The Cincinnati Silverbacks Indoor Soccer Team

June 26, 2020

Cincinnati Silverbacks logo

In 1978, Cincinnati was at the forefront of a new sport or, more accurately, a new version of an old sport as the Kids indoor soccer team debuted. They were charter members of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), but at the end of that first season, the team folded. The MISL went on to become quite popular as some teams experienced better attendance than the NHL and NBA teams with which they shared arenas. However, it would be 17 years before Cincinnati fielded another indoor soccer team.

Starting in Dayton

In 1995, the Dayton Dynamo of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) moved south to Cincinnati and was renamed the Silverbacks. The team’s new name was inspired by the popular silverback gorillas at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. After playing in three different arenas in Dayton, the renamed club settled into the Cincinnati Gardens bringing indoor soccer back to the Queen City for the first time since 1979.

The NPSL was formed in 1984, at the height of the sport's popularity, as the American Indoor Soccer Association. It intended to be a farm system of sorts for the MISL. In 1992, the MISL went out of business, and the NPSL, though it was struggling, became the top-level league in the sport.

In their first season in the Queen City, the team finished with 14 wins against 26 losses as they averaged just over 3,700 fans a game. The following season, they improved to 21 and 19 but drew fewer fans. The team made it to the conference semifinals where they lost to the Hershey Impact. They moved to the Crown (formerly Riverfront Coliseum, now Heritage Bank Center), for the 1997-98 season.

Moving downtown

Attendance increased to an average of 4,900 fans per game downtown, but that was still second-worst in the league. On the carpet, the team finished with 15-25, still good enough to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, the team lost in the opening round to the Harrisburg Heat. 

Even though the team was becoming more popular, they played third banana, as it were, to the very popular Cincinnati Cyclones hockey team, as well as concerts and other events at the Crown. That left very few Friday and Saturday night dates for the Silverbacks. A move back to the Gardens wasn’t an option as the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American hockey league had taken up residence there.

Final days 

In August of 1998, the team’s ownership transferred back to the last group in Dayton to own the team, the Miami Valley Soccer Limited Partnership, but there were no plans for the team to return to the Gem City. The team folded for good before the start of the 1998-99 season.

It’s strange to think that in soccer-mad Cincinnati, the indoor game never took hold. The Cincinnati Kings indoor team was established in 2008 and played at the GameTime Training Center in Fairfield. They played in the Professional Arena Soccer League, now called the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL). The Kings folded in 2013.

With the rise in popularity of outdoor soccer, it is unlikely the indoor version will ever be as popular as it was in the 1980s. The MASL is now the top-level league in the sport, but most of its cubs play in smaller arenas, its 17 teams drawing an average of around 2,500 fans a game.

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