For Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir, it’s now or never for an Indianapolis MLS team, as the window to land an expansion squad will be closing in coming years.
Ozdemir and Indy Eleven have been success in the NASL despite a stadium situation just barely above a high-school level: there’s no kitchen at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium, so all the food must be prepared off-site. And from the beginning Ozdemir has said the future of pro soccer is in MLS, not NASL, and has lobbied for a new stadium on that basis.
That’s why there’s a sense of urgency to Indy Eleven’s bid for an MLS expansion franchise. From the Indianapolis Business Journal:
There are four key reasons why now might be Ozdemir’s—or perhaps anyone’s—best shot to bring an MLS team to the Circle City.
First, with MLS franchise valuations skyrocketing and the league’s expansion franchise fee escalating even faster, Ozdemir, who owns Keystone Group, and his investors might not be able to afford the jump later.
Ten years ago, the MLS expansion fee was $10 million. This year, MLS officials are asking two of the 12 groups applying for a new team to pay $150 million each. Those two franchises will join in 2020, bringing the league to 26 teams.
Officials also have promised to grant teams to two other groups from among those applicants, but have not set their franchise fees. Two sources familiar with the MLS’ thinking said $200 million isn’t out of the question.
Still, it will be an uphill battle for Ozdemir and his ownership group to land an MLS team: there are some very good bids on the table, with some very good markets represented. But the bid shows that Ozdemir is very serious about bringing high-quality soccer to the Indianapolis area, and even if the bid comes short, it may spur public support for a new Indy Eleven stadium.