Major Indoor Soccer League (2002-2005)
Born: August 2002 – Re-branded from Cleveland Crunch.
Folded: Postseason 2005
Arena: CSU Convocation Center
Cleveland was long a hotbed of professional indoor soccer. The city’s original Cleveland Force (1978-1988) was the model franchise of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), attracting huge crowds to the Richfield Coliseum in the mid-80’s. The Force folded in 1988, but were quickly replaced by the Cleveland Crunch (1989-2002) indoor squad.
By the early 2000’s, the fortunes indoor game were in sharp decline. The premier indoor league at the time was the National Professional Soccer League, whose membership included the Crunch. In 2001, the NPSL re-branded itself as the Major Indoor Soccer League, in the hopes of scaring up some nostalgia for the long-defunct indoor brand of the 1980’s.
Crunch management followed suit in August 2002. The franchise dropped the Crunch identity after 13 seasons in favor of reviving the Force name and colors. Team President Paul Garofalo, a former executive with the original Force franchise of the 80’s, predicted the name change alone would increase team revenues by one million dollars annually.
Garofalo’s optimism was misplaced. Force attendance muddled along at the 4,000 – 5,000 per game level – basically unchanged from the later years of the Crunch. Majority owner Richard Dietrich gave up hope during the third season of the Force re-boot, announcing the club was for sale in March 2005. With no takers, the team folded following the 2004-05 MISL season.
As far as the team on the carpet, Force 2.0 were decent. Indoor soccer’s all-time leading scorer, Hector Marinaro, played for the Force from 2002-2004. Marinaro was a holdover from the great Crunch indoor teams that won three championships during the 1990’s. But the Force let Marinaro go in the MISL expansion draft in the summer of 2004.
The Force made the MISL playoffs in each of their three seasons. The final Force team made it to the 2005 MISL Championship Series where they lost in a two-game sweep to the Milwaukee Wave. The club never played another game.
The Force in their retro Reflex Blue & Yellow unis, on the road against the Chicago Storm. March 19th, 2005