MUSKEGON, Mich. — Muskegon's Mercy Health Arena hosted the first annual Great Lakes Invitational for the Major Arena Soccer League this weekend.
The league, now in its fifth season of existence, consists of 16 teams across the United States consisting of players from every level of soccer, including former professionals, international, college, and even high-level high school players.
The invitational consisted of six teams including Grand Rapids taking on Milwaukee and Muskegon against Colorado in the night-cap.
The Major Arena Soccer League is growing in not only West Michigan but around the United States as a whole.
"I have kids that come to games and their parents say they brought them to an outdoor soccer game and they fell asleep in the first half," said the league's deputy commissioner, Andrew Ross. "They come here and they're entertained the whole game, it's just really exciting and fast paced."
All games are played in smaller arenas, including those typically made for hockey such as Mercy Health Arena.
The games are five-on-five with playing surfaces consisting of boards and glass, similar to hockey without an out of bounds.
Penalties also can put teams on the powerplay.
"It's a crazy amazing game," said Pedro Sanchez, the owner of the Grand Rapids Wanderers, "I get bored watching outdoor soccer. So, if anyone says that's boring, then watch arena soccer because it's made for you. It's almost like hockey and a little bit of football too because it's physical."
Muskegon Risers Director of Operations, Matt Schmitt says you can tell how quickly they're gaining support by everything happening with the arena and the surrounding area.
"The branding of our team being called the Risers and we're capturing that spirit of revitalization in Muskegon," Schmitt said. "I think while people do love soccer, more than anything they love that we're promoting the positive activity happening along the Muskegon lakeshore."
For more information on the league, click here.