American soccer writing, history & data.
The United States Interregional Soccer League held its annual general meeting during the 1994 season Sizzlin' Nine weekend. The organization voted on taking up a new name and setup beginning with the 1994-95 indoor season. The organization would be four separate leagues aligned under the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues umbrella. The leagues would be a professional men's league, an amateur men's league, a women's league, and an indoor league.
The Boca Raton Sabres relocated to Fort Lauderdale during the offseason. The club was renamed as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers after receiving a loan of the name from Amancio Suarez, He was the president and owner of the Strikers which had withdrawn from the A-League during the offseason. The Los Angeles Salsa also withdrew from the A-League during the offseason. It's USISL farm team, the Los Angeles Cobras, became the Los Angeles Salsa U-23's. That team was a combination of players from the Cobras and the Salsa.
USSF president Alan Rothenberg and USSF/World Cup USA/MLS representative Sunil Gulati were in Greensboro, N.C. for the USISL AGM. Both were on hand to affirm the establishment of a working relationship between USISL and MLS in 1995. The USISL was the only professional league to support Rothenberg in his re-election bid. All five of the USISL's votes (6% of the total vote) went to Rothenberg.
An October 1 deadline was set for professional teams and November 1 for amateur teams. Much of the criteria driving those decisions were based on the higher minimum standars confirmed and adopted for the coming season. The USISL added 14 more men's teams for thee 1995 season for a total of 86 teams. The breakdown would be 59 teams in the professional league and 27 teams in the amateur league. The practical difference between the professional and amateur leagues was that the amateur league allowed collegiate players while the professional league did not.
During the winter meetings in mid-November in Dallas, the USISL's new corporate name was officially approved itself and split the men's league into professional and amateur leagues. The United States International Soccer League would be known as the "Pro League". The change from "Interregional" to "Internationa" reflected the addition of the Montreal Ramblers franchise. The United States Interregional Soccer League would be known as the "Premier League" and contain all the amateur teams which would compete on a non-professional basis. The United States Women's Interregional Soccer League would be known as the "W League". And the indoor league would be the United States Indoor Soccer League. Membership also approved the formation of USISL Properties for the coming year. The USISL would move closer to a league-wide merchandising plan for team souvenirs and apparel.
Teams would play 24 games during the 1995 season with a minimum of four outside of their home reigion. Only 20 games would count in the standings with two to be exhibitions and two as Designated Makeup Games. The two worst non-region games would be thrown out.
There were a number of rule changes for the 1995 season. Players were allowed to use a kick-in instead of throw-in within 35 yards of the opponent's end line. A "live shootout" attempt would be called upon an opponent's seventh direct free kick foul in each half and each seven fouls thereafter. In this situation, the player got the ball at the bottom of the center circle and all other players except the goalkeeper would line up behind the halfway line. In another change, within 35 yards of the goal, defensive players must stand 15 yards from the ball on all free kicks. Each half of the game was 30 minutes with the clock stopping for balls out of play, injuries and goals. In the final two minutes of each half the clock would also stop for restarts. Finally, each team was allowed five substitutions (four field players and a keeper), and players were not allowed to return once removed.
The Montreal Ramblers received a franchise to the USISL and sought to gain permission to join the league from the Quebec Football Federation. That organization ultimately denied the request. After playing their first league game on the road, the Ramblers were forced to find a new home. The franchise ended up in Manchester, N.H. and played its matches in a number of cities including Concord and Nashua. After playing four games at home to start the season, the Puerto Rico Islanders also ran into sanctioning disputes with Puerto Rico's soccer federation. The Islanders played no more home games and only a partial schedule due to the situation.
The Atlanta Magic franchise also had a difficult season. The three-time USISL indoor champions had also played well in the 1994 outdoor season. The Magic's owner, Sam Chase, purchased a franchise to play in the Division II A-League for the 1995 season and planned to use the Magic as a feeder team. Chase had to forfeit his A-League franchise after financial difficulties and the Atlanta Magic USISL franchise was subsequently purchased by the same ownership group that had acquired the Atlanta Ruckus A-League franchise. That group also planned on using the Magic as a farm team for the Ruckus. But, just before the 1995 USISL season, ownership decided the team wasn't ready for regular-season play. The Tampa Bay Cylones, which had planned on only playing a limited schedule, jumped into the Magic's place in the Southeast Division.
The Nike Sizzlin' Nine Challenge Cup playoffs were held between August 29 and September 3. The competition was a three-group round robin with nine teams. Seven teams were determined by divisional playoffs. A wild card was awarded to the Milwaukee Rampage the divisional runner-up with the highest point total during the regular season. And the Long Island Rough Riders received an automatic bid as the host of the semifinals and final.
The Rough Riders advanced out of Group A which played at Mitchel Park in Uniondale, N.Y. The Minnesota Thunder advanced out of Group B which played at Barrett Stadium on the campus of Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y. And Tampa Bay Cyclones advanced as winner of Group C which played at Doug Memorial Stadium in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Myrtle Beach Boyz also advanced out of Group C as the runner-up with the highest point total.
In the semifinals on September 2, 1995, in front of 3425 at Mitchel Park, the Minnesota Thunder beat Myrtle Beach 3-2 in overtime off a goal by Dn Gramenz and Long Island beat Tampa Bay 5-2. The Long Island Rough Riders would beat Minnesota 2-1 off a final-minute goal by Giovanni Savarese to win the 1995 USISL Pro League title.
The biggest story for the USISL during 1995 was the U.S. Open Cup. Twenty Pro League teams took part in qualification with one team qualifying for the Round of 16 from each of the seven USISL regions. The El Paso Patriots and Chicago Stingers won first round matches against amateur club teams.The Chico Rooks beat the Valley Golden Eagles 2-0 in their first round match. The Connecticut Wolves were beaten by the A-League New York Centaurs, the Everett BigFoot was beaten by the A-League Seattle Sounders, and the Tampa Bay Cylones was beaten by the A-League Atlanta Ruckus.
The A-League was shocked in the quarterfinals. The Chicago Stingers beat the New York Centaurs 1-0, El Paso beat the Colorado Foxes 2-0, and the Premier League Richmond Kickers (who had qualified via the amateur route) shocked the Atlanta Ruckus winning 2-1. In the semifinals, the El Paso Patriots upset the Seattle Sounder 1-0 on July 30 before 2000 at Dudley Field. And, the Richmond Kickers beat the Chicago Stingers 4-3 on August 4 before 4667 at University of Richmond Stadium.
The U.S. Open Cup final was held on August 27 at the SISD Student Activities Complex in El Paso. The game ended 1-1 after regulation and overtime. The Kickers would beat the Patriots 4-2 on penalties before 7378 to win the USOC title.
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