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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND FORCE SOCCER TEAM

CLEVELAND FORCE SOCCER TEAM

The CLEVELAND FORCE SOCCER TEAM, a successful franchise from 1978-88, responded to increased interest in the sport by joining the newly formed Major Indoor Soccer League, which played a modified version of the outdoor game. The 1978-79 season began in October and ran 24 games through April, but the Force, playing their home games at the Richfield Coliseum, produced a losing record on both the field (5-19) and the balance sheet. Like many other new sport franchises, the Force had trouble attracting attention, and original franchisee Eric Henderson sold the team to the Wolstein family during the off-season. Bart Wolstein, president, and his son, Scott, executive vice-president, acquired the best players available, signing forwards Keith Furfey and Craig Allen, midfielder Kai Haaskivi, and goalie Chris Vaccaro while the MISL established its credibility and expanded its schedule. The original coach, Eddie McCreadie, moved to the team's front office and was replaced by Timo Liekoski in 1982. In 4 seasons under Liekoski (1982-83 to 1985-86), the Force compiled a regular-season record of 114-87--one of the best records in the league. The record and active marketing of the team by the Wolsteins increased fan interest and attendance. Ticket sales climbed to nearly 400,000 in 1985-86 as the Force posted a 27-21 record and its first Eastern Division title, but lost to the Minnesota Strikers in the playoffs. In the mid-1980s the Cleveland Force was the only profitable team in the league, clearing $500,000 in the 1986-87 season and earning another title. However, the team was not as successful financially in the 1987-88 season and the Wolsteins folded the franchise 22 July 1988, citing a bleak financial outlook. During its 10 years, the Force was in the playoffs 7 times, gaining the Championship Series for the first time in 1988 where they lost to the San Diego Sockers.

The CLEVELAND CRUNCH soccer team officially replaced the Force in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) 22 Feb. 1989, after Akron stockbroker George Hoffman failed to reach an agreement with the Wolsteins to buy the Force. Three years later, when the MISL folded, the Crunch joined the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). Between 1992 and 2000, the Crunch won three NPSL titles, six conference titles and five division championships. At the close of the 2001-2002 season, the NPSL was dissolved and the MISL re-formed. Shortly thereafter, team president and general manager Paul Garofolo announced that, as a member of the re-formed league, the Crunch would return to its roots as the Cleveland Force.