History of Indoor Soccer
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1885 The first recorded “indoor soccer” match (the first of three in a series) takes place between the Western Football Association of Ontario and the O.N.T.’s of Newark on December 2nd in the Newark Roller Skating Rink. The series is part of a challenge cup including both outdoor and “rink” games. The rink games are at night, beginning at 9:00 p.m., played under “electric lights.” Among the largest in the country at that time, the rink measures 165 by 80 feet, with goals 8 by 15 feet. The field is bounded by the first few rows of empty seats, the crowd being protected by netting. Each team has six players, and no substitutes. The referee initiates most restarts by tossing the ball into the air, and there are off-sides. At the end of two twenty-minute halves of regulation play, the Toronto Globe (December 7, 1885) reports, “…the score stood one to nothing in favour of the Canadians, who thus won one of the fastest, most exciting, as well as most novel games in the history of football.” Canada goes on to win each of the rink games, and the series, before a largely partisan, Canadian crowd.
1923 The world’s first indoor soccer league with 11 players per side open the winter season at the Commonwealth Calvary Armory in Boston, MA.
Mid-1920’s An indoor league forms in New York City, with games taking place at Madison Square Garden.
1930 Juan Carlos Ceriani, from Uruguay, devises the first set of rules of “futsal,” played on a basketball court with five players per side.
1939 The American Soccer League hosts occasional indoor soccer matches at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
1950 The National Soccer League stages a complete season of indoor soccer games, including some local television.
1958 The American Soccer League stages an all-day indoor soccer tournament, played on dirt and with boards, at Madison Square Garden, attracting over 14,000 fans.
1970 The North American Indoor Soccer League begins to organize periodic indoor soccer games and tournaments.
1973 The World Indoor Soccer Association, a 6-a-side league consisting of 6 U.S. and Canadian teams, featuring international stars along side of local talent, and offering a glimpse into the following year’s World Cup, holds its first contest at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Canada.
1974 North American Soccer League All-stars plays the Soviet Red Army in the hockey rink at Maple Leaf Gardens on astroturf with goals 4 feet by 16 feet, the first televised indoor soccer game, appearing on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. After three 20-minute periods, the NASL All-stars fall 8 to 4 in front of 11,535 fans. The NASL goes on to stage indoor tournaments in 1975, 1976, and 1979.
1978 Major Indoor Soccer League begins play with 6 US teams, coinciding in 1979 with the NASL’s indoor league, comprised of 10 teams. Games are played in four 15-minute quarters. Goals are 6 1/2 feet by 12 feet. Average attendance reach 6,000 to 8,000 over ensuing seasons.
1984 National Professional Soccer League (known as the American Indoor Soccer Association until 1990, initially established as a minor league) forms, consisting of 6 teams, chiefly in the northeastern United States. Play takes place during the late fall and winter. The number of teams reaches a height of 15 teams in 1996.
1985 The NASL folds.
1986 Southwest Indoor Soccer League, the precursor to today’s USL (A-League and D3), forms with 5 teams. In 1988 the league changed its name to the Southwest Independent Soccer League and expanded to include outdoor soccer in 1989. The SISL became the Sunbelt Independent Soccer League in 1990, the United States Interregional Soccer League in 1991, the United States System of Independent Soccer Leagues in 1994 and the United Soccer Leagues in February 2000. In 1996, its indoor soccer component became known as the I-League. At its height, the indoor league reached 18 teams in 1990.
1988 The AISA (NPSL) institutes a multi-point scoring system
1990 MISL changes its name to Major Soccer League in an attempt to position itself as a Division I outdoor league in time for the 1994 World Cup.
1992 Having reached as many as 14 teams (with some occasionally reaching average attendance near 10,000) the MSL (formerly MISL) folds, largely due to bidding wars over players both with the NASL and NPSL and within its own league.
1993 Continental Indoor Soccer League begins its first competitive season with seven teams, including one from Mexico. Play takes place during the summer.
1995 Inaugural North American Indoor Soccer Championships (having changed its name in 1999 to National Indoor Championship) held for youth players (U9 through U18, boys and girls) and adults (men and coed).
1997 Eastern Indoor Soccer League forms in the southeastern United States with 7 teams, positioning itself as a minor, professional league.
After reaching as many as 15 teams in 1995, the CISL folds due to team owners’ loss of confidence in the league’s future.
