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1981-1991 Kansas City Comets

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Kansas City CometsMajor Indoor Soccer League (1981-1990)
Major Soccer League (1990-1991)

Born: May 5, 1981 – The San Francisco Fog relocate to Kansas City.
Died: July 16, 1991 – The Comets cease operations.

Arena: Kemper Arena (15,800)

Team Colors: Fiery Orange & Strato Blue

Owners:

 

 

Imagine if some upstart sport – a junk sport as some of the old cranks in the sporting press would call it – went into an big city arena next fall and outdrew the local NBA team.  Not just outdrew the basketball club, but nearly doubled their average gate for each game and eventually drove them out of town.  It’s inconceivable that a sport like indoor lacrosse or arena football could blindside a city like this today, but this is exactly what happened in Kansas City in the early 1980′s with the arrival of the Major Indoor Soccer League.

The MISL was three years old when Dr. David Schoenstadt arrived in Kansas City in the summer of 1981.  Schoenstadt owned a sad sack two-year old franchise most recently known as the San Francisco Fog.  The club had already failed in Michigan (as the Detroit Lightning) and the Bay Area, lasting only a single winter in each city.  In Missouri, the Fog became the Kansas City Comets. They would split dates at the 16,000-seat Kemper Arena with the NBA’s Kansas City Kings.

Schoenstadt entrusted the management of the Comets to the young brothers Tracey and Tim Lieweke.  Tracey was President, Tim General Manager and a third brother, Tod, ran the Comets’ community relations programs.  The Liewekes promoted Comets games as all-around entertainment events, augmented by light shows, lasers and pyrotechnics.  These production values are taken for granted today by NBA and NHL fans, but in the early 1980′s they were innovations still percolating upwards from leagues like the MISL (and often decried by old guard sportswriters of the era).

1983-84 Los Angeles Lazers vs. Kansas City Comets. March 11, 1984During the 1981-82 season, the Comets drew an announced average of 11,508 to the Kemper Arena for 22 home dates.  This was 2nd best in the 12-team MISL and, more importantly, the Comets popularity dwarfed that of the Kansas City Kings, who averaged a paltry 6,644 fans that winter.  Former Comets season ticket holder Brian Holland writes frequently about the Comets on his blog Holland’s Comet and compares Comets/Kings attendance for the four winters that the NBA and MISL went head-to-head in Kansas City from 1981 to 1985.  It was no contest, with the Comets reaching their peak of popularity in their third season of 1983-84, averaging a near capacity 15,786 while selling out 15 of 24 home dates.  According to Holland, the Comets even outdrew the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs head-to-head during one weekend in December 1983.

By 1985, the Kansas City Kings season ticket base had eroded to just 3,200 seats.  In January, the Kings announced a relocation to Sacramento, California.  Their departure was attributed by some, including former Kings Head Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, to simply being out-marketed by the Comets:

“Here’s something that’s not even a game,” said Fitzsimmons, quoted in The Houston Chronicle in April 1985. “They make up the rules as they go along.  But they’ve marketed aggressively and they’ve taken Kansas City by storm.”

With the Kings gone, the Comets became the primary tenant at Kemper Arena for the first time in the winter of 1985-86 and gained a stranglehold on prime dates.  Ironically, the fortunes of the Comets and the Major Indoor Soccer League had already started to decline.  The Lieweke brothers left Kansas City in 1984 at the zenith of the team’s popularity.  Younger brother Tim returned for two seasons as team President from 1986 to 1988, but by then the MISL was in contraction mode, as were the turnstile figures for the Comets.  The league nearly folded in the summer of 1988 after four teams folded.

David Schoenstadt, the rumpled anesthesiologist who brought the Comets to Kansas City in 1981, sold the club to an unwieldy group of 23 local investors in September 1987.   By the dawn of the 1990′s, announced attendance fell to an average of 7,103 per match, a decline or more than 50% from the club’s Reagan-era heyday.  The Comets folded after ten seasons on July 1991.  The MISL followed the Comets into the dustbin of history exactly one  year later.

 

