Having completed their regular season, the Midwest Iowa Soccer League is set to begin their playoffs. The league draws teams from around the state and is made up of 17 teams.
Storm Lake is the most heavily represented area with nine teams. Clarion fields three teams, Spencer and Fort Dodge each field two, and Humboldt has one.
Games are played at fields in each respective town with the majority played at the Storm Lake Field of Dreams Complex.
The league's size in number of teams and representation through different areas makes it one of the largest of its kind in Iowa. As with any recreational league, the talent is going to vary greatly, but it is certainly a competitive league with some very gifted players.
Patrick Toay and Greg Pruitt, players on the Milan team who played competitively at the college ranks and recently won the Iowa Games tournament, agree the league is a talented and challenging one.
"I would say it is a pretty competitive adult league," said Toay. "The play isn't quite as quick as in college, but the skill level might be higher as a pure soccer standpoint. The college game is based more on size and speed compared to this league that highlights individual skills and ball control."
"It's definitely a high level of play," added Pruitt. "It's more physical play with some skilled individuals."
Demographically, the majority of the league is Latin-American. This offers a unique match day experience for those who attend.
"The league differs from others I've played in because of the culture and atmosphere at the game," said Toay. "You can buy replica jerseys from league and professional teams at the game, and you can always get a good meal from the vendors that set up shop there. This is the sport they grew up playing so there is a lot of support for the teams from friends and family. Area teams tend to support each other pretty well also."
The intensity of some fans caused problems earlier and two teams were actually banned from the league.
League officials have done a good job of getting the league and environment cleaned up and safe for everyone involved on and off the field.
Alcohol is no longer permitted at the Field of Dreams Complex, and players who are given red or yellow cards for serious infractions are given monetary fines as well.
"Recently there were some problems with some drinking rowdy fans," said Toay. "It's a rec league but we all take it pretty seriously and every so often there will be a scuffle. Fans get really dedicated to their squads. I think it's good to have spectators on the sideline giving some banter. It makes for a more interesting match atmosphere."
The seventeen teams in the league will be split into two divisions for the playoffs. They are paired of and play two legs, or matches, and the winner is determined by the aggregate, or overall, score. In the event of a tie, the higher seeded team would advance.
At the end, the winners of each bracket will face to determine the league's champion. Extra time and penalty kick will be in play if necessary.
The playoffs begin this Sunday with five games being played at the Field of Dreams at 10 A.M., 12 P.M., and 2 P.M. One game will be held at Spencer at 1:30 P.M.