It was not as if Seattleites needed another option on their sporting menu.
Already the calendar was crammed full, year-round with Seahawks, Mariners, Sonics, Sounders, minor league hockey and all things-Huskies. Four different sports were being played in that concrete edifice on King Street known as the Kingdome. And now they would squeezing in a fifth.
Speed soccer was its name–at least locally–and back in the day when the NASL sat quiet for nearly seven months, it was a welcome winter respite, for player and fan alike.
While indoor, 6-a-side soccer has since become a staple with regard to participants, in the winter of 1980-81 it was a novelty, an oddity, where Seattle was concerned.
Quite frankly, they were unaware of what awaited them.
When delivered to San Francisco’s Cow Palace in the late winter of 1975, none of the Seattle Sounders seemed to know what they’d signed-up for.
“We were just a bunch of guys getting together and taking a trip down to California for a couple games,” recalls Ballan Campeau.
“We thought it was a preseason fitness thing,” David Gillett remembers. “We were clueless.”
So began Seattle’s first foray into the soccer/hockey hybrid now known as indoor or arena soccer, a game first concocted in Chicago during the Fifties. A generation later, during a pair of exhibitions at Philadelphia’s Spectrum featuring Moscow’s Red Army club, eyes were opened to commercial opportunities.
It’s a bastardization, for sure. Yet for a time, while it may be a debased version of the Beautiful Game, it was the de facto standard bearer for American soccer.
Indoor soccer, arena soccer or speed soccer, call it what you will, was raising the roof of many an arena while the professional outdoor game was languishing on virtual life support. More than simply a placeholder, the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) once featured teams in 14 cities and, in some instances, outdrew its NBA co-tenant.
Whatever the 6-a-side version lacked in sophistication it compensated with up-close, end-to-end action and showmanship. Not to mention, there was no shortage of goals. Sixty-minute games generated about three times as many goals as the 90-minute, full-field variety.
Once upon time, these bleak days and long, dark nights of mid-winter were when the American game glowed brightest.
Not only around Puget Sound, but across the continent, the highest form of professional soccer was being played amidst a driving disco beat and within dasher boards and plexiglass.
Now known more commonly as arena soccer, at its height it was identified as indoor, aka six-a-side or speed soccer, at least in Seattle.
Over the coming weeks I will reach back to those nights of yore to share some history and reflections from coaches and management of the Sounders, Stars and Sea Dogs, along with those who literally played wall passes and served their share of minutes in the sin bin.