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April 5, 1986 – Cleveland Force vs. Minnesota Strikers

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1986 Cleveland Force ProgramCleveland Force vs. Minnesota Strikers
April 5, 1986
Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 20,174

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs


Always been especially fond of game programs with illustrated art, like this 1986 soccer mag that arrived at FWiL this week. They were commonplace at both the major and minor league levels until the late 1980’s, when the rise of cheap graphic design software packages drove the final nail in the coffin of hand-drawn cover artwork.

This game day mag comes from an historic match in the Major Indoor Soccer League. The popular Cleveland Force (1978-1988) took on the visiting Minnesota Strikers (1984-1988) in the regular season finale of the 1985-86 season.  The Saturday evening contest pulled a massive announced crowd of 20,174.  At the time it was the largest crowd ever to watch an indoor soccer match, surpassing the previous record of 19,398 set by the Chicago Sting of the NASL at Chicago Stadium in 1982.

Ali Kazemaini Cleveland ForceThe Force didn’t disappoint, treating their fans to a 7-4 victory that clinched their first division title after seven seasons in the MISL. Ali Kazemaini led the way for the hosts, scoring a hat trick with his 36th, 37th and 38th goals of the 1985-86 campaign.

Cleveland and Minnesota would meet again three weeks later in the Best-of-5 MISL semi-final playoffs. This time around, the Strikers got the best of it, vanquishing the Force in four games. Just two years later, both franchises would be out of business.

The attendance record would fall one year later, when 21,728 fans showed up in Tacoma, Washington for Game 7 of the 1987 MISL Championship Series between the Tacoma Stars and the Dallas Sidekicks.  That 1987 Tacoma crowd remains the largest ever for the sport of indoor soccer, a mark likely to endure given the dire status of the indoor game in recent years.



Cleveland Force Home Page

Minnesota Strikers Home Page


March 17, 1984 – Cleveland Force vs. Pittsburgh Spirit

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Dave MacKenzie Pittsburgh SpiritCleveland Force vs. Pittsburgh Spirit
March 17, 1984
Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 19,048

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs


Cleveland-Pittsburgh isn’t just a great rivalry in the NFL.  Back in the early 1980’s, the two cities had a fierce rivalry in indoor soccer, of all things.  The Pittsburgh Spirit, owned by Pittsburgh Penguins boss Edward DeBartolo Sr., were relatively popular, claiming similar crowds to the pre-Lemieux Pens.  Meanwhile, after several glum years at the box office, the Cleveland Force became a late-blooming hit, packing huge crowds into the Richfield Coliseum by 1983.

The Spirit-Force rivalry burned hottest during the 1983-84 season. Both clubs were virtually unbeatable at home and the two teams stayed neck-and-neck in the Eastern Division of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) throughout the winter.  Together with a third Eastern Division foe, the Baltimore Blast, the trio were easily the three best clubs in the MISL.

The standing room-only crowd of 19,048 was a regular season record for the Cleveland Force and the 5th largest crowd in history for the MISL at the time.  The home town fans would go home disappointed.  Ian Sybis netted a hat trick for Pittsburgh and Polish defender Adam Topolski added a goal and three assists en route to a 6-4 win for the visitors.

The Force would take their revenge in the postseason.  The clubs finished with near identical records.  Pittsburgh in 2nd place at 32-16 (19-5 at home) and Cleveland right behind at 31-17 (18-6 at home).  But in the quarterfinal playoffs, the Force easily dispatched the Spirit 3 games to 1 in a best-of-five series.

The Cleveland-Pittsburgh soccer rivalry dissolved when the Pittsburgh Spirit went out of business in April 1986.  The Cleveland Force followed two years, shutting down in July 1988.



Cleveland Force Home Page

Pittsburgh Spirit Home Page




Written by AC

February 15th, 2015 at 2:27 pm

January 6, 1984 – Cleveland Force vs. St. Louis Steamers

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Cleveland Force vs. St. Louis Steamers
January 6, 1984
Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 14,173

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
124 pages


Cleveland vs. St. Louis.  Two of the great hotbeds of indoor soccer in the early 1980’s squared off in this January 1984 match at Cleveland’s Richfield Coliseum.  The Cleveland Force and the St. Louis Steamers ought to have been a great rivalry.  Both teams were Midwestern clubs, both were wildly popular in their moment, and both clubs were among the league’s best at the time.  But Cleveland was in the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Eastern Division and St. Louis was in the Western group and as a result they rarely met in the regular season (and never faced each other in the playoffs).  This Friday night match was the Steamers’ only visit to Cleveland during the 48-game 1983-84 season.

The Force came into this match as the MISL’s hottest team.  They were 13-2, thanks to an early season 11-game winning streak.  Clevelanders leapt onto the band wagon.  This was the sixth season of Force soccer and all of the sudden crowds more than doubled over their previous highs.  A huge crowd of 14,173 turned out for this match and for the season the Force claimed an average of 13,692 for their 24 home dates.  By contrast, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers pulled only 5,075 per game in the same building that winter.

