise and began searching for a new owner for the upcoming indoor season.
The Atlanta Magic merged with longstanding Datagraphic Dynamo organization. The team was renamed as the Atlanta Datagraphic Magic under the leadership of George D. Baker and Rahman Alarape.
The Memphis Survivors had played during the 1991-92 indoor season when the league waived a number of financial requirements. The team met the standard requirements and was accepted to play in the 1992 outdoor season. The team renamed itself from Survivors to Memphis United Express F.C.
A number of expansion franchises were added: Arizona Cotton from Phoenix; Boca Raton Sabres; Chattanooga Railroaders; East Bay Red Riders from Oakland, Cali.; North Bay Breakers from Santa Rosa, Cali.; a new Orlando Lions organization; Palo Alto Firebirds; and the San Francisco United All-Blacks. The Bay Area teams formed a new Pacific Division with two San Diego teams (North County Alliance and the Hurricanes) as provisional teams to help round out the Pacific Division schedule. The South Texas Border Bandits, an amateur club from Edinburg hoping to join the USISL, also played a few games against South-Central Division teams that counted in the standings.
The continued expansion was the plan of Francisco Marcos, founder, chairman and commissioner of the league, to market soccer and the USISL nationally. The league was put forward as a professional development league which would give players the ability to sharpen their skills before embarking on full-blown professional careers.
The USISL adopted a modified shootout for the 1992 season with five one-on-one attempts starting from 35 yards out. In addition, the league held an All-Star Game on June 28. The West beat the East 2-1 but only 175 were in attendance at the Westside Soccer Complex in El Paso.
The league awarded its inaugural "Sizzling Six" postseason tournament to Orlando. The playoffs were held August 14 through 16 at University High School. The six seeds were Dallas Rockets (South-Central playoff winner and most points overall), El Paso Patriots (wild card for team with most points not to qualify via divisional playoffs), Orlando Lions (host and Southeast regular season title), Palo Alto Firebirds (Pacific playoff winner), Atlanta Datagraphic Magic (Southeast playoff winner), and Tucson Amigos (Southwest playoff winner).
At the beginning of 1992, the Richardson Rockets had renamed themselves the Dallas Rockets. The club's owner, Ron Higgins, wanted the Rockets to become a fully professional organization and singed a number of former professional players to professional contracts. Higgins wanted the Rockets to play a "transitional season" as a professional franchise in the USISL with hopes of entering the American Professional Soccer League in 1993.
The Dallas Rockets were the best team in the USISL by far and only lost two out of fourteen regular season matches. As the 1991 outdoor league champions, the Rockets also had qualified for the 1992 American Airlines Cup (the CONCACAF Champion of Champions tournament). In March, the Rockets beat the Cemcol Crown of Belize team in the first round and, in May, took out the Tauro F.C. from Panama in the second round.
The Dallas Rockets were also making a run for the National Open Cup during that summer. The team won the Region III Final beating Dallas Inter on May 31. But, on June 21, the Rockets lost to Vasco da Gama of Bridgeport, Conn.. 2-0 before 200 fans at Franklin Stadium in Dallas. The New Mexico Chiles also took part in the National Open Cup winning their Region IV first round match but losing in the second round 2-1 to Flamengo of Utah on April 19 at Robertson Field in Albuquerque.
At the beginning of August, just after finishing the USISL regular season, the Dallas Rockets met Club America of Mexico in the fourth round of the North and Central American zone of the American Airlines Cup. On August 1, the Rockets lost the first leg 2-1 in front of 8700 at Franklin Field. And, four days later, were knocked out of the tournament after losing 5-1 to Club America at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
Teams would play two games each during the Sizzling Six group stage and the two teams with the best record after that would face off in the USISL championship. Triple headers were held Friday, August 14 and Saturday, August 15. As the lowest seed, the Tucson Amigos pulls a major upset beating the Dallas Rockets 3-1 on Friday. That effectively knocked out the Rockets who were the overwhelming favorite to win the league. The Palo Alto Firebirds upset both the Orlando Lions and El Paso Patriots with 2-0 wins in their two matches. The Amigos also upset Orlando 2-0 on Saturday setting up an unlikely final. On Sunday, August 16, the Palo Alto Firebirds beat the Tucson Amigos 1-0 to win the 1992 outdoor USISL championship.
In 1992, the USISL was still sanctioned by the USSF under an amateur status but Marcos had been in a process of deciding whether to join the USSF's Professional Division. The APSL was the only outdoor league considered professional by the USSF in 1992. The USISL at this point required a $10,000 letter of credit from new franchises with the budget for operating a franchise in the $30,000 to $60,000 range.
At the end of August of 1992, the USISL owners voted to have commissioner Marcos pursue negotiations with the Professional Division of the USSF for the league to become a Division III professional league in 1993. To become a Division III league would require a one-time fee of $30,000 to join the Professional Division at that level and $5000 in annual dues. Each team in the USISL would share in those costs plus be responsible for annual $2500 dues per team. Marcos also wanted to have a lower division within the USISL for teams that might not be able to afford the annual fee. Those teams would retain amateur status and pay the $400 to $500 annual fee for amateur clubs but still get to play the professional-level teams in the league.
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