Editor’s note: Indy Eleven plays its first match this Saturday evening when the team battles Carolina Railhawks in the NASL, the second division of US soccer. The debut of a brand-new soccer club is an exciting milestone in the growth of the sport in the United States, so we wanted to capture the excitement and to find out what goes on behind the scenes before a league game is played. We sent World Soccer Talk’s Bo McMillan to Indianapolis, where Indy Eleven were gracious enough to allow him complete access around the office and with the team, where Bo was able to be a fly on the wall during the exciting period of this club’s history. Here’s what he discovered.
Eight people sit around a table in a small corner office in downtown Indianapolis. It’s early, and a slew of coffee mugs cover the table, sending wispy bits of steam towards the ceiling.
The Indy Eleven office is inconspicuous. A small sign hangs by the front door of a large building, all but lost among the bustle of the city around it. You’d easily miss it if you weren’t looking for it. Inside, though, things are different. Each member of the staff wears the red and blue of their club. Most elect to wear a pullover or a t-shirt with the Indy Eleven logo, some wear suits with a pin depicting the crest. If the outside is inconspicuous, the inside is anything but.
The team members sit around the table, chatting idly, and waiting for the meeting to start. Moments later, Peter Wilt walks into the room. Even if you’d never heard of him, you’d know he was important by the way everyone responds to him. He seemingly unintentionally commands the room.
Peter is the General Manager, and by the looks of him, with an Indy Eleven scarf around his neck, the club’s biggest fan. His name may be familiar to those who closely follow soccer in the States, especially near Chicago. Peter has had his hands in the creation of several clubs, but he’s most known for the inception of the Chicago Fire, one of the oldest clubs in MLS.
Peter takes a moment to open his notebook then looks up with a smile.
“Raise your hand if you’re overwhelmed,” he begins.
The room unanimously confirms his suspicions by putting their hands in the air. They have smiles on their faces, but they know time is of the essence. Every single person in the office has one date on his or her mind, April 12th. The kickoff to the 2014 North American Soccer League season, and Indy Eleven’s first-ever competitive match, happens in just days. They’ve had fifteen months to prepare, but ask anyone in the office and they’ll tell you they’d love another fifteen.
Indy Eleven was first announced in early 2013 as a NASL expansion team. The NASL, which is comprised of thirteen teams, is categorized as a Division II soccer league in the United States, and sandwiched between MLS and USL PRO. The league itself is relatively young, but names like the New York Cosmos carry a lot of history in the States. The Indy Eleven staff have several goals, but chief among them is to become the flagship team of the NASL. Usurping teams like the Cosmos is a tall order in itself, but to have that goal in mind before a single regular-season game has been played is nothing short of ambitious.