==Comets Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1981-82 11/28/1981 vs. Wichita Wings W 5-4 (OT) Video
1981-82 3/6/1982 @ Buffalo Stallions L 9-5 Program
1982-83 11/13/1982 @ Chicago Sting L 6-4 Program
1982-83 12/10/1982 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 6-5 (OT) Program
1982-83 4/2/1983 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 5-4 (OT) Program
1982-84 4/23/1983 vs. San Diego Sockers L 9-4 Video
1983-84 11/18/1983 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 9-7 Program
1983-84 11/29/1983 @ Baltimore Blast L 7-1 Program
1983-84 12/23/1983 @ Wichita Wings L 4-2 Program
1983-84 12/29/1983 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 7-6 Program
1983-84 3/4/1984 @ Wichita Wings W 5-4 Program
1983-84 3/11/1984 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 12-7 Program
1983-84 3/16/1984 @ Wichita Wings L 5-4 Program
1984-85 1/12/1985 @ Wichita Wings L 5-4 Program
1984-85 2/13/1985 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 6-4 Program
1984-85 4/8/1985 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 7-1 Program
1985-86 11/15/1985 @ Chicago Sting W 8-7 Program
1985-86 11/23/1985 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 11-7 Program
1985-86 12/13/1985 @ Wichita Wings L 7-2 Program
1985-86 1/3/1986 @ Dallas Sidekicks W 2-1 Program
1985-86 1/7/1986 @ Wichita Wings L 4-3 (OT) Program
1985-86 1/24/1986 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 3-2 (OT) Program
1985-86 3/9/1986 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 3-2 Program
1986 7/19/1986 @ Wichita Wings ?? Program Outdoor Exhibition
1986-87 12/14/1986  @ Los Angeles Lazers W 6-1 Program
1986-87 1/31/1987 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 10-6 Program
1986-87 3/13/1987 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 6-3 Program
1986-87 4/21/1987 @ Wichita Wings L 7-3 Program
1987-88 11/13/1987 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1987-88 3/15/1988 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1987-88 4/22/1988 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1987-88 5/11/1988  @ San Diego Sockers ?? Video
1988-89 11/16/1988 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1988-89 1/17/1989 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1988-89 3/24/1989 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1988-89 4/8/1989 @ Los Angeles Lazers ?? Program
1989-90 10/27/1989 @ St. Louis Storm W 3-2 Program

 

==Key Players==

  • Enzo DiPede
  • David Doyle
  • Jan Goossens
  • Alan Mayer
  • Gino Schiraldi

 

==In Memoriam==

Original Comets owner David Schoenstadt died of cancer in December 1991.

Defender Barry Wallace (1987-1988) lost his battle with cancer on October 17, 2006.  Wallace was 47 years old.

Comets forward Carlos Salguero (1984-1986) died of cancer on December 28, 2006 at age 51.

 

==Youtube==

1991 Booster Club Highlight Video

 

1981 TV feature on the marketing of the Kansas City Comets.

 

==Downloads==

1987-88 MISL Rule Book & Schedule 

 

==Links==

Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

###

Written by andycrossley

February 23rd, 2013 at 4:34 pm

1978-1984 New York Arrows

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Major Indoor Soccer League (1978-1984)

Born: 1978 – MISL founding franchise.
Died: 1984 – The Arrows cease operations.

Arena: Nassau Coliseum (15,026)

Team Colors: Bordeaux Red, Blue & White

Owners:

 

The New York Arrows were the original dynasty franchise in the sport of indoor soccer in the United States.  One of six founding franchises in the Major Indoor Soccer League in 1978, the Arrows won the first four MISL championships from 1979 to 1982.  The team was virtually unbeatable during this stretch, posting a regular season record of 114-26 under Head Coach Don Popovic.

Arrows owner John Luciani was also an investor in the Rochester Lancers of the outdoor North American Soccer League during the late 1970′s.  Luciani was only involved with the Lancers for a short time and would ultimately ended up embroiled in contentious lawsuits with other members of the Lancers’ sprawling and unwieldy ownership consortium.  But Luciani was involved with Rochester when the MISL formed in the fall of 1978 and this allowed him to essentially make the Arrows into a sister club of the Lancers and stock the team with talent from the outdoor club.  Don Popovic came over from the Lancers, as did the teenage scoring prodigy Branko Segota and goalkeeper Shep Messing, who was one of the few recognizable American-born stars of the era, thanks to his years with the glamorous New York Cosmos of the NASL (and perhaps also his centerfold shoot for Playgirl magazine in 1974).

But the biggest find for the Arrows was the Yugoslavian striker Steve Zungul.  A budding superstar for Hajduk Split in the Yugoslav First League, Zungul became embroiled in a dispute with club management and was concerned they would send him off to compulsory military service.  In December 1978 – the same month the MISL kicked off its inaugural season – Zungul defected to the United States and signed with the Arrows.  He planned to eventually sign with an NASL club and play outdoor soccer, but Yugoslavia successfully petitioned FIFA to ban Zungul from all FIFA-sanctioned leagues until his 28th birthday in 1982, citing a Yugoslavian rule that players could not play overseas prior to age 28.  The NASL was sanctioned by FIFA, but the upstart Major Indoor Soccer League was not.  Thus through a quirk of Cold War politics, the Arrows found themselves in sole possession of the indoor game’s first great star – the man who became known as “The Lord of All Indoors”.

Zungul would win the MISL’s Most Valuable Player award in each season from 1979 to 1982, matching the years that the Arrows won the league title.

The Arrows played at the Nassau Coliseum out on Long Island.  Despite their dominance, local interest in the team never match the enthusiasm for indoor soccer in Midwest hotbeds like Cleveland, St. Louis and Kansas City.  Announced attendance peaked for the Arrows during their third season at 8,083 fans per game and then dropped steadily through the early 1980′s.

John Luciani sold the Arrows for an undisclosed amount in November 1982 just as the Arrows fifth season got underway.  He cited $10 million in losses during the Arrows’ first four season.  The new owner was Dr. David Schoenstadt, who also happened to be the owner of the MISL’s tremendously popular Kansas City Comets club.  The purchase created a competitive conflict of interest within the MISL, but allowed the young league to maintain a foothold in the vital New York media market.  Carl Berg, owner of the Golden Bay Earthquakes, who played in the MISL that season, was also part of the new investment group.

