Andrew Haines

Lakeland’s newest sports franchise, the Florida Tropics, will play a 20-game soccer season starting Nov. 11 as part of the new Indoor Professional League, team owner Andrew Haines announced today.

Ten of the games will be played on the team’s home turf at the Lakeland Center, Haines said. So far, the league has teams in Lakeland, Baltimore, St. Louis and Harrisburg, Pa., Haines said, adding he thinks the league will have 10 to 14 teams in the next three months.

A game schedule is expected in September.

Watch the press conference

More than 100 season tickets have been sold so far, Haines said. Tickets start at $100 dollars for the full season, $60 for a five-game pack, $15 for single-game tickets, and $12 dollars per person for a group package.

Coaching the Tropics will be Clay Roberts, currently the head coach for the men’s soccer team at Southeastern University. He will retain his position at Southeastern.

A Lakeland native, Roberts played soccer at Florida Southern College and helped lead the Lakeland Lazers youth team to a state cup in 1999.

Roberts has played professional indoor and outdoor soccer for the Charlotte Eagles and Philadelphia Kixx, and has coached at Philadelphia Biblical University and Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Roberts will be assisted by Owen McCarthy. McCarthy is currently the assistant coach to Roberts at Southeastern, and has been an assistant coach for the Ocala Stampede and VSI Tampa Bay soccer clubs.

The Tropics also have a few key players signed to their roster. Midfielder Freddy Moojen, who grew up in Brazil, is a citizen of Canada and played for the Canadian national team. Moojen has played for more than six indoor soccer teams, including the Haines-owned St. Louis Ambush. Moojen will also serve as an assistant coach.

The Tropics have also signed goalkeeper Piotr Sliwa. He started playing indoor soccer in 2014 for the Seattle Impact and Ontario Fury. He played collegiately at Dominican University, and was an All-American candidate his senior year.

Anthony Arico will join the Tropics as a midfielder. He also played for the St. Louis Ambush as well as the Milwaukee Wave. He played his college career at Eckerd University, and currently plays for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a member of the North American Soccer League.

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Sal Fantauzzo will be commissioner of the IPL. Fantauzzo was formerly a commissioner of the Irondequoit Fall Soccer League in 1985, he has had his own radio show since 1995, and was the assistant to the GM of the Rochester Rhinos from 1996-2009, according to the Rochester Lancers website.

The Indoor Professional League was founded by Ed Hale, owner of the Baltimore Blast, who he removed from a rival league to form the IPL. Along with owning soccer teams, he also owns naming rights to 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore.

Haines is confident in the Tropics succeeding in Lakeland. “No one will out-work us,” he said.

Roberts has a lot of praise for indoor soccer. “If you come to a game, you’ll be a fan for life,” he said.

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