Indoor Soccer Mini-games

Indoor soccer has always been a gimmick, but there’s one gimmick many fans of the indoor game have had a hard time embracing: the mini-game1The MASL has tried to re-brand this as the “Knockout Game,” but, whatever.. This travel-reducing tiebreaker tacked onto the end of a two-game playoff series in the event of a split in results feels unsatisfying to some, but it’s not likely to go away anytime soon, economics being what they are.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal from Feb. 27 1980
The Memphis Commercial Appeal told the story of the first mini-game in indoor soccer history in 1980.

Indoor soccer’s first-ever mini-game came to us from the folks who first used it in outdoor soccer: the original North American Soccer League. The Memphis Rogues beat the Minnesota Kicks 1-0 on Tuesday, February 26, 1980 when Tony Field scored nine minutes into the mini-game for what turned out to be the decider in the Cinderella Rogues’ series victory. That was the first of what – by my count – have been a total of 45 Division I 2We can argue – and we have – about what constitutes Division I in indoor soccer when there is no clear direction and not 100 percent agreement from the few historians in this space. But the AISA in 1987 was definitely not it. indoor soccer playoff mini-games in history. Home teams are now 25-20 all-time in these affairs.

In the current league, the MASL, home teams are just 14-13 in 27 mini-games. Home teams had a record-long streak of six straight home wins (which ended when Milwaukee won at Utica on April 16, 2023) after a stretch where home teams lost seven of eight, so while it can be streaky, there’s no evidence of a major advantage in having that tiebreaker at home. (And, if you’re interested, teams that win the second game to force the mini-game are now 14-13 in them as well.)

(DIGRESSION: From 2006-2009, the second MISL and the NISL – which became the third MISL – used a variation of the mini-game format which was sudden death. That happened seven times in four seasons, with the home team winning four and losing three. So overall, home teams are 29-23 in 52 tiebreakers. And, if you’re curious, two of the three non-Division I mini-games took place on the same day, April 5, 1987. Home teams – the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Toledo Pride – both lost, to the Memphis Rogues and Chicago Power, respectively. The other was in the 1998 EISL playoffs, won by the home team Mississippi Beach Kings over the Huntsville Fire on Aug. 2, 1998.)

There have been 169 goals scored in 45 mini-games (3.8 per session3Some of the scores below are different because of multi-point scoring.). Eight of the games have gone to overtime, and one of those went to shootout, the only time that has happened. NOTE: Continental Indoor Soccer League mini-games were 20 minutes long, broken into two 10-minute halves.

Here’s the list, updated through April 21, 2024:

