Cleveland Force vs. Minnesota Strikers
April 5, 1986
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.
The 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.