It's closing in on 15 years since the Buffalo Blizzard went defunct, and professional indoor soccer has become unstable and fragmented since the demise of the National Professional Soccer League.
The Rochester Lancers, who debuted in the Major Indoor Soccer League in 2011, reached the division finals twice and drew between 5 and 7 thousand fans per game, ceased operations in July due to a steep increase in the cost of insurance. Salvatore "Soccer Sam" Fantauzzo, the Lancers' former owner, outspokenly dissatisfied with the now-dissolved MISL, nearly threw in the towel the year prior.
But Fantauzzo, with some reluctance, entered the Lancers into the Professional Arena Soccer League -- which quickly rebranded as the Major Arena Soccer League -- and former Blizzard and Rochester Rhino star Doug Miller stepped in and ran the team as a player-coach through the conclusion of the 2015 season, before the fold.
Without the Lancers around, the local interest in professional indoor soccer wanes further; the nearest MASL team is the Syracuse Silver Knights, who aren't overflowing with recognizable names, but we'll be able to keep our eyes on several familiar names from afar.
Local products Gary Boughton, Jeremy Figler and Austin Tom have recently been added to MASL rosters, as the league is a month into its season.
Boughton, a well-traveled standout for teams like Lancaster High School, Medaille College, FC New York, FC Buffalo and the Lancers, has earned another professional gig with Iowa-based Cedar Rapids Rampage, an expansion team. Wearing No. 50, Boughton has yet to tally a point in two matches, although he has taken three shots.
This past fall, Boughton coached the Erie Community College women's soccer team to its most wins in a season and its first-ever playoff victory. To cap the season, Boughton was named NSCAA Regional Coach of the Year, but it's clear that the 27-year-old still has his own playing aspirations.
Figler, who played locally for Grand Island High School, the University at Buffalo and St. Bonaventure University, comes back home after traveling Europe with Bridges FC and then professionally with Savsjo, a fourth-tier club in Sweden. Figler, whose younger brother, Justin, is the starting keeper for Daemen College, is currently the No. 2 goalie for the Baltimore Blast, who sit atop the table.
At some point, the elder Figler will likely see some action behind red-hot starter William Vanzela (6-0, 2.33 GAA).
Tom, who attended Christian Central Academy for high school and then played four years at Medaille College, has suited up for one match with the Syracuse Silver Knights, taking one shot and committing one foul.
Although the recent reshaping of these leagues tends to sully the reputation of professional indoor soccer, it doesn't subtract from the opportunity for players, who can stay fit during the winter season, improve their touch and speed of decision making, as well as make connections that may further their careers.
Gary Boughton, Cedar Rapids Rampage midfielder -- no points in two games
How you'd know him: Played at Lancaster HS, Medaille College, FC Buffalo, FC New York, Rochester Lancers, coaches ECC women
Jeremy Figler, Baltimore Blast goalie -- no points in no games
How you'd know him: Went to Grand Island HS, played at UB and St. Bonaventure, then Bridges FC and Savsjo (Sweden)
Austin Tom, Syracuse Silver Knights forward -- no points in two games
How you'd know him: Played at Christian Central Academy, Medaille College
Others you might know (statistics as of Dec. 14, 2015):
Andrew Hoxie, Baltimore Blast forward -- seven goals in six games
How you'd know him: Has played for Rhinos and Lancers, for whom he tallied 37 points in 19 games ('14-15)
Brad Vanino, Baltimore Blast forward -- one goal, one assist in five games
How you'd know him: Played at St. Bonaventure, pro for Lancers, earning team's Rookie of the Year
Joe Kapinos, Cedar Rapids goalie -- 0-6 record, 8.32 GAA
How you'd know him: Played 11 games for the Lancers in 2014-15
Tony Walls, Milwaukee Wave defender -- three goals in two games
How you'd know him: Started 27 of 28 games for USL Pro champion Rochester Rhinos
Kenardo Forbes, Syracuse Silver Knights midfielder -- three goals, two assists in five games
How you'd know him: Had three goals and five assists for the Rhinos in 27 games
Mauricio Salles, Ontario Fury forward -- nine goals, six assists in six games
How you'd know him: Team captain & team MVP for Lancers, plus All-MASL second team, in 2014-15
Joey Tavernese, Ontario Fury midfielder -- one goal, three assists in three games
How you'd know him: Lancers' offensive MVP for '14-'15 with 26 goals and 15 assists
Bernie Lilavois, Ontario Fury forward -- two goals in three games
How you'd know him: Spent one year ('98-'99) with the Buffalo Blizzard, scoring 31 goals in 32 matches. To our knowledge, he's the last remaining Blizzard player in action.
Tony Donatelli, Baltimore Blast forward -- two goals, six assists in five games
How you'd know him: This may be a little far-fetched, but Donatelli spent one year with the outdoor Rochester Rhinos in 2011.
Marcelo Moreira, St. Louis Ambush goalie -- 0-5, 8.03 GAA
How you'd know him: Went 3-5 in goal for the Lancers in '14-15
Jake Schindler, Syracuse Silver Knights defender, one goal in four games
How you'd know him: The solid defender played several years with the Rochester Lancers. Before that, he played outdoors for Queen City FC and then FC Buffalo in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and starred in high school for Irondequoit (Rochester) and in college for Roberts Wesleyan.
Elliot Fauske, Tacoma Stars defender -- one assist in eight games
How you'd know him: Accumulated three points in four games for Lancers in '14-15
Antonio Manfut, Syracuse Silver Knights midfielder; three goals, three assists in five games
How you'd know him: Diminutive winger plies his trade in NPSL for AFC Cleveland, which plays FC Buffalo; also served on U.S. Men's National Futsal Team.
Danny Dragoi, Detroit Waza Flo midfielder -- five goals in four games
How you'd know him: Has spent two seasons with Detroit City FC of the NPSL
Jamar Beasley, Tacoma Stars forward -- two goals, one assist in six games (now on inactive list)
How you'd know him: Older brother of longtime USMNT member DaMarcus, was first MLS player drafted out of high school
Stefan St. Louis, Milwaukee Wave forward -- one goal, one assist in five games (now on inactive list)
How you'd know him: Splits time between the PDL's Michigan Bucks and occasionally Detroit City FC
Email Ben Tsujimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org