By Andrew Johnson
Muskegon Risers President Matt Schmitt notified players and other members of the organization on Monday that the outdoor summer soccer season would be cancelled for both the men’s team and the new women’s squad.
The male Risers were going to compete in the National Premier Soccer League 2, but that league actually canceled the 2020 season on March 26. That would have left the Risers with the option of perhaps playing an independent schedule, if opponents could have been located.
“Even playing at this point would’ve meant an alternate schedule and no national championship,” Schmitt told LocalSportsJournal.com. “While that isn’t everything, it affected who we would’ve played.”
The women’s Risers team was set to play its inaugural season in the United Women’s Soccer League, featuring five home and five road games.
While the cancellation of the summer season is a disappointment, Schmitt did announce that the women will have a full arena schedule in the winter, along with the men’s team. The women are expected to play a full schedule, but it’s unlikely they’ll be in a league next winter.
“It’s a silver lining,” Schmitt said. “We’re preparing for an arena season that will have women’s games followed by men’s games every home date. That is really exciting and something we’ve been building toward for a while.”
One positive is that the Risers are not taking too much of a financial hit at this time, despite the loss of the summer season.
“We were pretty smart about it,” Schmitt said about precautions the Risers took when the virus started to become a pandemic. “We weren’t selling sponsorships or season tickets early on. We were kind of peeking around the corner and seeing where this was going. It hasn’t really affected us because we’re not in a position where we invested too heavily in the front end of the outdoor season.”
The Risers indoor men’s team was not able to play the last game of its 2020 schedule, which would have been on March 21 at home against Oakland County FC. The challenge at this point is taking care of fans who had tickets for that game.
“We’re having conversations,” Schmitt said. “We’re talking about pro-rating tickets for the 2021 season, and that’s the same with our sponsors. Those are conversations that are thankfully pretty easy to have.”
While the Risers are disappointed to cancel the outdoor season, Schmitt says it’s the high school spring sports athletes who have his sympathy.
“We have athletes who don’t get to have a senior season,” he said. “Thinking about that is gut wrenching. If we do our part now by helping make sure this virus is controlled and eliminated by fall, so kids can have a fall season, it will make this decision fully worth it.”