FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Professional soccer is coming to Fort Wayne.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and local business leaders on Monday announced that the Fort Wayne FC has been added as an expansion team in the National Premier Soccer League. The club will begin play in the Midwest Region’s Great Lakes Conference in 2020.
The NPSL — the fourth tier of the United States soccer pyramid — has 91 teams in 13 conferences and 4 regions around the country. Las Vegas and Muskegon will join Fort Wayne as 2020 expansion teams.
“Fort Wayne FC will add another strong team to the already competitive Great Lakes Conference,” said part owner Dr. Erik Magner. “The owners, coaches, and staff of the newly formed Fort Wayne FC expect not only a winning season, but also reaching the postseason stage. Not only will Fort Wayne FC compete successfully, but as part of the community it will generate a positive economic impact for Fort Wayne and its surrounding area and will make Fort Wayne a destination for soccer enthusiasts.”
The Fort Wayne FC will play at Bishop Dwenger High School in May and move to Fort Wayne Sport Club off Ardmore Avenue for the summer months.
According to a news release, “The club’s mission is to make soccer the preeminent sport in Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana, in support of U.S. Soccer efforts to develop world-class players, coaches, and referees.”
The developmental team will be made up of college-aged players who are hoping to gain some professional experience. General Manager Greg Mauch said that this has universities in the region excited about the team and what it can do for their players.
“It provides an opportunity for college-age players to hone their skills in the off-season against high-caliber competition with some good coaching,” said Mauch. “That’s really been well-received from the Big 10 coaches that I’ve talked to and the Big East coaches. They’re all excited about sending players to Fort Wayne.”
The club is not the first soccer team Fort Wayne has had, but Mayor Tom Henry feels that the U.S. and Fort Wayne’s youth has started to embrace soccer more so now than ever before.
“Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the world and it is the biggest sport It’s only been coming around in United States for a very short period of time,” said Henry. “Unquestionably soccer is growing in the city of Fort Wayne just by the amount of youth that are now playing and the amount of soccer fields that are being built.”
The club will start recruiting in March to start competing when the season starts up in May. The team will be a men’s team, but the club does have plans to expand once it gets through its first season of competing.
“We want to get our feet wet first and play competitively in the season of 2020,” said Magner. “We start in May, and then our goal is for 2022, or maybe even earlier, have a women’s team here in town. Quite frankly, the women just won their World Cup and women’s soccer is extremely popular and we would love to have a women’s team here in town as well.”
Before they start signing players, the club will need to fill out their coaching staff. Magner said they expect to have several applications coming in over the next couple of weeks, and plan to have a head coach hired within the next three months.