A Monumental Decision for NASL Indy

Indy Pro Soccer to unveil team name, crest and colors this week
by Doug Starnes   |   Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Checkered Flags – column on Indy NASL (Indy FC) & the Indianapolis soccer scene.

Earlier this week, Indy Pro Soccer announced it will unveil the team’s official name, crest and colors in a ceremony scheduled to take place at the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument Thursday at 2:30 p.m.

It’s a decision the club has not come to lightly as nearly 1,000 fans responded to an online poll that went up on the club’s website on Jan. 15, sparking heated debate and excited discussion regarding the new franchise’s identity.

In conversation with club President Peter Wilt and Vice President of Marketing and Operations Tom Dunmore, I was informed that respondents to the poll seemed to fall into 1 of 3 collective opinions.

The prevailing wisdom concerning the growth of soccer in America and the popularity the sport is currently enjoying on this side of the Atlantic has been predicated largely on the belief that Millenials grew up playing soccer on AYSO teams, and non-club affiliated recreational sides coached by fathers and mothers in suburban America.

This is true to a certain extent, and 1 of the 3 collective opinions echoes the naming conventions of the aforementioned recreational, youth soccer culture. Names like Vipers, Sting and Mystique were popular choices among those responding to the online poll.

However, the youth soccer culture that has traditionally been the driving force behind a more generalized American soccer culture no longer enjoys a position of primacy. The men and women who wake up early on weekend mornings to watch matches from Europe; who fill the supporters’ ends at MLS matches; who travel to US National Team fixtures; who, most importantly in the case of the Indianapolis franchise, formed the Brickyard Battalion and supported a professional franchise before one even existed in Indiana are not the kids who played soccer growing up and then dropped it for their “primary” sport, but the men and women who grew up playing soccer and never stopped.

Evidence of this can be seen in the name changes of MLS franchises. Wiz to Wizards to Sporting KC. Burn to FC Dallas. MetroStars to Red Bull New York (granted that last one had some contractual ties to it, but you get the idea).

As Wilt has said, “Market to Millenials and sell to everyone.” Essentially, all are welcome and all are valued, but soccer culture in this country has changed and its most fervent supporters are hardcore fans. This leaves the other 2 collective opinions as the most likely sources for Indy Pro Soccer’s looming announcement.

On one side stands a large group of fans dedicated to perpetuating the naming conventions of the most popular European clubs. FCs, Citys, and, most overwhelmingly among this group, Uniteds were all popular suggestions. Although these names occupy exalted positions in the pantheon of soccer lore, they’re not representative of the game in the United States and they pander to a soccer culture that regrettably still sees the US as a wilderness to the global game.

Indy Pro Soccer has made it abundantly clear that it is trying to cultivate a franchise that will be representative of the city of Indianapolis, its history and its people. Naming the team by following one of the myriad naming conventions of Europe’s most famous clubs hardly seems to honor these efforts.

Which brings us to the last group of collective opinion. This group suggested names that conformed to what could be called traditional soccer culture, but also bent that same culture to reflect the unique identity of Indianapolis and Indiana in general. Names like Indianapolis Athletic Club, Indianapolis Monumental and Racing Indianapolis were all popular suggestions.

Racing Indianapolis was eliminated early in the running out of concern that it would muddy the differentiation between the Indy Racing League and the new NASL franchise, and other names like Circle City Soccer Club seem to have suffered from the fact that not many people outside of Indiana are aware that the Circle City is a nickname for Indianapolis. If I were a betting man, and mercifully I am not, it is out of this third group that I would expect Indy Pro Soccer to select its “forever” name.

On Thursday when Wilt, Owner Ersal Ozdemir, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Indiana War Memorial Executive Director Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin, and Indiana Soccer Association President Murray Clark stand together at the steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument to announce the team’s name, crest and colors, I have all faith that the city’s soccer fans will be excited and satisfied with the final decision.

Fans who are interested in attending the 2:30 p.m. ceremony can still RSVP at the club’s website, Indyprosoccer.com, and be entered to win the first available new club merchandise. As of this writing, the club is reporting over nearly 300 RSVPs. 

Doug STARNES

Nationality:
USA
College:
Baylor Univ.
Club Domestic:
Indy Eleven
Club Foreign:
Fulham
A reformed goalkeeper, cheese enthusiast, beer aficionado, and all around unrequited lover of The Beautiful Game, Doug currently resides in Indianapolis and is chomping at the bit to cover Indy Pro Soccer in all of its soon to be glory.
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