The Milwaukee Wave Won’t Be Playing This Season

The reigning Major Arena Soccer League champs have been unable to come to an agreement with the Wisconsin Center District.

The Milwaukee Wave, reigning Major Arena Soccer League champions and the oldest continuously operating professional soccer team in the United States, announced on Monday that the team won’t take part in the league’s 2020-21 season.

The franchise has been unable to come to an agreement with the Wisconsin Center District that would allow the Wave to play in Downtown’s UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty as far as when and if the Milwaukee Health Department will allow attendance at live sports events, and, if so, how many people can safely share a space,” Milwaukee Wave owner Mike Zimmerman said. “So the District can’t give us a line of sight past January 1st to open the arena at capacity limits that work for us. Currently the limit is 250 and we need closer to 4,000.”

In early September, the Wisconsin Center District management predicted that there would be no fan-attended sporting events before the end of 2020 at Panther Arena, which hosts the Wave and the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team, or Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette University basketball.

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Last week, it was revealed that the Wisconsin Center District budget now assumes there won’t be any games at the Panther Arena until fall 2021.

Wisconsin Center District employees have also been notified of mass layoffs and furloughs of the publicly funded district’s full- time staff.

“The bottom line for sports entertainment is you have to be able to sell tickets and provide advance group sales opportunities in order to ‘feed the beast,’” Zimmerman said. “We also need a schedule and the ability to start selling 90 days in advance. Right now, there is too much uncertainty to accomplish any of that.”

Founded in 1984, the Wave has won seven professional indoor soccer championships, including the 2018-19 MASL title with a 5-2 win over the Monterrey Flash in May 2019 at the Panther Arena.

The league prematurely ended its 2019-20 season in March due to the pandemic.

Whether MASL moves forward with its 2020-21 season at all remains in question. Earlier this month, MASL officials announced that the COVID-19 pandemic had caused unprecedented difficulties and interruptions for the operation of the 17-team league, which has franchises in the United States and Mexico.

“We have seen a desire from our member teams, and especially our fans, for a return of arena soccer this season,” MASL Commissioner Joshua Schaub said at the time. “In that spirit, we are working hard to put together plans for teams to play.”

The MASL is currently looking at several options to launch the season (without the Milwaukee Wave), with the target start date currently being December 31.

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.