When Josh Danza founded the Baltimore Kings in 2015, he regretted not launching a “name-the-team” contest. But with his new venture, a Major Arena Soccer League 3 club in Salisbury, he wanted locals to be involved.
Danza brought up the idea at the MASL3′s end-of-the season owners meeting in April. Commissioner Chris Economides joked that if it were up to him, he’d call the team the Salisbury Steaks.
The public took that seriously.
“For the last round it went down to the Steaks and the Strikers,” Danza said.
Danza said between 700 and 800 people participated in each round, amounting to over 4,000 votes through the whole contest. His picks were Storm and Sharks, while his three kids were hoping Snakes would win. But Steaks was the overwhelming favorite.
In little over a week, the amusing new name has attracted fans from outside the region and led to a spike in ticket sales for the upcoming season. The town’s mayor even tweeted out a steak emoji and Danza is talking to a local TV station about broadcasting games.
“When you put something out there on the internet, anything can really happen,” Danza said. “Ultimately, it’s what’s best for us. It’s got people talking.”
The Steaks are one of two teams joining MASL3 this year, which functions as the developmental league for the Major Arena Soccer League and MASL2. The team is holding open tryouts on Sept. 30 and will play the Crown Sports Center, just south of Salisbury, beginning on Dec. 9.
Crown Sports Center was the main reason why he wanted to place a team on the Eastern Shore, Danza said. Outdoor soccer leagues can play their games anywhere. Futsal teams just need a basketball court. But for arena soccer, you need a very specific space with walls around the perimeter.
“There’s only a handful of places that can even cater to our sport in this region,” Danza said. “The two people at Crown Sports Center, Jeremy Norton and Adam Manning, I give them most of the credit. They were instantly like, ‘Let’s do this.’”
MASL3 has always had a relationship with the Eastern Shore. A lot of the players are from the area while six players on the Kings live there. Danza said some of them complained about having to drive hours for some of the games, so expanding to the shore made perfect sense.
A Towson University graduate, Danza was always interested in what was happening behind the scenes with the minor league teams he joined. He stayed after practice to learn about the marketing and technical aspects and gained an understanding of why a lot of teams folded in less than five years.
His first few seasons owning the Kings were also filled with trial and error. But the club has survived for eight years and he’s confident the same strategies will work with the Steaks.
The Kings were able to stay afloat by establishing a presence in the local community, Danza said. They had an Under-10 youth team in their first season, and some of those players are now on their professional squad. Danza hopes to create the same pipeline in Salisbury.
“A transition from being a little kid to a player, we can maybe help their professional life afterwards,” Danza said. “Our main goal is just to be able to continue players’ careers, whether they’re on their way out of the game or just players that are on their way up and being able to showcase them.”
Danza played for the Kings through most of the last eight years and he might do the same for the Steaks if their roster is thin on a given day. Mostly, he’s excited about enjoying the product from the back-end this season, even if both his teams are playing against each other in their opening game.
“I might have to get a custom-made jersey,” Danza said.