The Fort Wayne Football Club, an expansion team in the National Premier Soccer League, will begin play in May 2020, Fort Wayne mayor Tom Henry and a group of club owners announced Monday.
The newly formed Fort Wayne FC, a semi-professional club, will compete in the Midwest Region of the NPSL, playing against teams in the Great Lakes Conference. The NPSL is at the fourth tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid. Fort Wayne FC's players will mostly be college and high-level high school players in their offseasons. The Great Lakes Conference also includes FC Indiana, a team based in Lafayette, and the rest of its teams are based in Michigan and Ohio.
“Here in Fort Wayne, in our neighborhoods and in northeast Indiana, we have an incredible number of young and very talented soccer players,” said Erik Magner, the team's president and a co-owner. “There is a need for these young talents to have a stepping stone or a path so they can develop, grow and just get better in soccer, so they can play at the highest levels, whether nationally or internationally.
“With this need in mind, several local business leaders came together to form Fort Wayne FC.”
FWFC will play its home games in May at Bishop Dwenger's new Shields Field and then will move to the Fort Wayne Sport Club in June when it's less rainy and turf is no longer a necessity. The team expects to play nine or 10 home games in 2020, depending on whether another team is added to the division in the near future.
To run the team, the ownership group named Greg Mauch, coach of the Canterbury boys soccer team, as the club's general manager. Mauch is a member of the Indiana Soccer Hall of Fame and his team is the two-time defending state champions.
Mauch said he has already been in contact with potential coaches for the team and hopes to make a decision on that front within three to four weeks. He said he has already heard interest from Big Ten and Big East coaches about being involved with the club.
“I wanted to be able to use all the contacts I've developed over the years to help us bring in top-flight players to our community,” Mauch said. “I think we're going to be able to do that. ... I think (this team) is going to be well-received. I think it'll be a fun thing to do, both in entertainment value and sports value. I think it'll be a great combination and assuming we can win some games we should have some fun for the fans.”
In addition to Magner, the president of Meister Cook, the team's front office includes John Bellio, president of Coldwell Banker Roth Wehrly Gerber, as the club's vice president and another co-owner.
This is only the latest iteration of soccer in Fort Wayne, rebooting the concept a decade after the Fort Wayne Fever folded. The Fever competed in the USL Premier Development League, another fourth-tier circuit, from 2003 to 2009, playing home games at Hefner Field.
There have also been indoor soccer teams in the city.
The Fort Wayne Flames played from 1986 to 1989 and the Indiana Kick succeeded them in 1989-90. Those teams played their home games at Memorial Coliseum.
“I feel like this is the right moment (for soccer in Fort Wayne),” Mauch said. “It's certainly the right ownership group. They're committed and understanding of the needs of the team.”
There are plans to introduce a competitive women's team into Fort Wayne FC's structure in 2022.