The Steamers were off to a slower start at 8-8, but their headline-making October signing of U.S. National Team midfielder Ricky Davis was starting to pay dividends.  Davis was arguably the best American soccer player of the early 1980’s.  At a minimum he carried that perception thanks to the Warner Communications marketing machine behind his former club, the New York Cosmos of the outdoor North American Soccer League.  The October 1983 defection of Ricky Davis from the Cosmos to the MISL was as sure a sign as any of the shifting fortunes of pro soccer in the U.S. in the early 1980’s, as the outdoor game foundered and indoor soccer enjoyed its moment.   Warner was cutting way back on the Cosmos in the fall of 1983 (they would unload the club altogether the following summer).  Davis reached the end of his contract on September 30th and balked at the Cosmos’ request for a pay cut.  That opened the door for the Steamers, a club whose commitment to fielding a championship-caliber team with American players was central to its brand.  They signed Davis to a three-year deal worth a reported $117,000 per year, which made the 24-year old one of the highest paid players in the MISL.

Davis came into the Force match hot with 10 goals in his previous five games.  He added a hat trick on this night to lead the Steamers to a 5-2 victory.  The result bumped the Steamers over .500 (9-8) and dropped Cleveland to 13-3.  St. Louis would go on to win the Western Division and appear in the MISL Championship Series, losing to the Baltimore Blast.  The Force never quite regained their invincible form of the season’s first two months.  They finished with a respectable 31-17 record, but were swept by the Blast in the semis, 3 games to none.



Cleveland Force Home Page

St. Louis Steamers Home Page


1978-1988 Cleveland Force

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Major Indoor Soccer League (1978-1988)

Born: 1978 – Major Indoor Soccer League founding franchise
Folded: July 22, 1988 – The Force cease operations.

Arena: The Richfield Coliseum (17,217)

Team Colors: Reflex Blue & Yellow



The Cleveland Force were a tremendously popular indoor soccer franchise during the 1980’s at the peak of the sport’s popularity.  Formed in 1978 as one of six founding franchises in the upstart Major Indoor Soccer League, the team’s success was slowing in developing.  Attendance was low in the team’s earlier years.  It wasn’t until the 1982-83 season when the team’s popularity boomed and began to far outpace the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, their co-tenants at the suburban Richfield Coliseum.  (It helped that the Cavs were in the death grip of Ted Stepien in this era, widely reviled by Clevelanders as one of the worst pro sports owners who ever walked the Earth.)

There were other MISL clubs that drew great crowds during this era, notably the Kansas City Comets and St. Louis Steamers.  But the Force are frequently cited as the only MISL franchise ever to turn an annual operating profit.  In addition to drawing large crowds, the team also had a strong sponsorship base, a booming camps program and a strong merchandise business.

While the Force were doing well, the same could not be said for the rest of the MISL.  Franchises came and went so quickly that fans and sponsors could barely keep track.  Between 1985 and 1987, the league endured the embarrassment of seeing two New York franchises go out of business at the mid-season All-Star Break.  The league engaged in bruising annual battles with the Players Association.  After long-running franchises in Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis pulled out of the league in the summer of 1988, Force owner Bert Wolstein shut down the team in July 1988, seeing no viable way forward for the league.

The MISL, loathe to lose one of its few proven markets, quickly expanded back into Cleveland in the fall of 1989.  The Cleveland Crunch brought back a number of Force players and front office execs, most notably the Force’s popular perennial All-Star Kai Haaskivi.  But it wasn’t the same and the big crowds and corporate support of the Wolstein era didn’t return.

Although the Crunch never re-created the buzz of the Force, the new team actually lasted longer, playing 13 seasons from 1989 to 2002.  In 1999 a new group which included former Cleveland Force front office executive Paul Garofolo bought the Crunch from original owner George Hoffman for a reported $1.75 million.  In 2002, the new owners re-branded the team anew as the Cleveland Force.  (The “New” Force also played in a “New” Major Indoor Soccer League, which had no connection to the original league, which had folded in 1992.)   The retro/nostalgia angle didn’t take.  Crowds remained small and the new Force folded in 2005.




==Cleveland Force Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1979-80 1/25/1980 vs. Philadelphia Fever ?? Program
1979-80 2/17/1980 vs. New York Arrows L 12-6 Program


1981-82 12/22/1981 vs. Baltimore Blast L 6-4 Program
1981-82 1/2/1982 @ Buffalo Stallions ?? Program
1981-82 2/5/1982 @ New Jersey Rockets L 7-3 Program Game Notes
1981-82 2/19/1982 vs. New York Arrows L 6-4 Program


1982-83 11/17/1982 @ Los Angeles Lazers  W 8-5 Program
1982-83 1/7/1983 vs. Los Angeles Lazers W 8-5 Program
1982-83 1/27/1983 vs. Phoenix Inferno W 4-3 Program
1982-83 2/3/1983 vs. New York Arrows L 4-3 (OT) Program
1982-83 2/25/1983 vs. Memphis Americans L 4-3 Program
1982-83 3/1/1983 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 8-2 Program
1982-83 3/15/1983 vs. Chicago Sting W 6-3 Video
1982-83 3/20/1983 vs. Memphis Americans W 7-4 Program
1982-83 3/25/1983 vs. Buffalo Stallions W 10-8 Program
1982-83 4/19/1983 vs. Chicago Sting L 9-5 Program


