There is a new, but familiar candidate entering the MLS expansion mix, as Indy Eleven has confirmed that it will submit a bid.
Indianapolis was not one of 10 expansion candidates to be listed by the MLS in December. However, much like Phoenix Rising FC—a club that announced its bid last week–Indy Eleven believes it has lined up the proper case to jump into the fray.
What is apparent is Indy Eleven’s track record as one of the NASL’s more successful franchises, as the team has consistently among the league’s top-drawing teams since its inaugural 2014 season. However, this is not the first time Indianapolis has been in the MLS expansion mix, as its 2015 run at joining the league hit a roadblock when a proposals for a new or renovated stadium did not pass through the state legislature.
Club president Jeff Belskus and owner Ersal Ozdemir believe now that Indy Eleven can make it case in one of two upcoming rounds of expansion. They confirmed that talks for a new stadium are taking place, with a site in downtown Indianapolis on the table. More from SI.com:
Then last summer, they were back on track. Confident that usage taxes (or taxes generated by the existence of the new stadium) would get the political traction required at the state and city levels, the Eleven re-opened conversations with MLS. Those talks led to the decision to bid and Ozdemir’s trip to New York.
Belskus, who was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and CEO before running the Eleven, said the club’s MLS stadium will be a public-private partnership and that Ozdemir and his unnamed partners would be kicking in a “significant amount of private money.” Ozdemir will remain the majority owner.
If built, the new stadium would be located in downtown Indianapolis between the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium and the White River.
“We have a lot of energy for building a soccer stadium here,” Belskus said. “We’ve proven Indianapolis has the fan base to support soccer. It will support pro soccer and it will support Major League Soccer … It’s so logical for us.”
The news comes at a key point in MLS expansion talks, as applications to the league are due today. Two cities are expected to be announced as part of the next round of expansion later this year, with the teams joining the league in 2020.