INDIANAPOLIS (May 22, 2023) – Indy Eleven today announced entry into top-tier professional academies for both boys and girls teams, competing in MLS NEXT and the ECNL, respectively, under the Eleven’s crest as the Indy Eleven Pro Academy. The Indy Eleven Pro Academies will compete at the highest level of youth programming, effective July 1st onward following a partnership with the Indiana Fire Pro Academy. After the recent announcement of Indy Eleven’s acquisition of a top-tier professional women’s franchise in the Super League, it is adding these professional academies as it prepares to break ground on its new 20,000 seat downtown stadium as part of the Eleven Park transformational neighborhood development set to change the southwest quadrant of downtown Indianapolis.
Both MLS NEXT and the ECNL leagues (which Indiana Fire have participated in since their inception) feature some of the most elite soccer clubs across the country in age groups from U12 through U19. As part of these leagues, the Pro Academy gives youth soccer players in Indiana the greatest opportunity to grow their game alongside existing and future competition as part of Indy Eleven’s ongoing and future involvement in the USL Academy League and USL Academy Cups. The Indy Eleven Pro Academy teams will train at the Grand Park Sports Campus, a 400-acre world-class sports facility in Westfield, Indiana and which is also the Official Training Center of Indy Eleven’s professional soccer teams.
“This is an enormous lift for youth soccer in Indiana and all our kids with the dream of playing professionally,” Greg Stremlaw, Indy Eleven President and CEO stated. “The overall objective is to be in the best leagues for the total development of soccer players across the state of Indiana, providing the most comprehensive pathway to professional soccer that exists to date.”
MLS NEXT membership includes over 130 clubs with nearly 600 teams and more than 11,000 players across the United States and Canada, featuring over 90% of the current youth national team player pools. Ahead of the 2022-23 season, MLS NEXT was represented by 33 states and the District of Columbia, as well as three Canadian provinces. Providing the best player development experience in North America, MLS NEXT players have access to the highest levels of competition and training to prepare them for their futures.
Clubs joining MLS NEXT have been evaluated on leadership and management, player development and creating an inclusive club environment, among other qualifications. They are also assessed on their ability to offer low or no-cost options for players, creating opportunities for a more comprehensive player pool, and promoting and embodying the diversity, equity, and inclusion values of MLS NEXT.
Indy Eleven youth teams have found significant success in the USL Academy League and USL Academy Cup action, with the U-19 squad winning both the 2022 and 2023 USL Academy Cup championships and the U-15 boys earning the 2023 title after a runner-up finish the season prior. The U-19 team also captured the USL Academy League national championship title in 2021. Since 2019, Indy Eleven has signed 20 players to USL Academy contracts, continuing the club’s standing as one of the premier player development destinations in the USL Championship.
The acquisition of a professional academy makes Indy Eleven one of a select few USL Championship teams to compete at the MLS NEXT level.
“We continue to build out material opportunities, as we look to enable the best platforms for the overall development of both boys and girls in the sport of soccer throughout Indiana, with the expectation to have a best-in-class program across the United States” commented Phil Presser, Indy Eleven’s Sporting Director, Academy Operations and W League.
On the girls side, the ECNL houses over 115 clubs and approximately 750 teams across the country with the goal of forming the top female youth development platform in the world. The mission of the ECNL is to “Raise the Game” by elevating standards and experience in all aspects of youth soccer by being the embodiment of collaborative innovation, opportunity, respect, development, and excellence in youth soccer. This mission has seen unparalleled success, especially at the collegiate level, with 90 percent of all ECNL players going on to play college soccer, and close to 70 percent of all the women’s rostered soccer players in NCAA Power 5 Conferences being ECNL alumni.
In USL Academy play, the Eleven’s U-19 girls squad have advanced to the final playoff rounds of both the 2022 and 2023 Academy Cups. Coming on the heels of the launch of a new W League team last year, that saw unprecedented success on and off the field, and now the recently announced acquisition of a top-tier women’s professional franchise in the Super League, the Eleven is committed to also expanding their role in the USL Academy League and Academy Cups going forward.
About Indy Eleven Professional Soccer: Since its launch in 2013, Indy Eleven’s dedication to its club and community has been driven by empowering a culture of excellence through its players and staff, staying true to its aim of fielding teams that represent the State of Indiana proudly on and off the field. The 2023 season will be the 10th year playing men’s professional soccer and the team is currently playing in the United Soccer League (USL) Championship, a 24-team professional soccer league based across the United States. In 2022, Indy Eleven acquired a W League franchise in the new women’s league and captured the Great Lakes Division title. Since then, Indy Eleven has also acquired a top-tier professional women’s team in the USL Super League. Indy Eleven’s involvement in developing the sport across Indiana is seen in its youth development program that has grown to over 16,000 children via affiliated youth clubs across the entire state. They also have led the way in USL Academy youth play, led by its Boys U-19 Squad that won the inaugural 2021 USL Academy League national championship and the 2022 and 2023 USL Academy Cups. Learn more at indyeleven.com