United States places second to Mexico in the inaugural World Indoor Championship held in Mexico City. Other contestants include teams from Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Uruguay, South Africa, El Salvador, Iran, France, Portugal, and Canada.
1998 The Premier Soccer Alliance (having changed its name in 1999 to the World Indoor Soccer League), consisting of some owners common to the former CISL, begins its inaugural season with four teams and a revitalized business plan. Play takes place during the late summer and fall. League play includes competition against foreign teams.
Having dropped to four teams, the I-League goes dormant.
The EISL folds after two seasons.
Based in Northern California, the Premier Arena Soccer League (amateur) is founded, later becoming known as PASL-Premier.
The United States Indoor Soccer Association is founded, the first such organization in the world, designed to provide general support and promotion of the at every level of the game, for participants and related businesses.
1999 On the heels of its World Cup Triumph, the US Women’s National Team takes part in a 12 city “Victory Tour” in the US vs a team of World All-Stars. USIndoor is named the “Official Referee and Rules Provider.”
2000 USIndoor broadcasts on its sister site USIndoorTV.com the first-ever “live” video webcast of an indoor soccer game. The broadcast features simultaneous audio, video, and chat – another first in all of sports.
GOAL Indoor, the Official Magazine of USIndoor and the only national publication exclusively dedicated to indoor soccer, begins circulation. In 2009 the publication changes its name to GO Indoor.
2001 NPSL reorganizes, bringing back the name Major Indoor Soccer League and begins play with six teams.
2002 The WISL folds and two teams join the MISL for the 2002-2003 season.
The American Indoor Soccer League kicks off its first season as a six-team regional league, based in the northeastern US. The league positions itself a a “grass-roots” league for top local players.
2004 The United States captures the FIFA Gold Cup (Futsal).
2007 The AISL ceases operation, as does the second iteration of the MISL. The Xtreme Soccer League and National Indoor Soccer League emerge from the MISL, having 5 and 4 teams, respectively. The XSL folds after its first season.
2008 The Federación Internacional de Fútbol Rápido (FIFRA – later renaming to the World Minifootball Federation, or WMF) is founded as the governing body for indoor soccer.
2009 The NISL changes its name to the MISL and adds its fifth and sixth teams.
The United States Indoor Soccer Association begins publication of GOAL Online, an exclusive indoor soccer publication covering topics of interest to players, fans, coaches and referees.
2011 The Canadian Indoor Soccer Association forms in partnership with USIndoor.
The United Soccer Leagues accepts management of the MISL, and merges it with the USL’s fledgling I-League. The new-look MISL kicks off in November with seven teams.
2013 FIFRA announces the first indoor soccer World Cup event to be played in 2015 in the United States.
2014 Almost immediately after the MISL Championship Series ends, six MISL teams leave the league, eventually joining the Professional Arena Soccer League. Together, the teams transform the PASL into the Major Arena Soccer League.
The USL announces it will not hold a 2014-15 MISL season to reform the league. The league has not yet returned.
The Western Indoor Soccer League is founded as a regional semi-professional league with several former PASL teams.
2015 The first WMF World Cup is held in arenas across the United States. The United States wins the tournament with a 5-3 victory over Mexico in the final.
The Professional Futsal League is founded with the backing of major international clubs FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Corinthians, and Boca Juniors. The league proposed an exhibition season in 2017 and the first full season in 2018, but neither came to fruition.
Major League Futsal is founded with sanctioning from U.S. Futsal and U.S. Soccer. MLF will also operate the National Premier Futsal League and Women’s Premier Futsal League, semi-pro/amateur developmental leagues.
2016 Pro indoor soccer splinters again as the Indoor Professional League forms, taking several teams from the MASL. The MASL makes several changes to its business model and reintegrates the breakaway teams and the IPL’s expansion team. The IPL never plays a match.
MLF plays its first season with teams in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
2020 Indoor soccer leagues cancel the remainders of their seasons as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the continent. Limited games are played in the 2020-21 season with many teams choosing to sit out the season as fan attendance is heavily restricted.
Major Arena Soccer League – a professional league in the U.S. and Mexico.
Major Arena Soccer League 2 – an MASL developmental league.
Major Arena Soccer League 3 – a third-tier MASL developmental league set to launch in 2021.
Western Indoor Soccer League – a semi-pro league in Washington.
Premier Arena Soccer League – an national amateur adult soccer league.
Major League Futsal – a professional league in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.