The Columbus Comets: The last time there was Pro Indoor Soccer in Columbus
By: Alex Husting
With the launch of the NISL in January and the announcement of the Rapids in August, soccer fans around Columbus will have a new team to follow. Professional indoor soccer is back in Columbus for the first time since 1997, but who was the previous team and what happened to them?
In 1997, the Eastern Indoor Soccer League (EISL) was founded, with seven teams from across the Southeastern United States joining the league. Among the founding members of the league were the Daytona Beach Speed Kings, the Tupelo Hound Dogs and the Columbus Comets.
The regular seasons were played from May to August with the playoffs taking place in September. The start of the league coincided with the founding of another indoor soccer league, the Premier Arena Soccer League.
For the inaugural EISL season, the Comets would play their games in the brand new Columbus Civic Center, which was built only one year earlier in 1996.
When the season finally began, the Comets struggled to find success in the new league. In a 24 match season, they won only three matches while scoring 250 goals, the fewest in the league, and allowing 414 goals, the most in the league. Their -164 goal differential was the worst in the league by 70 goals.
The team was in three shootouts but lost all three, one of only two teams to not win a shootout that season. The Comets missed the playoffs and inaugural EISL Final saw the Baton Rouge Bombers take on the Lafayette SwampCats. The SwampCats defeated the Bombers 12-9, making them the first ever EISL Champions.
The EISL would return for a second season, but the Comets, along with the Speed Kings and Hound Dogs would not. The Speed Kings were sold and relocated during the 1997 season, becoming the Huntsville Fire and the Hound Dogs headed to Florida following the season, becoming the Pensacola Flyers.
As for the Comets, they would head west to Biloxi, Mississippi and be renamed the Mississippi Beach Kings. The Beach Kings would find more success than the Comets, winning 18 matches in the longer 28 match season in 1998. They even made it to the EISL Final, but could not stop the SwampCats from repeating as champions.
The 1998 championship game would be the final game for the EISL. Following the season, the Huntsville Fire were struggling financially and the Pensacola Flyers suspended operations, leading to the collapse of the EISL in December 1998.
Now indoor soccer has returned to Columbus, restarting 23 years after the EISL closed its doors and 24 years after the Comets left. The Rapids are bringing soccer back to Columbus following the creation of the NISL and the inaugural season will kick off in December.
Tickets for Rapids games are already on sale here.
ABOUT NATIONAL INDOOR SOCCER LEAGUE (NISL):
The National Indoor Soccer League, which has its league office in Georgia, was founded in January 2021 by a group of experienced sports team/league owners with over 40 years of ownership experience. The NISL has plans to grow the league nationally within the next three years and will kick off its inaugural season in December 2021. The league will operate a Men's & Women's division with each market fielding both teams. Fans will be able to watch a men’s and women’s game each gameday. For more information, go to nislpro.com