1983-84 12/10/1983 vs. New York Arrows W 7-3 Program Roster
1983-84 1/6/1984 vs. St. Louis Steamers L 5-2 Program Roster
1983-84 1/15/1984 vs. Los Angeles Lazers W 8-4 Program
1983-84 1/21/1984 @ Buffalo Stallions L 6-4 Program
1983-84 2/5/1984 vs. Baltimore Blast L 6-5 Program
1983-84 3/4/1984 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 4-1 Program
1983-84 3/17/1984 vs. Pittsburgh Spirit L 6-4 Program
1983-84 3/24/1984 vs. Buffalo Stallions W 4-2 Program
1983-84 4/4/1984 vs. Pittsburgh Spirit W 6-5 Program
1983-84 4/15/1984 vs. Baltimore Blast L 3-2 Program
1983-84 5/3/1984 vs. Pittsburgh Spirit W 6-5 (OT) Program
1983-84 5/6/1984 vs. Pittsburgh Spirit W 5-3 Program


1984-85 12/14/1985 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 6-5 (OT) Program
1984-85 1/28/1985 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 7-4 Program
1984-85 2/1/1985 vs. Los Angeles Lazers W 5-4 Program
1984-85 5/10/1985 vs. Baltimore Blast  L 4-3 Program Roster


1985-86 10/27/1985 vs. San Diego Sockers L 8-6 Program
1985-86 11/15/1985 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 7-3 Program
1985-86 12/20/1985 @ Chicago Sting W 8-2 Program
1985-86 1/8/1986 @ Dallas Sidekicks W 5-2 Program
1985-86 2/2/1986 @ Wichita Wings W 4-3 Program
1985-86 2/14/1986 @ Dallas Sidekicks W 6-3 Program
1985-86 2/23/1986 @ Wichita Wings W 8-5 Program
1985-86 2/26/1986 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 8-3 Program
1985-86 4/5/1986 vs. Minnesota Strikers W 7-4 Program


1986-87 2/28/1987 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 4-3 (OT) Program
1986-87 4/29/1987 vs. Dallas Sidekicks W 4-2 Program
1986-87 5/9/1987 vs. Minnesota Strikers W 5-4 (OT) Program
1986-87 5/23/1987 vs. Dallas Sidekicks W 5-3 Program


1987-88 12/9/1987 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 9-5 Program
1987-88 2/27/1988 @ Chicago Sting L 7-6 (OT) Program
1987-88 3/3/1988  @ Los Angeles Lazers L 5-2 Program
1987-88 4/2/1988 vs. Wichita Wings W 7-2 Program
1987-88 6/5/1988 vs. San Diego Sockers L 3-2 (OT) Video


==Key Players==

==In Memoriam==

Bert Wolstein, Cleveland Force owner.  Passed away May 17, 2004 at age 77

Forward Paul Kitson (1987-88 season) died of a heart attack on August 25, 2005 at age 49.

Ian Anderson, with the Force from 1980-1982, died November 5, 2008 at age 54.

English midfielder Roy Sinclair, who played for the Force from 1978 to 1981, died on January 12, 2013 at age 68.



Cleveland Force vs. San Diego Sockers in the 1988 MISL Championship Series



1987-88 Major Indoor Soccer League Rule Book & Schedule 



Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs


Written by AC

January 20th, 2013 at 2:24 am

January 7, 1983 – Cleveland Force vs. Los Angeles Lazers

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Gary Allison SoccerCleveland Force vs. Los Angeles Lazers
January 7, 1983
The Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 6,571

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
120 pages


Vintage indoor soccer program from the old Cleveland Force (1978-1988) for a January 1983 match against the Los Angeles Lazers.  The Lazers were an expansion franchise that winter, owned by Dr. Jerry Buss.  (The Lazers name and yellow/purple color scheme were a riff on the NBA’s Lakers, also owned by Dr. Buss).

Gary Allison

Lazers goalkeeper Gary Allison is featured on the cover of the evening’s MISSILE Magazine game program.  Kind of an esoteric choice for the cover – Allison was a journeyman who played for five different clubs during his five-year career in the MISL, never spending more than a year in the same place.  By this point in the Lazers’ inaugural season, he had lost the starting job to rookie Kirk Shermer.

On this night the Force handed the Lazers an 8-5 loss at the suburban Richfield Coliseum, thanks to four goals from Finnish forward Kai Haaskivi.  The Lazers were notably awful during this winter of 1982-83.  Their 8-40 record and .167 winning percentage under Head Coach Peter Wall were the worst full-season marks in the fourteen-year history of the Major Indoor Soccer League.



Cleveland Force Home Page

Los Angeles Lazers Home Page





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