Soccer almost back in the Magic City

50 days to the regular season but there's help on the way

The good news: today marks exactly 50 days until the USL Championship season starts.

The bad news: it’s still 79 days until the Legion plays a regular season game at home.

Now of course, it’s only 8 days until we get to see the Three Sparks in action in the pre-season friendly with Atlanta United. That will be fun and interesting, but in the end it won’t have a great deal of meaning (expect to see a lot of non-starters on both sides). And there’s still that long wait.

However…there will be regular season soccer played in Birmingham just two weeks from today.

Say hello to Magic City SC. This is an expansion team in the relatively new National Indoor Soccer League. They will play their first ever games Friday February 2nd at the Pelham Civic Complex (where the Birmingham Bulls play). I also say games, not game, quite intentionally, as the club will be fielding (carpeting?) both men’s and women’s sides, and both will play at every game date. The opponent for the inaugural games will be the Central Florida Crusaders from Orlando. First kickoff will be at 7pm.

Magic City’s men’s coach will be Barry Spitzer, currently Executive Director of Tuscaloosa United and formerly at Samford and various other collegiate programs. The women will be led by Jennifer Pfeiffer, who is Executive Director of the Alabama Soccer Association.

Beyond that, the club’s website doesn’t give a great amount of info. There are no women players listed and only 7 men (with no keeper!).

The NISL is rather grandiosely named, as all its teams are located in the Southeast (as compared with the Major Arena Soccer League which has teams all over the US and Mexico). It has five active teams (plus Foundry FC in Columbus, GA, which is a planned replacement for the previous Columbus Rapids but does not appear to be playing this season) as well as a travelling exhibition teams to fil out the schedule. It was formed in 2021 by Andrew Haines, a sports marketing executive who has a majority stake in the league and all its teams. He was also once with the MASL.

In addition to the Columbus Rapids, the league has also seen the Rome Gladiators fold, and the reigning men’s and women’s champions, the Memphis Americans are in the much-feared “on hiatus” condition.

The games themselves will likely high-scoring and all action. The league’s rules owe a fair amount to hockey. Here are some of the main points:

  • Games will be 4 15-minute quarters
  • Teams are 6 on the field, including a keeper
  • Substitutions are on the fly and unlimited
  • A penalty box will be used (2 or 5 minutes depending on the severity of the infraction)
  • Power plays will be used for 2-minute penalties
  • 2 penalties result in an ejection from the game
  • All free kicks are direct
  • There are two yellow lines at the midpoint of each half of the field. A forward pass crossing both lines in the air results in a free kick to the defending team (this is similar to icing).
  • 1 1-minute timeout per team per half

Single-event tickets start at $18. Not bad for what could be a couple of hours of solid entertainment.

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