The Indy Eleven kicks to life on April 9 with its home opener against the Ottawa Fury FC at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium. Here’s what you need to know.
They’re beating the odds. Indy Eleven, the city’s North American Soccer League club, arrived on the pro-sports landscape in January 2013, attempting to trump a spotty record of professional soccer franchises in the Circle City. Three short years later, the club aims to become the league’s average attendance leader for a third consecutive season (typical number of fans in the stands: 10,126).
What’s up with the name? Yes, soccer teams field 11 players per side. But for the Eleven, it’s deeper: The name is a nod to Indiana’s 11th Infantry Volunteer Regiment from the Civil War.
The former manager is starting a rival team. This will be the Eleven’s first season without its fan-favorite manager Peter Wilt, who’s returning to Chicago, the city where he founded the Major League Soccer franchise Chicago Fire in the ’90s, to start another NASL club. Taking over Wilt’s duties will be incoming president Jeff Belskus, the former Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and CEO. Wilt’s move means the Eleven will finally get a nearby rival—the Carolina Railhawks and Minnesota United FC are the closest teams now.
Not chanting here? Not cool. Be ready to stand—and chant—if you purchase seats behind the west goal, home to the Brickyard Battalion section (among the stadium’s cheapest options, at $10). Pass as a diehard supporter by familiarizing yourself with the more than 20 different chants and songs by visiting brickyardbattalion.com/chants before the game. When a player from the opposite team goes down on the field, for example, the go-to taunt is “Shoot him like a horse!”
Don’t get jammed up. At halftime, when teams head to the Natatorium (“The Mike” lacks locker rooms), avoid the tunnel on the south side of the stadium. A huge traffic jam of fans clogs up the walkway there, and waits of several minutes or more to cross are common.
Sit pretty. Some fans have taken to creating their own skydeck on top of a parking garage just north of the stadium—similar to the rooftop seating at Wrigley Field.
Can’t make it to a game? Matches can be streamed on ESPN3, and most games are broadcast on WISH, with some airing on MyIndy TV 23.
Watch an away game at one of the three best pubs. Those would be Union Jack Pub (924 Broad Ripple Ave., 257-4343) and both Chatham Tap locations (719 Massachusetts Ave., 917-8425; 8211 E. 116th St., Fishers, 845-1090). They’re already among the city’s best soccer bars, and Indy Eleven fans have taken a shine to the trio, including them in the rotating cast of watering holes for watch parties.
The team is known for sellouts. The Eleven sold out every game of its inaugural 2014 season, along with the first four games of 2015. Still, average attendance dipped 6.6 percent last season, from 10,500 in 2014 to 9,809 in 2015.
A party deck is coming! The team will unveil the concept on the north sideline in April—further details were not available at press time.
The Indy Eleven are, oddly enough, huge in Germany. It’s the birthplace of goalkeeper Kristian Nicht. The Brickyard Battalion has 4,642 members in America, and boasts an affiliate chapter in Cologne, Germany, Indy’s sister city. Fans there gather and stream the games online.