GROWING THE WOMEN’S GAME IN INDIANA
On Sept. 24, 2021, Indy Eleven took its first formal steps into the women’s game by purchasing a franchise in the United Soccer League (USL) W League, a new pre-professional women’s league set to kick off its Inaugural Season in 2022.
The USL W League strives to use women’s soccer as a force for societal good by creating a national platform to increase opportunity, gender equity, and career development. The USL W League is committed to helping girls and women achieve their dreams by providing over 750 new opportunities for women to play, coach, and work in soccer. Further, with teams located across the country, thousands of women’s soccer fans will have new and greater access to the sport they love. Ultimately, the USL W League will provide a platform that allows for greater exposure both on and off the field resulting in a stronger game led by strong women. To learn more about the new league debuting on the field in 2022, visit uslwleague.com.
By joining the USL W League, the Indianapolis-based club will now also offer a senior team platform on the women’s side, providing more opportunities for women to compete at the pre-professional level. The addition of the USL W League squad is part of Indy Eleven Sports and Entertainment’s long-term vision and commitment to community impact and growing the women’s game. A cornerstone of that commitment is Eleven Park, a transformative, mixed-use neighborhood development project that will include a new, multi-purpose soccer stadium. Upon its completion, Eleven Park will include best-in-class amenities and provide the flexibility in scheduling that will allow Indy Eleven to accommodate matches for its senior men’s and women’s teams as well as select youth level events.
Sept. 14, 2021: Indy Eleven and USL announce Indiana’s Team as the newest member of the USL W League, one of eventually 44 teams that would take part in the new women’s pre-professional league’s Inaugural 2022 season
December 14, 2021: Indy Eleven announced Carmel native Paul Dolinsky as the W League side’s first Head Coach and former University of Wisconsin-Madison and Xavier University standout Grace Bahr as the team’s first Assistant Coach.
December 16, 2021: Indy Eleven confirms the second, third, and fourth player signings in USL W League history by welcoming Kristina Lynch (Florida State University), Molly McLaughlin (Xavier University), and Katie Soderstrom (Butler University) as the first three roster additions to Indiana’s Team.
Dec. 28-29, 2021: Dozens of players embark upon the Grand Park Events Center for two days of open tryouts, marking the first chance for Dolinsky and Bahr to evaluate talent in person in preparation for the team’s 2022 Inaugural Season.
February 3, 2022: Indy Eleven learns it will host the USL W League’s Inaugural Game at the Grand Park Events Center on May 6 against Kings Hammer FC as part of the league’s 2022 regular season schedule release.
March 2, 2022: Goalkeeper Coach Kelly Freeland is among five female staff members added to the organization to bolster the launch of the Eleven’s Women’s Senior Team in 2022.
April 25, 2022: Nine years to the day Indy Pro Soccer officially became Indy Eleven, the club announced the full roster for its inaugural season of women’s play. The 25-woman roster included 11 players hailing from the Hoosier State, four international players, and seven woman who had played collegiately in Indiana.
May 6, 2022: More than seven months after announcing its first foray into the women’s game, Indy Eleven ensured the wait was well worth it by capturing a 3-1 victory over Kings Hammer FC in the Inaugural Match of the USL W League.
The history-making triumph for Indy Eleven – which included forward Rachel McCarthy scoring the first goal in league history just nine minutes in – was played in front of a sold out, standing room-only crowd of 1,571 fans at the Grand Park Events Center.
July 1, 2022: With a 3-0 road victory over Detroit City FC, Indy Eleven clinches the Great Lakes Division title and captures the automatic USL W League Playoffs berth that goes with it.
July 9, 2022: No, it’s not a repeat … another 3-0 win over DCFC, this time as part of a historic women’s & men’s doubleheader for Indy and Detroit at IUPUI Carroll Stadium, pushes Indy Eleven to an undefeated regular season. The 10W-0L-2D record compiled by the Girls in Blue left Indy Eleven as one of only three teams in the 45-club nationwide league to end the regular season undefeated.
July 13, 2022: The eight-team USL W League Playoffs bracket pitted two Finals-worthy teams in the opening Quarterfinal Round, as Indy Eleven traveled to face off against fellow undefeated side Minnesota Aurora FC. Despite Ella Rogers giving the Girls in Blue a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute, Aurora FC eventually claimed the win-or-go-home affair by a 2-1 margin, ending a successful first season for Indiana’s Team.
August 3, 2022: Following the end of the league’s inaugural season, Indy Eleven saw three performers named to the All-USL W League Teams. Forward Katie Soderstrom and defender Robyn McCarthy collected First Team nods, while forward Maddy Williams was placed on the Second Team.
May 10, 2023: Kicking off their second season Indy Eleven traveled to St. Charles FC where they won 8-0. In this match, Indy featured seven goal scorers with four assists coming on those eight goals.
June 30, 2023: In a strong fashion, Indy clinched the USL W League’s Valley Division title with the largest victory of the season of 16-0 versus St. Charles FC. This marks the second time the team has won the Division. Indy Eleven’s regular season record for their second year is 8-1-1.
July 14, 2023: Cementing their spot in the USL W League Championship, the Girls in Blue defeated the San Francisco Glens SC 3-2. To get to this point, Indy was victorious in games against Flint City AFC and Minnesota Aurora FC.
July 21, 2023: Ahead of the USL W League Final between Indy Eleven and NC Courage U23, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett officially signed a proclamation making July 21, 2023 “Girls in Blue Day” in Indianapolis.
July 22, 2023: Lifting the USL W League Championship trophy, Indy Eleven brought home the first piece of silverware at the club in their second season defeating NC Courage 23 2-1. Alia Martin netted the winning goal to secure the victory for the Girls in Blue. Indy Eleven completed the season including the playoffs with a 12-1-1 record.
July 25, 2023: Forward Sam Dewey is named as the Valley’s 2023 Player of the Year. Dewey finished the season with nine goals and three assists while helping lead the team to their USL W League Championship.
August 8, 2023: The USL W League Championship revealed the 2023 first and second team of the year. The Girls in Blue combined for four players named to the lists. First, forward Sam Dewey made the first team. Then, goalkeeper Nona Reason, defender Grace Bahr, and midfielder Alia Martin earned a spot on the second team.
What They’re Saying …
“Indy Eleven has long desired to take a tangible step towards representation in the women’s game, and we are proud to partner with the United Soccer League and the W League to make that a reality. Indy Eleven is eager to do our part in growing women’s soccer here in Indiana and, just as is the case with our USL Championship team, fulfilling our aim to be the premier club in the USL W League both on and off the field starting in 2022.”
– Greg Stremlaw, Indy Eleven President & CEO
“We’re excited to welcome Indy Eleven to the USL W League as they introduce a women’s senior team. Indy Eleven is a fantastic organization that has a deep commitment to growing the sport of soccer, and we know they will be a tremendous addition to the W League.”
– Betsy Haugh, USL W League Director of Operations
“The W League will give thousands of young female players of all ages the opportunity to watch, learn, and develop into young professionals. Built on the tradition of amazing athletes like USWNT and Indiana Soccer Hall of Famers Lori Lindsey and Lauren Holiday, this will help light the fire and provide an equitable platform to female athletes to become professionals. Giving local talent another opportunity to play the game they love at the highest level, this marks the first step to continue the growth of our game right here in Indiana.”
– Phil Presser, Indy Eleven Sporting Director, Academy Operations & W League