American soccer writing, history & data.
The USISL began in 1986 as the five-team Southwest Indoor Soccer League. The 1997-98 season would be the last for the USISL I-League. And, its final season would have the same number of teams plus a few teams which played a small number of games to fill out the schedule.
The top two teams were the two-time champion Baltimore Bays and the perennial runner-up Tulsa Roughnecks. Joining them would be the amateur Omaha Flames and Lincoln Brigade (both back for a second indoor season), and the Oklahoma City Alliance. The latter team was a continuation of the USISL's Oklahoma City franchise that could trace its roots back to the inaugural 1986-87 SISL season.
During the offseason, the Baltimore Bays USISL franchise was sold in two parts. In August, the indoor franchise was purchaed by Ed Hale, the former owner of the indoor Baltimore Blast. Hale's indoor franchise also retained the Baltimore Bays name. The outdoor franchise was sold to owners based in Ocean City, Md. who would relocate and play as the Eastern Shore Sharks during the 1998 USISL D-3 Pro League season.
The Bays would continue their dominance going undefeated during the regular season. Tulsa would again come in second. The other teams sttruggled. The Lincoln Brigade ownership struggled through the 1997 outdoor season and sold the franchise to the Capital Sports Foundation. The team went winless during the 1997-98 I-League season and dropped from the USISL before the 1998 outdoor season.
The Oklahoma City Alliance met a similar fate. The team struggled through the first half of the season before the franchise was taken over by new ownership. The team took on its original name of the Oklahoma City Warriors. The last original franchise in the USISL folded following the 1997-98 I-League season.
The Omaha Flames finished the indoor season in third place. But, low attendance and a "shaky league" prompted owner Ted Baer to end operations just before the 1998 USISL PDSL outdoor season. Twice during the Flames' two years of operations opponents had failed to show up for games in Omaha. No punishment followed from the league for either. Those two organizational decisions pushed Baer to leave the USISL.
The Baltmore Bays met the Tulsa Roughnecks in the USISL I-League title game. On March 8, 1998 the Bays beat the Roughnecks 11-4 at Du Burns Arena in Baltimore. It would be Baltimore's third straight indoor league title.
A month later, Ed Hale bought the Baltimore Spirit of the indoor National Professional Soccer League. Hale would rename the team as the Baltimore Blast and bring on board the technical staff from the Baltimore Bays. Now owner of a bigger club, Hale dropped out of the USISL.
With almost no interest in indoor league play among other USISL teams, the Tulsa Roughnecks also decided not to play in the next USISL indoor league season. With little fanfare, the USISL I-League would not return for a thirteenth season.
©2022 by Daniel Creel. All rights reserved.