Think Tank FC talks about running adult soccer clubs at the elite / semi-pro level in the state of Washington and the Northwest. David Falk is the Media Director for the Evergreen Premier League, Western Indoor Soccer League and Northwest Premier League. He founded soccer news website goalWA.net in 2011.
The Western Indoor Soccer League (WISL) is scheduled to have an all-clubs meeting in early September in Tacoma. The league just announced its preseason open tournament will be Saturday October 28 at the Tacoma Soccer Center.
Over 750 fans attended the 2016 WISL Final in Bellingham.
The indoor game at the semi-pro amateur level in Washington draws more fans per match than the outdoor game does. Bellingham United drew sellout crowds of over 700 the two previous seasons in the playoffs. Outdoors Hammers attendance in the EPLWA has sagged over recent seasons. The Olympic Force and Oly Town Artesians, who field indoor and outdoor sides, also see much better support indoors during the winter than they do outdoors during the summer. (Oly Town has a sample size of just one outdoor season.)
The WISL is popular, but it isn’t growing. My observation is that running an indoor club is a bit ‘easier’ than an outdoor one because the season contains fewer matches and club roster sizes are smaller.
However when it comes to finding a place to host matches, clearly the harder challenge is indoors. Many arenas don’t want WISL teams because they take away from scheduling other leagues (Example: Arena Sports.) Some venues are not fan-friendly (Example: Everett Soccer Arena.) While outdoor stadiums and pitches are everywhere, the indoor game is limited by usable ‘rinks’ requiring boards. Some of these facilities have pitches that work for local leagues, but are too small for 6-a-side semi-pro action (Examples: LifeQuest Tri-Cities, The Fieldhouse Yakima.)
Olympic Force are favorites indoors in Kitsap County.
Arenas with former WISL teams have also closed over the years in Arlington (Aviators) and Wenatchee (Fire.) Further, snowy winters in the mountains make it seem unlikely that clubs in Spokane could join even if venues were available.
One thing I will point out to clubs hoping to have an FC in the Evergreen Premier League some day: the league has only ever brought in 2 ‘new teams,’ and both of them were already established indoors in the WISL where they could prove their ability to run themselves (Olympic Force, Oly Town Artesians.)
Washington seems to buck the trend nationally when it comes to indoor soccer versus outdoor soccer support at the grassroots level.
Numbers are not easy to come by, but generally outdoor clubs draw more around the states than indoor semi-pro sides do. The guru of American soccer attendance doesn’t even have enough info to track it.
Here is a list of the clubs making a go of it in the PASL last season.
If you follow indoor soccer, you need to bookmark TurfandBoards.com. Also check out USIndoor.com and USNAST.com. The PASL website is ArenaLeague.com. The WISL is located at WISLnews.com. The American pro league, featuring the Tacoma Stars, is at MASLsoccer.com.