Schoenstadt and his management team were not able to replicate the success they had in Kansas City.  The ownership transition of 1982 marked the end of the Arrows dynasty and the beginning of the club’s rapid decline.  The Arrows early dominance was fueled largely by foreign – particularly Slavic – stars (with the exception of Shep Messing).  The new management promoted a process of “Americanization”, believing that American players would be more relatable and better suited to the club’s aggressive grass roots marketing strategy of promoting the Arrows through clinics and community appearances.  Other observers believed “Americanization” was a cover for cost-cutting and pointed to the departure of Steve Zungul as Exhibit A.  Zungul, who earned a reported $150,000/year at his Arrows peak, was traded to the Golden Bay Earthquakes in the middle of the 1982-83 season for Gary Etherington and Gordon Hill in a cost-cutting move which effectively ended the Arrows run as an elite team.

The Arrows final season came during the winter of 1983-84.  Schoenstadt complained about the lease terms at Nassau Coliseum while attendance declined to 5,478 per match.  Efforts to sell and relocate the team to either Charlotte or Cincinnati fell through.  During the summer of the 1984, the Arrows folded and went into bankruptcy.

In early 1986, former Arrows goalkeeper Shep Messing assembled an investor group and successfully applied for an MISL expansion club to replace the Arrows on Long Island.  The New York Express joined the MISL for the 1986-87 season, but lasted only until the All-Star Break before folding with a record of 3-23.  The original MISL folded in July 1992.

==Arrows Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1978-79 2/4/1979 vs. Spartak Moscow (USSR) L ?-? Program
1979-80 1/29/1980 @ Philadelphia Fever ?? Program
1979-80 2/17/1980 @ Cleveland Force W 12-6 Program
1981-82 11/20/1981 vs. New Jersey Rockets W 9-2 Program Game Notes
1981-82 2/19/1982 @ Cleveland Force W 6-4  Program
1981-82 4/2/1982 vs. Baltimore Blast W 8-6 Video
1982-83 11/10/1982 @ Los Angeles Lazers W 5-2 Program
1982-83 12/28/1982 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 5-4 (OT) Program
1982-83 2/3/1983 @ Cleveland Force W 4-3 (OT) Program
1982-83 3/20/1983 @ Buffalo Stallions L 10-5 Program
1983-84 11/30/1983 @ Los Angeles Lazers L 8-3 Program
1983-84 12/10/1983 @ Cleveland Force L 7-3 Program

 

==Key Players==

 

==In Memoriam==

Arrows owner David Schoenstadt died of cancer in December 1991.

Arrows forward Paul Kitson died of a heart attack on August 25, 2005 while coaching a soccer clinic in Toronto.  He was 49.

 

==Youtube==

The Arrows host the Baltimore Blast at Nassau Coliseum.  April 2, 1982.

==Downloads==

1979-80 New York Arrows Season Ticket Brochure

 

==Links==

Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

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1980-1981 San Francisco Fog

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Major Indoor Soccer League (1980-1981)

Born: May 28, 1980 – Detroit Lightning relocate to San Francisco, CA.
Died: May 5, 1981 – The Fog relocate to Kansas City, MO.

Arena: The Cow Palace (12,600)

Team Colors: Fog Gray & Rocket Red

Owner: Dr. David Schoenstadt

 

A short-lived entry in the original Major Indoor Soccer League.  The MISL arrived in San Francisco in May 1980 after Dr. David Schoenstadt purchased and relocated the league’s Detroit Lightning franchise.  Starting in November 1980, the newly renamed San Francisco Fog would play out of the Cow Palace in Daly City.

The finished with the worst record (11-29) in the 12-team MISL  under the direction of player-coach Johnny Moore.  Moore, a former member of the NASL’s San Jose Earthquakes, was the Fog’s best player, earning an honorable mention selection to the league All-Star team.

Beyond the losing, the 1980-81 season was also a debacle for owner David Schoenstadt.  The Fog had the league’s worst attendance at around 2,500 per game announced and lost over a million dollars, according to The Associated Press.  In May 1981, Schoenstadt moved the club once again, this time to Kansas City’s Kemper Arena.

As the Kansas City Comets, the club thrived during the early 1980′s.  At the peak of the Comets’ popularity in 1984, the club averaged nearly 16,000 fans per match and helped drive the NBA’s Kansas City Kings franchise out of town.  Schoenstadt sold the club in 1987, and it subsequently fell on hard times, as did the rest of the MISL, in the late 1980′s.   The Comets went out of business in 1991.

==1980-81 San Francisco Fog Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
2/15/1981 @ Chicago Horizons L 5-4 Program

 

==In Memoriam==

Fog owner Dr. David Schoenstadt died of cancer in December 1991.

 

==YouTube==

The Fog host the Philadelphia Fever at the Cow Palace during the 1980-81 season.

==Links==

Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

###

 

Written by andycrossley

February 8th, 2013 at 9:43 pm