Catching up with MLIS Senior Advisor Craig Rhodis

Major League Indoor Soccer Senior Advisor Craig Rhodis has spent the last several years laying the groundwork and building the infrastructure for the sport of indoor soccer to achieve significant growth over the next decade.

Rhodis, a coach and a former pro player, is the owner of Game Time Training Center and The Field Sports Arena in Cincinnati, the Technical Director for the Cincinnati Swerve (MLIS) and Cincinnati Sirens (PASL), and Director of Coaching and Player Development for the American Association for Soccer 5-6-7 National Team Program. With the Swerve joining MLIS, Rhodis is excited to add another job title to his portfolio.

"For me personally it's an exciting time for indoor soccer and small sided soccer in general," Rhodis said. "Keith Tozer and the MASL have done a great job in setting the league up for the future. The PASL is growing in the men's and women's divisions at the amateur level. I thought the MLIS passion, concepts, and ideas would add more for the growth of our sport between the MASL and PASL as a whole. I agreed to be an advisor to the PASL and MLIS because I can see the benefits of a true pyramid system. I don't have a stake in either league, but I am happy to help in whatever way I can. There are a lot of good new ideas being brought to the table that could benefit everyone in our sport."

The USA567 National Team Program has produced two World Minifootball Federation World Cup wins (Men in 2015, and Women in 2021). The men's team will participate in their fourth WMF World Cup next spring in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. On August 13 the men's team lost 5-1 to Mexico in Boise, Idaho, but they have three upcoming rematches scheduled. The US will host Mexico at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California on September 17 and then play two games in Chihuahua, Mexico on October 28 and 29.

"My goal for our USA567 National Team Program is to work with everyone to develop players for our national team, and move them through the different levels from NFPL (National Futsal Premier League), PASL, MLIS, and the MASL," said Rhodis. "We have really made a lot of progress in continuing to build our model as we approach the WMF World Cup in the UAE in the spring. I felt it was very important to look at new players to add to our player pool. The MASL coaches and general managers have been great in helping with identifying players who fit what we want. We are finalizing a relationship with the NFPL, who has sent us a few players already, as we will start to narrow down our player pool through the next few friendly games in Ontario and Chihuahua."

Last August Rhodis coached the USA567 Women's National Team to victory in Kyiv, Ukraine in the first ever WMF Women's World Cup. 

"I am proud of our progress on the women's side, winning the first WMF Women's World Cup," said Rhodis. "The PASL women's division has grown dramatically which allows us to have a larger pool of talented players, and we have partnered up with the NFPL on the women's side to bring in some of the talented women's futsal players. We will also be announcing our US youth minifootball international program in the next few weeks, so we are really happy with what we have accomplished. We have a great staff around the country that has really helped us with building our program and we look forward to the future."

Last year saw the return of the US Open Arena Soccer Championship, a men's tournament open to all professional and amateur teams, in which MLIS's Chicago Mustangs and Cincinnati Swerve competed.

"The Open Cup is another opportunity to identify talent," Rhodis says. "Independent teams, PASL, and some M2, and M3 teams participated last season, and my wish is for that to expand to multiple regional qualifiers, and to include all of the leagues this upcoming season. An independent team, the Stateline Falcons, went all of the way to the final, which shows how much untapped talent is still out there, that we need to harness into our sport at all levels. Working together on common interests like the National Team, Open Cup, and Youth Club will help all of the leagues achieve further growth for our sport for everyone."

And MLIS will be a key component of that vision.