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Leader of fans group: Hogsett’s MLS goal could jeopardize Indy Eleven’s future

Eleven supporters fume over Hogsett MLS pitch

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The president of the Indy Eleven’s official fan club on Friday said plans to bring an Major League Soccer team to town could destroy everything Indianapolis soccer fans have built.

David Ziemba, the president of the Brickyard Battalion, says he wasn’t satisfied by the answers Mayor Joe Hogsett gave in his initial announcement on Thursday or in an interview with News 8 “Daybreak” anchor Scott Sander on Friday morning.

Ziemba says fans like him are still trying to figure out why Hogsett made the move.

“The way that soccer culture works, not only here in the United States but all over the world, is that the club belongs to the fans,” he said. “We are concerned that the thing that we have built over the last 13 years hand in hand, side by side, not only with the club but also with the city of Indianapolis, may be in jeopardy.”

Hogsett on Thursday announced the city will lobby MLS for an expansion team. He tells News 8 he does not plan to poach an existing MLS team nor does he plan to build two soccer stadiums. Hogsett says he can’t guarantee MLS will agree to grant an expansion team to Indianapolis, but it’s an opportunity Indianapolis, already home to an NFL team and an NBA team, can’t pass up.

The Indy Eleven play in the United Soccer League, which is a separate organization from MLS. The USL Championship series, which is the league’s highest level of competition and is home to the Eleven, is considered to be one tier below MLS, the top-level men’s professional soccer league in the United States.

Ziemba says he doubted an MLS team could coexist alongside a USL team.

MLS’s two most recent expansions, in San Diego and St. Louis, led to the demise of the USL-affiliated San Diego Loyal FC and St. Louis FC, respectively.

“The track record for an MLS ownership group and the MLS teams to come into a city would almost, based on the track record, most likely would mean the end of Indy Eleven,” Ziemba said.

Ziemba says if Hogsett wants to court an MLS expansion team, Indy soccer fans can play a role but the mayor needs to involve them.

Keystone Group, which owns the Indy Eleven, blasted Hogsett’s announcement in a lengthy statement Thursday night.

“Even more troubling, Indy Eleven and City-County Council leadership have become aware that for some time, Mayor Hogsett’s negotiation team has been shopping the state legislation championed by Indy Eleven, working behind closed doors to offer publicly-owned real estate and public financing to the highest bidder, with assurances that neither the redevelopment of this riverfront parcel nor the continuation of the Indy Eleven as a team would be requirements for city support.

“This is more than disappointing – it’s a shocking reversal of Mayor Hogsett’s public support for this project at the 2023 groundbreaking, for the dozens of local investors in this team, the thousands of Marion County jobs committed by Indiana companies who have been working on this project, and the tens of thousands of Indy Eleven fans in Indiana and across the country.

“These actions by Mayor Hogsett’s administration are a concerning departure from what the Indianapolis business community stands for: integrity, trust, and the expectation that one is true to their word. A dangerous precedent is being set for how city negotiators conduct themselves.”

Keystone Group