Sockers worth a second look
San Diego’s most accomplished professional sports team offers great value for local fans
Sunit Bhakta | Contributor | The USD Vista
Soccer may not seem as big in the United States as it does in other countries around the world. However, it is among the fastest growing sports in the U.S. according to many reports.
While San Diego does not have a Major League Soccer (MLS) team at the moment, they do have a pro team hidden in the city that many people may not be aware of. That team is the San Diego Sockers, a small indoor soccer team that plays their games just down the road at Valley View Casino Center.
Before becoming the San Diego Sockers, the team started off as the Baltimore Comets in 1974 before moving to Southern California to become the San Diego Jaws. From there, they moved to Las Vegas for a year, then returned in 1978 as the San Diego Sockers.
They made constant moves from the North American Soccer League (NASL) to the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) to the Continental Indoor Soccer League (CISL), winning at every level. The franchise was even discontinued twice — first in 1996 and then again in 2004.
However, they were reborn again in 2009 under what seems to be the stable and trustworthy ownership of David Pike and Carl Savoia, and the team now resides in the MISL once more.
The MISL consists of 16 teams spread across the nation in four different divisions based on the city’s geographical location. San Diego is in the Pacific Division along with Tacoma, Washington, Ontario, California, and Turlock, California.
Under this new ownership, the franchise has stated a commitment to club, culture, and community. They seem to strive to make the experience of watching a game live more than just a sports game, going beyond to make it an event and an affordable family experience at that.
They are also committed to fielding a winner every year, with their 14 championships ranking as the most among all indoor soccer teams.
Further research also showed that the Sockers have numerous events to help the local community, such as charity golf tournaments, blood drives, and events where players will take a child holiday shopping at the Sports Arena Target for the family. They are committed to making donations as well, focusing all these efforts on assisting organizations that benefit youth lacrosse, disadvantaged youth, children’s medical related causes, and youth educational programs.
They are committed to making the games an enjoyable experience as well.
Senior Jason Clapp had an opportunity to attend a Sockers game recently. While he is a huge soccer fan, Clapp admitted he did not know what to expect from the game being indoors and in a smaller venue. Clapp also attributed this to having never heard of the indoor soccer league or the team. However, by the end of the night, he came away impressed by the atmosphere and wanting to attend another match soon.
It is 6-on-6, high-paced soccer, which makes it more entertaining to watch for the casual fan than traditional 11-on-11 action.
As the game continued, the sport actually had a decidedly hockey-like feel to it.
There are boards surrounding a lot of the field, similar to a hockey arena, and the players often kick the ball up the field at the boards on the other side while playing passes off the sides.
The substitutions also resembled hockey. Coaches don’t have to wait for the game to stop — it’s a running substitution where players can substitute in at any time, and once a player leaves a game, they can still come back. The biggest thing was that they have power plays as a result of players being sent to the penalty box.
The best description for the game is that it’s a blend of the foot speed and technique of soccer and the in-game strategy of hockey, without the physicality you might find at a hockey game.
The announced attendance was around 3,000 people, and the ages of the attendees varied. There were younger children, high schoolers, college students, parents, and grandparents.
The atmosphere was very energetic and lively. They had a DJ who constantly played music either to pump up the crowd or to fit the mood.
The team even has its own group of avid fans, who are known for their passionate and unceasing support of the home team. They were on their feet the whole time, shouting and chanting regularly, and all decked-out in Sockers blue and yellow. They even ended up creating a fan section for 30-40 kids as well, another indication of the organization’s emphasis toward youth soccer and younger fans.
San Diego ended up winning comfortably 8-3, but for Clapp, the biggest takeaways from the game came away from the pitch.
“If you are even a casual sports or soccer fan, I think a Sockers game is a must-see event,” Clapp said. “However, it may not be for everyone because you may not be into soccer or have a hard time going because you already support another team.”
Senior Mohammed Alfaylakawi is still more inclined to support bigger and more prominent teams.
“I only watch the club I support and big international tournaments,” Alfaylakawi said. “I don’t have an attachment to the San Diego team, so I wouldn’t watch it.”
Junior David Rivera and senior Kelsey Carreras disagreed with Alfaylakawi.
“They aren’t as big as the Padres, so I probably wouldn’t have gone at first,” Rivera said. “But it sounds very fun, and if the tickets are cheap, then I would definitely check it out.”
“If tickets are cheap and I am free on a Friday night, I’d go for sure,” Carreras said.
Tickets range from $12-$33, and the $12 general admission seats still offer a clear view of the on-pitch action at closer range compared to many larger-scale soccer matches.
Ultimately, as Clapp and others attest, the Sockers offer what seems to be a bargain for local sports fans. Similar to the San Diego Gulls of the minor league hockey ranks, the Sockers offer quality competition and an engrossing environment at affordable prices. Given the rising popularity of soccer in America, teams like the Sockers could become an even bigger draw in seasons to come, whether for the game or simply for a good time with friends and fellow attendees.