Undisputed: Grand Rapids Sweeps Division Winners to Claim First MLIS Championship

The Omaha Kings rallied all season, but Rapid City FC's third quarter explosion was just too big a hill to climb. Rapid City won the first MLIS Championship 16-7 on Sunday at Grand Sports Arena in Chicago to leave no doubt who the best team was in 2022-23.

Grand Rapids, the Eastern Division champions, beat the Southern Division champion Houston Bolt 10-5 yesterday in the semifinals and then convincingly beat the Central Division champion Kings in today's championship.

Omaha rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Cleveland Crunch 8-7 in their Saturday semifinal, and today rallied from a 5-1 hole to tie the game at 5-5 2:37 into the third quarter, but it was all Grand Rapids from that point on.

Rapid City scored the next five goals in a five and a half minute span and Omaha never threatened to get back into the game.

Ten different players scored for Grand Rapids, led by three Alex Mendez goals. Tj Ifaturoti, Nermin Crnkic, Daire O'Riordan, and Giuseppe Barone had two goals each.

MLIS MVP Manuel Lira scored four times, but Rapid City goalkeeper Jay Toric came up big time after time when he needed to.

Grand Rapids made a midseason coaching change after the team got off to a 3-2 start and current Head Coach Louis Stephens led the team to a 9-0 record including this weekend's playoffs. "In the games since I took over, the focus has been defense," said Stephens. "Our defense really ignited our offense. If you can stop the opponent from getting into a rhythm offensively, it truly increases your chances at winning."

In the last nine games, Rapid City scored 10 or more goals eight times, averaging an incredible 13.44 goals per game in that stretch.

Rapid City FC is one of only two MLIS teams who had no prior affiliations with other indoor soccer leagues. 

"On behalf of the league I would like to congratulate the owners, players, and fans of Rapid City FC for winning the first ever MLIS championship," said MLIS Commissioner Dominic Turcotte. "I would also like to congratulate the Omaha Kings on a successful first season in MLIS. This team never gives up and I know we'll see them competing for the title again next year as Grand Rapids begins their title defense."