Indy Eleven expecting record attendance for home opener

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Indy Eleven officials are expecting a big crowd for the team’s home opener on Saturday—most likely the largest in its short history.

“We’re selling tickets like mad here,” Indy Eleven President Jeff Belskus said on Monday.

The obvious reason is that the team is moving from the Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium on the IUPUI campus, its home since the team started play in 2014, to spacious Lucas Oil Stadium.

No one expects Saturday’s crowd to come close to filling the 63,000-seat venue. But drawing 15,000, which team officials are anticipating, would handily beat the team’s previous single-game attendance record of 11,000. That’s how many showed up for the Eleven’s inaugural game.

At Lucas Oil, 15,000 would pretty much fill the stadium’s lower bowl, Belskus said.

“I think that will have a real good feel to it,” he noted.

With Saturday’s forecast calling for a chance of rain and temperatures in the mid-50s, the roof at Lucas Oil should be closed. With the roof drawn, curtains can be lowered to cover the empty seats in the upper echelons to give the cavernous stadium a more intimate feeling.

The Eleven, which led the North American Soccer League in attendance in 2017, drawing an average of 9,170 per game, is moving this season to the United Soccer League, a 30-plus-team Division 2 professional league where better rivalries are expected to emerge.

Cincinnati, Louisville and Nashville all have teams in the USL and are much closer to Indianapolis than any of the teams in the NASL.

“That creates an opportunity for us, in terms of fans traveling,” Belskus said. “We’ll get fans traveling up here, and our fans will travel to their venues as well.”

Joining the USL and playing at Lucas Oil could give the Indy Eleven a better shot at someday meeting its goal of playing in Major League Soccer. In the meantime, the Eleven could have an MLS affiliation in short order. A number of USL teams serve as MLS farm teams.

The Eleven, which will host 17 games this season, kicked off play last Saturday with a 1-0 win on the road against the Richmond Kickers.

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