Indoor Soccer History

Indoor, or 'arena' soccer, inspired by association football, is a type of soccer played on a smaller, indoor arena-style field covered by artificial turf. And because so, the sport is a little faster-paced and presents its own unique set of challenges. Indoor soccer partly came about as a way for outdoor soccer athletes to train during the cold winter months. Unlike outdoor soccer, indoor soccer is a winter sport. It's played mainly in North America, however variations such as 'futbol', 'futsal', and 'showbol', are popular in South America and elsewhere. More than a century old, indoor soccer has passed through many hands before gaining an international stronghold as an official league sport. By the early twentieth century, indoor soccer had already been established in many countries. Indoor soccer has a fairly detailed history, mostly having to do with the many leagues that had a hand in making indoor soccer the sport is today. Though it has yet to enjoy Olympic status, a growing number of amateur and professional indoor soccer leagues exist in several countries. According to Indoor Soccer News, the sport "has more connections with more countries than baseball or basketball..." (Aug. 13, 2012).

Early indoor soccer

Indoor soccer reaches back to Dec. 6, 1885, with a victory by Western Football Association of Ontario over a team from Newark, NJ. In 1886, United Soccer Leagues was originally launched as a regional indoor soccer league. In the 1920s, leagues in Boston and New York had been formed and tournaments held. Indoor soccer teams had 11 active players. Rules for 'futsal' or "five-a-side soccer" which is played on a basketball court were written in 1930. Despite the American Soccer League holding indoor soccer exhibitions attracting thousands of spectators, the Great Depression of '33 led to its decline in popularity.

The next few decades of indoor soccer would see the rise and fall of multiple leagues, along with a dying interest in the sport. In 1939, the American Soccer League hosted games at Madison Square Garden and by the early '40s, professional indoor soccer had a pulse in the US. Indoor soccer kept a low profile, not helped by the outbreak of WWII that temporary halted professional indoor soccer in the US. However, club teams continued to hold matches. Pro level indoor soccer would gain momentum in the Midwest in the 1950s, slowing again toward the end of the 1960s.

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Indoor soccer moves forward

The 1970s were fertile years in the development of indoor soccer. 'Modern' indoor soccer is said to have dawned in 1971 when the North American Soccer League experimented with indoor soccer, and organized of a series of indoor exhibition tournaments. But the real birth of modern indoor soccer was in 1974 with the first airing of a game between the North American Soccer League and the Soviet Red Army on ABC's Wide World of Sports. Then, in 1978, came the creation of the Major Indoor Soccer League.

During the next two decades, indoor soccer leagues were born, reborn, and killed. The one that stuck was the United Soccer Leagues. The game itself somewhat petered out in the early 1990s when the Major Indoor Soccer League folded, but was revived in '93 by another short-lived league, the Continental Indoor Soccer League.

One major thrust for indoor soccer was the creation of what is today North America's only sanctioned National Indoor Championship that allows amateur players of all levels across North America to participate in championship tournaments.

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Indoor soccer in a new century

The first decade launched indoor soccer into live media when USIndoor webcasted, for the first time in sports, an indoor soccer game which featured live audio, video and chat, according to USIndoor's website. In 2001, new life is breathed into the Major Indoor Soccer League, securing top-level professional indoor soccer in North America. The largest and most solid indoor soccer organization in North America is the United Soccer Leagues, under which indoor soccer's major leagues now operate.

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Current indoor soccer organizations

Federacion Internacional de Futbol Rapid. (FIFR) The International federation for indoor soccer as of 1997, headquartered in San Diego, Ca.

Major Indoor Soccer League. (MISL) Formerly "National Indoor Soccer League", and currently the highest level of professional indoor soccer in North America.

National Indoor Championships. Member of USIndoor, promotes regional tournaments in the US.

Premier Arena Soccer League. (PASL) Founded in 1998, USA's largest amateur indoor soccer league allowing more than 50 teams from the US and Mexico to compete regionally and nationally.

Professional Arena Soccer League. (PASL) Branch of the Premier Arena Soccer League.

United Soccer Leagues. (USL) Originally launched in 1985, and which exists today at "the largest organization for elite indoor soccer in North America", according to its website.

USIndoor Sports Association. (USIndoor) Multi-sport organization created in 1998 to provide programs and services for indoor sports in the US, including indoor soccer.

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