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.
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.
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.
Premier League teams played 20 USISL games with only 18 counting towards the Premier League standings. Around six to eight of those 20 games were against Pro League teams as the leagues played overlapping schedules.
The USISL Premier League Sizzlin' Four Nike Cup finals were held August 9 through August 11, 1995 at University of Richmond Stadium in Richmond, Va. The Cocoa Expos qualified as the Eastern Division playoff winner, Des Moines Menace as the Central Division playoff winner, and the San Francisco All Blacks as the Western Division playoff winner. The Richmond Kickers received an automatic bid as hosts.
The semifinals were held on August 9 with Richmond beating San Francisco on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw and Cocoa beating Des Moines 3-1. Two days later Richmond beat Cocoa 3-1 in front of 5000 fans to win the 1995 USISL Premier 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. As an amateur, Cocoa attempted to qualify through the USSF Region III qualification process but lost 4-2 on April 7 to the McCormick Kickers of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Richmond went right into the initial Round of 16 facing Spartans SC of Maryland. On June 11, Richmond beat Spartan 5-2 at University of Richmond Stadium before 500 fans. Weeks later the U.S. Open Cup committee ordered the match replayed upholding a protest by the Spartans that they were given the wrong starting time. That meant that the team could not get all of their top players to Richmond in time. A U.S. Open Cup official had told the Spartans that the game was to start at 7:30pm and not at 3pm as the Kickers had advertised. Even though the Spartans were informed of the proper time four days before kickoff, the replay was upheld on appeal by the Kickers.
Richmond met Spartans SC for the first round replay on July 2 at Striker Park in Glen Allen, Va. The game ended in a 6-1 victory for Richmond. The Kickers then faced the A-League Atlanta Ruckus in the quarterfinals on July 12. The 2083 in attendance at University of Richmond Stadium saw an upset as the Kickers beat Atlanta 2-1. On August 4, the Kickers pulled off another upset. Richmond faced the USISL Pro League Chicago Stingers in the semifinals. The Kickers edged Chicago 4-3 before 4667 fans at University of Richmond Stadium.
The two upsets in U.S. Open Cup play were not quite as big as to be expected for an amateur team beating a professional one. Even though the Kickers were part of the Premier League, a handful of Richmond players did receive salaries. The main reason that Richmond played in an amateur league was so that some of their players could retain college eligibility and scholarships at the University of Virginia. In fact, for the 1995 season, Richmond operated on an annual budget of roughly $300,000. That was similar to the USISL Pro League El Paso Patriots which operated on a yearly budget of $350,000. The Kickers would face El Paso in the U.S. Open Cup final.
On August 20, the El Paso Patriots were knocked out of the USISL Pro League South Central Division finals. A week later they met the Richmond Kickers in the U.S. Open Cup final. The game was held at the Socorro ISD Student Activities Complex in El Paso. The match was attended by 7378 fans. After a scoreless first half Rob Ukrop scored in the 49th minute to put the Kickers up 1-0. That score held up until the 82nd minute when Gambino Amparán tied the match. Neither team could score at the end of regulation and during the 30-minute extra time. The Kickers won the match 4-2 on penalty kicks.
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