Eleven join the USL
The Indy Eleven have made headlines for all the right reasons this week as they made some major announcements with more to come. After much speculation and future of the NASL the Eleven joined the United Soccer League (USL) yesterday morning. Today, the USL announced 2018 home openers for every club in the USL.
What is the USL?
The USL’s history dates back well before Major League Soccer (MLS) started and could be considered the longest pro soccer league in the United States if you go back to their origins of USISL which started in 1989. The league has transformed over the years from USISL into USL A-League and USL-Pro before settling on USL. For those old enough to remember, the Indiana Blast played in the USISL and USL A League from 1997 through 2003.
Indy Eleven fans will see three distinct on-field differences between the NASL and USL. The first is obvious. There are far more teams in the USL than NASL. Since the USL is large enough to stretch from coast to coast with teams in between, the second thing fans will notice is the USL operates with an Eastern and Western conference alignment. The third noticeable difference is the USL operates in one long regular season instead of a spring and fall league. Last, the majority of the USL teams are affiliated with MLS clubs. Of the 33 teams, 22 were owned or affiliated with an MLS club in 2017. That will increase as LAFC starts playing in the MLS in 2018.
This afternoon, the USL announced the 2018 home openers for each team. The Eleven will get the privilege of hosting FC Cincinnati on March 31st. A week before the big clash with the blue and orange, the Eleven will embark on their inaugural USL journey as they travel to Richmond, Virginia to take on the Kickers.
Michael A. Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI has been the home for Indy Eleven since their first season in 2014. But now, Lucas Oil Stadium has come up in several interviews with Indy Eleven President Jeff Belskus saying they have discussed the possibility of moving home field advantage from IUPUI to LOS.
Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir said on Twitter they have started the interviewing process to find a new head coach for 2018.
Erik Albers: “The move to the USL was the stability that our fans have craved for quite some time. It will be a joy to play someone new each weekend. As for the first game [for Indy Eleven] did USL schedule us a warm-up to the league? Richmond finished second to last in the East last season. I’m curious to see if the additions [Richmond made] like journey-man Brian Shriver bring any improvements to the team. As for Cincy? Yeah, if we’re at Carroll Stadium, I hope Ersal [Ozdemir] doubles capacity, because they will travel! It’s going to be a fun home opener against the NASL all-star squad!
Michael Carney: “I think the move to the USL will not only bring stability but will allow Hoosiers more opportunities to see up and coming stars mix with seasoned veterans. Personally, the USL brings back wonderful memories being a teenager and craving for soccer watching the USL on Friday nights and “USL Breakaway” on Fox Soccer Channel. As for Indy’s first two games of the season, I’m excitedly cautious. It’s going to be exciting to see new teams, create new regional rivals, and see old foes. However, I’m going to hold out until June in deciding how this team will be for 2018 and for the next few years on the field, since Indy is without a coach and roster.
PHOTO BY TREY HIGDON