ALL-TIME DIVISION I INDOOR SOCCER MINI-GAME TIEBREAKERS
*Home Team
#DateLeagueSiteWinning TeamScLosing TeamScNote
12/26/1980NASLMemphisMemphis Rogues*1Minnesota Kicks0 
23/2/1980NASLSt. PetersburgTampa Bay Rowdies*1Memphis Rogues0Championship
32/21/1981NASLVancouverVancouver Whitecaps*4California Surf0 
42/28/1981NASLChicagoChicago Sting*4Atlanta Chiefs2 
52/18/1982NASLChicagoTulsa Roughnecks3Chicago Sting*1 
62/21/1982NASLMontrealTampa Bay Rowdies2Montreal Manic*13OT
73/1/1982NASLSt. PetersburgTampa Bay Rowdies*1Tulsa Roughnecks0 
84/4/1992NPSLKansas CityKansas City Attack*6Illinois Thunder2MPS
910/4/1997CISLDallasMonterrey La Raza2Dallas Sidekicks*1Shootout
1010/4/1997CISLHoustonHouston Hotshots*4Indiana Twisters1 
1110/13/1997CISLHoustonHouston Hotshots*4Monterrey La Raza3 
1212/7/2001WISLSan DiegoSan Diego Sockers*4St. Louis Steamers0 
1312/22/2001WISLSan DiegoDallas Sidekicks2San Diego Sockers*1OT – Championship
143/20/2011MISLIIIMilwaukeeMilwaukee Wave*5Missouri Comets2MPS
153/10/2013MISLIIIMilwaukeeMissouri Comets5Milwaukee Wave*4MPS
163/10/2014MISLIIIMilwaukeeMissouri Comets6Milwaukee Wave*2MPS
173/11/2014MISLIIIBaltimoreBaltimore Blast*4Syracuse Silver Knights3MPS
183/16/2014MISLIIIBaltimoreMissouri Comets6Baltimore Blast*4MPS
193/7/2015MASLMilwaukeeMilwaukee Wave*2Chicago Mustangs1OT
203/8/2015MASLSyracuseRochester Lancers3Syracuse Silver Knights*2MPS
213/22/2015MASLMonterreyMonterrey Flash*4Baltimore Blast3OT – Championship
223/6/2016MASLChicagoMilwaukee Wave3Chicago Mustangs*0 
233/12/2016MASLHermosilloSoles De Sonora*6San Diego Sockers0 
243/24/2016MASLHermosilloSoles de Sonora*1Las Vegas Legends0 
253/12/2017MASLMilwaukeeMilwaukee Wave*3Kansas City Comets2OT
263/14/2017MASLOntarioSan Diego Sockers1Ontario Fury*0 
273/15/2017MASLHarrisburgBaltimore Blast4Harrisburg Heat*1 
283/21/2017MASLMilwaukeeBaltimore Blast2Milwaukee Wave*1 
294/9/2017MASLHermosilloBaltimore Blast1Soles de Sonora*0Championship
303/10/2018MASLSan DiegoSan Diego Sockers*6Tacoma Stars2 
314/22/2019MASLUticaBaltimore Blast2Utica City FC*1 
324/3/2021MASLIndependenceOntario Fury2Kansas City Comets*1 
334/18/2021MASLOntarioSan Diego Sockers2Ontario Fury*1Championship
344/11/2022MASLChihuahuaChihuahua Savage*5Baltimore Blast1 
354/12/2022MASLIndependenceKansas City Comets*3Dallas Sidekicks1 
364/23/2022MASLLakelandFlorida Tropics*3Kansas City Comets2 
374/24/2022MASLSan DiegoSan Diego Sockers*4Chihuahua Savage1 
384/8/2023MASLTowsonBaltimore Blast*3Florida Tropics2 
394/10/2023MASLChihuahuaChihuahua Savage*3Monterrey Flash2 
404/16/2023MASLUticaMilwaukee Wave2Utica City FC*1 
414/23/2023MASLSan DiegoChihuahua Savage1San Diego Sockers*0OT
424/07/2024MASLMonterreyMilwaukee Wave2Monterrey Flash*1OT
434/07/2024MASLChihuahuaChihuahua Savage*5Tacoma Stars0
444/08/2024MASLSan DiegoSan Diego Sockers*4Texas Outlaws0 
454/21/2024MASLSan DiegoChihuahua Savage2San Diego Sockers*1 

Now let’s look at the even-worse-than-a-mini-game scenario, the Golden Goal. Here’s a list of the seven instances between 2006 and 2009 where teams split the two games and a 15-minute sudden death period followed:

INDOOR SOCCER GOLDEN GOAL TIEBREAKERS
*=Home Team
DateLeagueSiteWinning TeamScLosing TeamScNote
04/23/2006MISLIIMilwaukeeBaltimore Blast1Milwaukee Wave*0
04/30/2006MISLIISt. LouisBaltimore Blast1St. Louis Steamers*0Championship
04/14/2007MISLIIPhiladelphiaPhiladelphia KiXX*2Chicago Storm0MPS
04/15/2007MISLIIDetroitDetroit Ignition*2Milwaukee Wave0MPS
04/10/2008MISLIIMonterreyMonterrey La Raza*3Chicago Storm0MPS
04/20/2008MISLIIDetroitMonterrey La Raza2Detroit Ignition*0MPS
04/05/2009NISLRockfordRockford Rampage*2Monterrey La Raza0MPS

The mini-game is not particularly well-liked in some quarters, but the economics of the situation make it unlikely it’ll be done away with anytime soon. We have not had a best-of-three or best-of-five with full games since the 2003 MISL II Finals, and with good reason:

  • The prospect of trying to schedule a third game on short notice with MASL teams not having control of their venues is problematic. We’ve already seen the Baltimore Blast have to skip home games in the last two rounds of the 2023 playoffs because of arena availability, and Utica City FC’s second playoff game in 2024 was delayed a week4Because of the 2024 IIHF Women’s World hockey Championship in Utica during the time of the MASL playoffs.. Event congestion would threaten to extend the playoffs even more.
  • Just as important, trying to sell a short-notice third game presents a big challenge. The “but it’s an important game” idea doesn’t really work as well in this sport as in some others. It’s not likely that third game would generate enough ticket revenue to pay expenses.
  • A third game would require short-notice travel, which isn’t cheap.

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