The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
The Wash is David Falk’s take on the world of soccer in The WA.
TACOMA, Wash.— The Tacoma Stars won’t be a part of the 2012-13 PASL playoffs. The Turlock Express easily beat the lowly Sacramento Surge 9:1 on Saturday night February 9th to clinch second place in the Pacific Division and punch a match-up ticket against the high-flying San Diego Sockers. The Express finish the regular season with a 9-7 record.
The Stars are sitting at 8-7, and now it is possible that they won’t make the trip to Sacramento next week to face the Surge in a match that has little meaning. A Tacoma forfeit would put their final season record at 8-8.
The Stars earlier played a double-header in Turlock to combine trips and save on travel expenses. It contradicted the original league schedule that had the Stars making two trips to Northern California within a month of each other. The league appeared to not be in favor of the change but eventually posted the result on its official website.
The Stars, part of the Professional Arena Soccer League for three seasons, have been the subject of social media talk and rumors of player discontent over not getting paid. The club has drawn smaller than hoped-for crowds at the Pacific Sports Center this season after spending last year at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
This has been Tacoma’s second-best season in the PASL. The Stars made the playoffs their first season, fell to 3-13 last year, and will finish with at least eight wins this go-round.
Behind the scenes the Stars are always looking for investors to remain at the pro level and volunteers to help them promote their club. Annual trips to Mexico, San Diego, Las Vegas and Northern California have strained the club’s finances. Anonymously some within the PASL and the Premier Arena Soccer League (amateur) have wondered if the Stars might be better off returning to the PASL NW, a now-thriving division that they won (along with a Premier title) before they jumped into the pro circuit.
The PASL features a wide-array of clubs and venues. The San Diego Sockers, Dallas Sidekicks and Las Vegas Legends have played before thousands of fans in spectator arenas. The “have-nots” such as Tacoma, Sacramento and Turlock play in “soccer centers” that house public matches and offer little professional atmosphere.
It’s a nation-wide issue for the sport, which has two “top leagues” in the PASL and MISL. Between the two leagues there are a handful of clubs playing before nice crowds in actual arenas. Then there are a group of clubs not drawing well and some, like the Stars, not playing in professional settings. Yet they face off against each other in their respective leagues in an imbalance of talent and cash.
The Stars have bravely carried the banner locally for the “pro indoor game.” How much longer?
Tacoma’s long history under the name “Stars” in the old MISL is often recycled as a reason the club would like to remain a pro outfit. The reality of the situation for the Stars today is that they are in over their heads financially and are struggling to compete on the pitch with the big boys.
You would think something is going to have to give at some point. Or find investors who can budge the ship forward with a cash infusion. Or perhaps join a offshoot league the PASL is considering, with the working title “PASL-2.” It is described as “a pro league with a smaller luxury tax threshold that will play 12 games instead of 16 and play in facilities with 300-1000 capacities.” The travel expenses would remain to places like NorCal, though.
The Stars are stuck in third gear in their current operating status and league, failing to capture the kind of interest needed to expand their crowds and thus be able to pay their players (on time), move to a professional venue and handle travel expenses.
It would be a tough thing to give up on the “pro label” they now have, but it really is just that, a “label.” Without a spectator arena or the money to bring in the best indoor players from around the country, the Stars would be better-served to regroup for a few years by coming back to the local game at a time it is stronger than ever.