Belskus: MLS, Stadium Push Will Continue

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(Image of Carroll Stadium courtesy of the Indy Eleven.) (Image of Carroll Stadium courtesy of the Indy Eleven.)
INDIANAPOLIS -

Indy Eleven President Jeff Belskus says he's not surprised by the finalists selected to vie for two new Major League Soccer franchises, and adds the organization will continue to put forth its best effort to compete for the next two openings. Belskus says the process includes a new stadium. "We continue to talk to city and state leaders and officials about how we can develop a plan here that works for everybody, so those are ongoing conversations." The MLS has announced Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento as finalists for two future teams, while Indianapolis and seven other cities will compete for two other expansion franchises down the road.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Belskus says "the stadium piece" of any bid will be key. "It's a priority for us and we know it's necessary," he said. "Our situation today is less than ideal with playing at Carroll Stadium at IUPUI. You know, it's an old track and field stadium that's been converted to a soccer facility and a lot of temporary stuff there and it's expensive to operate, it just doesn't provide the high-quality fan experience we'd like to see. So, we continue to want to improve that and provide the soccer fans in this market with the sort of experience they deserve."

Three of the four finalists in the first round -- Cincinnati, Detroit and Nashville -- are located within 300 miles of Indianapolis, a consideration he doesn't think will affect Indy's chances. "I thought the MLS would probably want more geographic dispersion, but having said that, I don't think it impacts us," Belskus said.

The future of Indy Eleven's league affiliation has become murky. The North American Soccer League, which the team has been part of since its inception, is down to seven teams. Clubs in Carolina, Edmonton and San Francisco have left in recent weeks and the NASL is in the midst of pending litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals involving the U.S. Soccer Federation denying it Division 2 status. Belskus says the league's status does affect his organization, but "frankly, we're focused on running Indy Eleven and making the Indy Eleven as good as it can be."

On Wednesday, the MLS emphasized that "all remaining markets," including Indianapolis and other semifinalists Charlotte, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg, "are under consideration for the following two expansion clubs that will be announced at a later date."

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Indy Eleven President Jeff Belskus says "the stadium piece" of any bid will be key.
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