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January 29, 2017
NY indoor soccer goes back to 1939 and several youth tournaments are celebrating milestones this year

With outdoor fields being unplayable during New York's winter due to snow and ice, soccer players go indoors, not to hibernate, but to play indoor soccer.

Consequently, indoor soccer has a long history in the Empire State.

In 1939 and 1940, the American Soccer League staged indoor games at Madison Square Garden. A lack of fan interest, coupled with the United States’ entry into World War II, ended the series.

In 1958, the ASL tried again, staging an all-day tournament at MSG. Playing on the hard soil left behind by a Roy Rogers horse show, the league used the dasher boards from New York Rangers games and the all-day tournament attracted more than 14,000 people. Unfortunately, the ASL was having problems on the outdoor side so, despite the large indoor crowd, the ASL did not continue playing at the world’s most famous arena.

The Cosmopolitan Soccer League has a lengthy history hosting an indoor tournament and its venues have included the Manhattan Armory, the Westchester County Center and for the past decade at facilities in northern New Jersey.

In 1968, Oceanside United started its indoor tournament, which remains the oldest youth indoor soccer tourney in the United States. Rudy Lamonica scored in the tournament during the winters of 1968 and 1969. After his passing from bone cancer in 1970, the event was named after him and the 50th Annual Rudy Lamonica Indoor Tournament, a Long Island Junior Soccer League event, was held Jan. 21-22.

But it’s not the only New York indoor tourney celebrating a milestone this winter. Oceanside’s tourney might be the oldest of its kind but the oldest youth soccer league in the United States is the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League, founded in 1933. The CSL is hosting the 40th annual Herbert Heilpern Indoor Tournament on two turf fields at Go! Tennis in Bayside, Queens. This is the first winter playing at Go! Tennis after previously utilizing both City College of New York and Chelsea Piers.

Heilpern, the tournament’s namesake and an Eastern New York and U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer, played local amateur soccer in New York, was CSL president from 1970 to 1973 and a prime mover in that league’s association with the North American Soccer League and the Cosmos. He also served as soccer coordinator for the City of New York, helping to develop badly-needed soccer facilities in the city, and was heavily involved as a volunteer with the CJSL and Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association.

On Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 16, the Herbert Heilpern tournament kicked off its 40th edition with boys teams playing and the fun will continue on Feb. 18-19 and March 18.

“The tournament went well on Martin Luther King Day,“ tournament director Emil Cohill said. “The facility is very nice, everybody showed up on time and everything went very smoothly."

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