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Risers, Wanderers collaborate to pioneer future of arena player development

In 2017, MKG made its Premier Arena Soccer League (PASL) debut in LC Walker Arena following a pair of exhibition games during late 2015 and early 2016. Considered an overwhelming success, the Risers were then pursued by Major Arena Soccer League’s newly formed second division, Major Arena Soccer League II (M2), to compete in the league’s inaugural campaign during the winter of 2018. M2 is the official developmental league of the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL), providing a greater platform for Muskegon Risers amateur players to earn professional contracts at the MASL level. With Muskegon’s ambition to build a bigger stage for its players and community through M2, a void was created at the PASL’s grassroots level. Great Lakes Wanderers is a newly formed indoor soccer team based in Cedar Springs, MI that will now compete in the PASL. On Tuesday, October 16, the Risers and Wanderers agreed to an affiliate partnership.

League executives believe what the Risers and Wanderers are doing will pioneer a more structured system of player development across the United States.

“I think it can be a model for working together in other areas of the country.” said M2 commissioner, Kevin Milliken, “Some MASL 2 teams also already own PASL teams, but I think two groups partnering together increases marketing and awareness, because it is multiple groups promoting arena soccer, not just one organization promoting 2 teams.”

Milliken also shared a vision for what markets like the Muskegon area will look like in 5 years within the PASL-M2-MASL model:

“I would like to see the PASL having a lot of amateur teams. In large markets maybe several teams in one arena. One MASL 2 team for every 5–10 PASL teams, depending on market sizes. Then about 3–4 MASL 2 teams for each single MASL 1 team.”

The Great Lakes Wanderers were originally founded by co-owners Pedro Sanchez and Joe Brefczynski to help support charitable causes in the Cedar Springs, MI community through arena soccer. The Wanderers quickly learned the idea could grow into much more, Sanchez explains:

“This project got started out of a charity game, it showed us how passionate people were about the game and how fun it was to be apart of these games.”

Brefczynski echoed Sanchez’s sentiments, with a further emphasis on his excitement for this partnership from a young player’s perspective:

“I hope to see all three divisions of arena soccer continue to grow. As a kid I grew up watching arena soccer in Chicago and many of my heroes are from that era. I believe there is a definitive style to arena soccer and we have an opportunity to rebuild a legacy by preparing players for the professional ranks.”

Muskegon Risers President, Matt Schmitt, also sees this partnership as a tremendous benefit to players:

“What Joe said resonated with my excitement about this partnership from a player standpoint. Muskegon is my hometown — has there ever been a time when you could get noticed playing in a local facility like Woodland, MVP, Shoreline, or Soccer Zone, get called into a third-tier arena side, work your way up through the second-tier and onto the biggest stage of arena soccer in this country? How motivating and fun will it be for ambitious arena players in this area to know the first two of those three steps exist in their backyard?”

In fact, two local players have already benefited from this concept. Aldony Mendez (Wyoming, MI) and Adam Clauss (Spring Lake, MI) were called into action for the US Mens National Arena Soccer Team in May after playing with Muskegon’s M2 team last winter. The game was broadcast nationally on Eleven Sports Network – an early sign that the model can quickly gain players high level exposure.

An affiliation between the Risers and Wanderers operates within league rules that M2 teams may have up to 5 active players on a PASL roster each week. This means the Risers and Wanderers coaching staffs, while still mutually exclusive, will collaborate weekly to determine the players who will compete in the M2 vs PASL every weekend. On the business side, each team will operate as its own entity although both parties hope to find several ways to create win-win sales and marketing strategies.

For more information on the Great Lakes Wanderers, please visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/glwanderers/ and look for more news from the Wanderers and Risers as the 2018/19 arena season approaches.

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