by Pete Richmire

TACOMA, WA. – The Tacoma Stars kick off their 2023-24 pre-season schedule on Saturday, August 19 at 4 pm when they take on the WISL All-Stars at the Tacoma Soccer Center. While this is a pre-season friendly on the calendar, the roots of Saturday’s game run much deeper. Tacoma’s connection with the WISL runs nearly a decade in length and many current Stars MASL players have taken the pitch in the WISL.

WISL Commissioner John Crouch has seen first-hand the impact the WISL has had on developing indoor soccer talent on a regional level.

“Along the nine years that the WISL has been playing in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve seen so much indoor soccer talent come through our league. The competition is high-level, fun for our fans and players, and during that time we’ve watched the MASL come to fruition in our region, with the revitalization of the Tacoma Stars. The WISL has enjoyed supporting the pro league with talent and creating playing opportunities for our best talent to play at the highest level of indoor soccer. We are proud of the list of players we’ve moved on. This weekend we celebrate the WISLs current top talent in a friendly with the Stars,” Crouch said.

When the Western Indoor Soccer League was formed on June 20, 2014, the Tacoma Stars made a move from the PASL, a league where they won two Championships and five Division Championships, compiling a 68-39-8 record in 11 seasons.

In their first season in the WISL, the Tacoma Stars put together an undefeated 8-0 record en route to the league’s first Championship. Making the feat even more special, Stars owner Lane Smith acquired the assets of the MASL’s Seattle franchise mid-season and Tacoma competed not only in the WISL but completed the MASL schedule as well.

During the 2015-16 season, the Tacoma Stars played a 20-game schedule in the MASL, and the newly formed Tacoma Stars Reserves competed in the WISL. Since that first season, 21 players from WISL teams have reached the MASL. 19 have suited up for the Stars and one each for the Harrisburg Heat and St. Louis Ambush. 

“The WISL has become a very important instrument in helping local athletes get exposure and move onto the next level (MASL). The WISL has now moved many young men onto the pro stage, even I went from watching the Stars in the stands to now being on the bench with the team. We are truly blessed to have such an amazing tool in our backyard that gives back to so many communities across the state,” said Tacoma Stars and Stars Reserves coach Adam Becker.

Nick Perera, the 2022-23 MASL MVP and Scoring Champion, and Tacoma Stars General Manager echoes Becker’s thoughts on the connection between the WISL, the Tacoma Stars, and MASL.

Perera said, “The WISL is a fantastic league that is growing the love and passion for indoor soccer throughout our area and providing a developmental opportunity for players and coaches to learn the game in a demanding and competitive format. The Stars first team has benefitted enormously from exciting talent coming through the WISL, with players who have made and are making a real impact in the MASL. I’m very excited to see the continued growth and development of the league and players within it.”

Six teams from the WISL will be represented on Saturday during the game against the Stars.

Suiting up from Bellingham United FC will be Christian Caro, Kevin Flavin, Richard Henderson, and Spencer Wolfe. Representing Everett will be Noe Bentancourt Cruz and Michael Herrera. From the Oly-Pen Force fans will see Brodie Steigerwald and Jaisen Zurfluh. The Oly-Town Artesians will send Kasey Sidor, Matt Stalnik, and Alex Vogt. Lunden Fenster and Nick Rivera will be there for the Snohomish Sky. The 2022-23 WISL Champion Tacoma Stars Reserves will be represented by Chris Lozano, Isidro Prado-Huerta, AJ Nitzel, and Alex Sotelo.

Tacoma Stars defender Logan Jones spent several years with the Tacoma Stars Reserves in the WISL before appearing in 58 games over the past four seasons with his MASL club.

“The WISL was an incredible place to get introduced to competitive indoor soccer. The passion, excitement, and intensity mimic the MASL experience well. Four years with the Reserves gave me a solid platform to stand on when transitioning into the pro side and adjusting to the game at that next level,” Jones said.

While Saturday’s game will be 60 minutes on the clock over four quarters, the meaning of the game and the path to get here runs much deeper for players on both benches.