It wasn't all that long ago that local fans didn't have a lot of options for their entertainment dollar when it came to local sports, especially in the winter months.

That changed in a pretty big way two seasons ago when the Florida Tropics were born, and a year later, the Lakeland Magic. The two fill up more than three dozen winter nights with the excitement and fast-paced action of professional arena soccer and NBA G-League basketball.

The two teams recently released their 2018-19 slates – the Magic home for 24 games at the RP Funding Center and the Tropcis for an even dozen – with highlights on both that are sure to please their supporters.

But there are a few dates on both that are “must see”, and if you can only pick one game for each, circle April 6 on your calendar if you are soccer supporter and Dec. 7 if you are a basketball booster.

You don't want to miss April 6. It's Margaritaville jersey night. I've seen the mock-ups. They are beyond cool. So cool that Jimmy Buffet himself should buy a ticket and sit with the Swan City Syndicate to root on our Major Arena Soccer League team. And if he doesn't, it's his own damn fault since the Tropics will be hosting the Baltimore Blast that night, the team that has won the last three MASL championships.

The Magic will also go heavy with the jersey theme, Dec. 7 is the date to circle, as it will be “Star Wars” night, a force always filled with fun and whimsy. Nov. 25 will be fun too, with throwback old Orlando Magic jersey's featured.

Speaking of Orlando, another bonus for local soccer fans is a new MASL expansion team, the SeaWolves. The Tropics and 'Wolves will meet no less than six times this year since the soccer sked is heavy on divisional games. Same for the Magic too.

If you're already champing at the bit to see both, know that the Magic's home opener is Nov. 10 against the Westchester Knicks while the Tropics will welcome the St. Louis Ambush on Saturday, Dec. 1. Nine of the Tropics 12 games are Saturday night specials, with one Friday date and two Sunday matinees rounding out the schedule. Fifteen of the Magic's home contests are weekend matchups too, making them both family-friendly for sure.

Also of potential note for the Magic is a visit Feb. 22 by the Salt Lake City Stars. That's because Tony Bradley, the Bartow product, could be on the Stars roster that night. He played most of last season in Salt Lake, but did dress for nine games with the Utah Jazz, the Stars NBA parent.

Let the games begin.

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Tropics

Florida Tropics 2018-19 schedule

Saturday, Dec. 1 St. Louis Ambush

Saturday, Dec. 8 at Mississagua Metrostars

Sunday Dec. 9 at Utica City FC

Friday, Dec. 14 vs. Harrisburg Heat

Saturday, Dec. 22 vs. Milwaukee Wave

Saturday, Dec. 29 vs. Orlando SeaWolves

Saturday, Jan. 5 at St. Louis

Sunday, Jan. 6 at Kansas City

Saturday, Jan. 12 vs. Orlando SeaWolves

Saturday, Jan. 19 vs Milwaukee Wave

Saturday, Jan. 26 vs. St. Louis Ambush

Friday, Feb. 1 at St. Louis

Saturday, Feb. 2 at Kansas City

Saturday, Feb. 9 at Milwaukee

Saturday, Feb. 16 vs. Orlando SeaWolves

Sunday, Feb. 24 at St. Louis

Saturday, March 2 at Orlando

Sunday, March 10 vs. St. Louis Ambush

Friday, March 15 at Orlando

Sunday, March 17 vs. Kansas City Comets

Saturday, March 23 at Milwaukee

Saturday, March 30 vs. Kansas City Comets

Saturday, April 6 vs. Baltimore Blast

Saturday, April 13 at Orlando

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Lakeland Magic

Lakeland Magic 2018-19 schedule

Friday, Nov. 2 at Windy City Bulls

Saturday, Nov. 3 at Erie Bayhawks

Saturday, Nov. 10 vs. Westchester Knicks

Friday, Nov. 16 vs. Greensboro Swarm

Saturday, Nov. 17 at Greensboro Swarm

Tuesday, Nov. 20 vs. Austin Spurs

Friday, Nov. 23 vs. Delaware Blue Coats

Sunday, Nov. 25 vs. Delaware Blue Coats

Wednesday, Nov. 28 at Grand Rapids Drive

Friday, Nov. 30 at Grand Rapids Drive

Sunday, Dec. 2 at Long Island Nets

Friday, Dec. 7 vs. Grand Rapids Drive

Sunday, Dec. 9 vs. Long Island Nets

Tuesday, Dec. 11 vs. Westchester Knicks

Saturday, Dec. 15 vs. Rio Grande Valley Vipers

Thursday, Dec. 27 at Raptors 905

Friday, Dec. 28 at Erie Bayhawks

Friday, Jan. 4 at Greensboro Swarm

Sun. Jan. 6 vs. Wisconsin Herd

Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Delaware Blue Coats

Friday, Jan. 11 vs. Texas Legends

Tuesday, Jan. 15 vs. Capital City Go-Go

Friday, Jan. 18 at Wisconsin Herd

Saturday, Jan. 19 at Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Wednesday, Jan. 23 vs. Canton Charge

Friday, Jan 25 vs. Greensboro Swarm

Monday, Jan. 28 at South Bay Lakers

Wednesday, Jan. 30 at Agua Caliente Clippers

Friday, Feb. 1 at Northern Arizona Suns

Sunday, Feb. 3 at Stockton Kings

Tuesday, Feb. 5 vs. Maine Red Claws

Friday, Feb. 8 vs. Erie Bayhawks

Saturday, Feb. 9 at Capital City Go-Go

Monday, Feb. 11 vs. Long Island Nets

Wednesday, Feb. 13 vs. Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Wednesday, Feb. 20 vs. Capital City Go-Go

Friday, Feb. 22 vs. Salt Lake City Stars

Sunday, Feb. 24 at Westchester Knicks

Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Capital City Go-Go

Friday, March 1 at Windy City Bulls

Sunday, March 3 vs. Erie Bayhawks

Friday, March 8 at Fort Wayne Fire Ants

Sunday, March 10 at Canton Charge

Friday, March 15 at Wisconsin Herd

Sunday, March 17 at Maine Red Claws

Tuesday, March 19 vs. Windy City Bulls

Friday, March 22 vs. Raptors 905

Sunday, March 23 vs. Raptors 905

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