Of course, I have to be watching the Pacers tonight. But I’m balancing that with watching the NASL games on the iPad; Fort Lauderdale-Carolina just finished (a 1-1 draw with about 50 cards), and San Antonio-Minnesota are at halftime. It’s nice to think that a year from now, we might be watching Indy (either here or at a road game) on warm June nights like this.
We haven’t heard a lot from the team in the past few weeks, though. So what’s been going on with the Eleven? There have been a few tangential news items in the last week, but the bigger news will start ramping up as we get into the summer.
Indiana Soccer Association partnership
On Tuesday, the team announced a partnership with the Indiana Soccer Association. It’s both blindingly obvious and really important. The press release is mostly general talk about “promot[ing] each other’s efforts to grow the game” and “deliver[ing] high value for Indiana’s soccer family”. There appears to be some resource-sharing and co-promotion involved; Peter Wilt is attending the Indiana State Cup Finals tomorrow in Columbus to congratulate the winners and represent the team.
I’m sure that the Eleven will be promoting the team to the members of the ISA, and ISA will find opportunities for their members to take advantage of Eleven activities. This kind of partnership doesn’t appear to be anything revolutionary (at least from what I can see so far) but it’s absolutely crucial for team credibility and promotion opportunities. Plus, it’s the right thing to do. So it’s good to see the Eleven building the necessary foundation for the team’s success, and I’m sure the ISA is happy to have the connection too.
International Champions Cup
We had known for a couple months that the International Champions Cup was going to play a match in Indianapolis. This is a tournament for some seriously good teams, playing matches across the US . Teams generally don’t take these matches super-seriously, but they’re useful for getting into shape, testing out new signings and possible youth team promotions, and experimenting with personnel combinations. (And, of course, the teams make a boatload of money too.) And for the fans, it’s a really big deal even when you realize you’re not going to see a super competitive match. The serious US-based fans (both Americans and ex-pats) have a tough time getting across the Atlantic to see matches, and the neutrals enjoy the chance to see major teams in a local setting. (I know that’s why I’m going!)
We knew that the ICC was coming to Indy, but last Thursday, they announced the schedule. That’s when we found out that Indy would be visited by Chelsea and Inter Milan for a match on Thursday 1 August. While neither team is at the top of their leagues (Chelsea finished 3rd in the EPL, while Inter finished 9th in Serie A), they’re huge names with storied histories and big followings. They will also both have new management teams — Inter just appointed Walter Mazzarri, while Chelsea didn’t retain caretaker Rafa Benítez. (Chelsea are rumored to see the return of José Mourinho, and I have to admit that the thought of “The Special One” eating at St. Elmo’s and Cafe Patachou just amuses me to no end.) With new management, and likely new players, fans back in England and Italy will be quite interested in the match, and a few might even try to come to Indy.
What’s the connection to the Indy Eleven? Well, after the match was announced, the Eleven notified their season ticket reservation list that they’d have a special early purchase opportunity, which started just a couple hours after the announcement. I’m not sure if other local soccer teams had the same opportunity; I didn’t see any articles about it on the Strikers or Red Bulls sites, so perhaps not. Even if they did, though, it’s a huge coup for the Eleven to be part of that program before even playing a match. I’m sure they sold more season tickets, which is great. But linking the Eleven with teams like Inter and players like Juan Mata will do a great job of selling — not just soccer, but the soccer experience — to the city. Making the Eleven a big part of that is a huge win for the team.
Plus, it’ll be a lot of fun!
Up Next: Technical Staff
So last week was relatively busy for the Eleven. But the really interesting stuff should be coming up soon. Wilt has hinted that they’re close to an announcement on a manager, hoping to make an announcement soon after the Memorial Day weekend. That’s going to be the first step towards an actual team, so it’ll be a big milestone.
After that, we’ll see more staff start to come on board, as the new manager brings in his technical staff. Then we’ll start to see news about building the team, maybe including some summer tryout sessions. I’m hoping the sessions are open so I can get a look, but either way it’ll be interesting to start seeing the outlines of the team.
The Pacers just won – Boom Baby! This May has been all about the Blue and Gold, but next May we’ll also have the Red, White and Blue on our minds. Come on you Eleven!