Cleveland Crunch switching leagues, planning new venue for 2023; soccer team entering third season
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Crunch are planning to enter their third season in a new soccer league and in a new venue.
Luciano V. Ruscitto, a co-founder of the Crunch and majority owner, said the team is finalizing a deal to play in the International Exposition Center when it starts play in Major League Indoor Soccer in January. This year, Cleveland was one of several teams to leave Major Arena Soccer League 2, which the Crunch competed in for two seasons.
When the Crunch announced their schedule in January for their second season, MASL2 had 13 teams in three divisions. Cleveland was in the four-team Great Lakes division along with Muskegon, Chicago and Cincinnati. The Crunch won the title in their inaugural season and – after a 12-0 record this year – lost in the championship, 7-4, to the San Diego Sockers.
According to the MASL2 website this week, only two teams are listed in the East/Great Lakes division, four in the Midwest and five in the West. So there is a net loss of two teams.
“That (exodus of teams) caused us also to leave the league and join this new and up and coming league,” Ruscitto said. “Some of the owners got together and created Major League Indoor Soccer.”
He added: “It came down to travel and being smart about it, about how we’re going to keep this thing going long term. The M2 was just a money pit. It will be exciting; the brand is cool.”
Four home games will be played at the IX Center, Ruscitto said. The Crunch previously played in the Soccer Sportsplex in North Olmsted.
Ruscitto said teams in Illinois and Grand Rapids, Michigan, are expected to join the nascent MLIS, with others including Detroit, Pittsburgh and Louisville down the road. Teams in other cities reportedly have applied to join, including Erie, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, Rochester, New York; and Hartford, Connecticut, according to Front Row Soccer.
Dr. Sev Hrywnak, MISL’s president, said final approval for teams is set for next week, with several still being vetted. The league will be team-driven, he said.
“All teams have ownership in the league,” Hrywnak said. “They’ll have a lot of say. That’s what we want.”
Cash prizes for champions will be offered, he said, and the league will emphasize fan involvement and a different streaming content.
“This has got to be family entertainment,” Hrywnak said. “It’s not just a soccer game. The fans have to be involved. We’re going to have an app developed that the fans can pick what players are going to score a goal to get points, to get prizes.”
“It’s a Midwest-heavy type of thing,” said Ruscitto, who said he doesn’t rule out the possibility of the leagues merging. “But there (was) a cost-prohibitive force at play.”
Ruscitto added: “The franchise fees (for MASL1) are north of $1 million. Obviously, that (advancing to M1) was the goal when it started. Progressively you come to realize that’s a pipe dream unless you have a guy with deep pockets.”
Ruscitto said MASL1 raising fees without the possibility of MASL2 teams getting grandfathered in was a sticking point.
Cleveland.com reached out to the MASL for comment.
“You can be the most profitable, most successful M2 team that exists, but if you can’t pay over $1.5 million for a franchise they’re not going to let you in,” Ruscitto said. “And you’re carrying a second-division brand, almost. Chicago and Cleveland and some of these teams in bigger-market cities play in the second division simply because they don’t have enough money to pay a franchise fee when it does not cost that much to operate during the season. The model seems backward.”
Ruscitto said the MLIS vested team-ownership approach is modeled after the California-based Premier Lacrosse League.
“It seems very promising,” Ruscitto said. “You just hope it can take off.”He added: “I’m just trying to make us prominent.”
“They’re great owners; we’re glad to have ‘em,” Hrywnak said of Cleveland.
The schedule will include six home and six away games, with four of the home games at the IX Center and two at the Sportsplex in North Olmsted.
“There’s potential for this to turn into a permanent home venue for the next season, depending on how we do,” said Ruscitto, who said the IX Center will be able to accommodate 2,000 seats, actual stands and video board.
“Now we have to capitalize on it and get people in seats,” he said. “I’m excited about it and optimistic about it. I think it can bring more excitement to this whole thing that can go one way or the other in joining this new league. The players are on board.”
The roster appears to remain intact, though coach Louis Kastelic recently told the Crunch he would not return. Also, Eric Davis, a co-founder of the Crunch, has left the team, though Ruscitto would not elaborate.
By Marc Bona. View the full article at cleveland.com.