New on SocTakes: MASL preview: South Central Division

South Central Division

Image credit: MASL

Welcome back to our preview series for the upcoming 2018-19 Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) season. If you missed part one, click here to take a look.

The South Central Division is new for this season, comprising teams from the Eastern and Central Divisions last season. With five teams, it’s the largest of the four divisions and covers the largest geographic area, stretching from Milwaukee to central Florida.

Florida Tropics SC – Lakeland, Fla.

  • Founded: 2016
  • Home venue: RP Funding Center (6,500)
  • Head coach: Clay Roberts
  • Last season: 10-12, 3rd in Eastern , DNQ
  • Average attendance: 2,433, 9th

The Tropics have switched divisions, joining the recombined South Central Division, meaning that they might actually have better luck at making the playoffs for once. They’ve come awfully close twice now, and in their third season, few things would be nicer than postseason play. The coaching staff has all returned for a third season, though their seats might start to get warm if the Tropics once again finish below .500.

Kansas City Comets – Independence, Mo.

  • Founded: 2010 (2014-15)
  • Home venue: Silverstein Eye Centers Arena (5,800)
  • Head coach: Kim Roentved
  • Last season: 7-15, 3rd in Central, DNQ

Ever since Vlatko Andonovski left the Comets in the summer of 2016, the team has gone through a noticeable decline. In his three seasons as head coach, Andonovski won the final MISL championship, then debuted in the MASL with a 20-0 season and a conference finals appearance followed by a 17-3 season and another conference finals appearance. Under Roentved, the Comets finished below .500 for the first time since their debut in 2010. Not good. They’re bringing back some talented players and retooling the roster, so maybe this season will be better, but honestly, who knows?

Milwaukee Wave – Milwaukee, Wisc.

  • Founded: 1984 (2014-15)
  • Home venue: UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena (9,500)
  • Head coach: Giuliano Oliviero
  • Last season: 17-5, 1st in Central, lost Eastern Conference final
  • Average attendance: 4,101, 1st

The Milwaukee Wave are the oldest continually operating professional soccer team in the country. Period. They’ve existed without missing a season or reorganizing as a new entity ever since their founding in August 1984. They’ve been playing since before Harrisburg coach Pat Healey was born. Anyway, last season was yet another solid campaign for the Wave, making the conference finals for the second consecutive season, and finishing its ninth consecutive winning season. Always expect the Wave to be good. Always. They haven’t finished a season with a losing record since 1993. Literally the only complaint I have about Milwaukee is the switch from blue as the accent color to electric lime. It’s not nearly as pretty or wavy.

Orlando SeaWolves – Kissimmee, Fla.

  • Founded: 2018
  • Home venue: Silver Spurs Arena (8,000)
  • Head coach: TBA
  • “New” for 2018

Orlando is kind of half an expansion franchise and half what remained of the Cedar Rapids Rampage, which folded at the end of last season. Most of the players on the roster came to Orlando from Cedar Rapids, although there’s entirely new ownership, management and likely coaching staff as soon as it’s announced. Considering the Rampage were easily the second-best Central Division team last season, Orlando has a promising core already.

St. Louis Ambush – St. Charles, Mo.

  • Founded: 2013 (2014-15)
  • Home venue: Family Arena (9,643)
  • Head coach: Hewerton Moreira
  • Last season: 3-19, 4th in Central, DNQ
  • Average attendance: 2,605

The Ambush, in five professional seasons including four in the MASL, have never made the playoffs, have never even come close to a .500 record and have won just nine games across the past three seasons combined. That’s pretty horrible, and attendance has consequently suffered. Hewerton Moreira took over as head coach last season and while there was an improvement — three wins compared to one — it’s still not looking great. Short of poaching all the former staff from Sonora, St. Louis is in for a slow rebuild.

Follow John on Twitter: @JohnMLTX.

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