Beyond the questionable trades, acquisitions, and incoming legal hurdles comes a bit of news you might have missed.
The Chicago Fire have two new affiliate teams. Indy Eleven (USL-Championship) and Lansing Ignite (USL-League One) will be replacing the Tulsa Roughnecks as the Fire’s lower league affiliates for the upcoming 2019 season.
I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t hear about this until now. There was no press release from either of the three clubs. We only know now because club president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez mentioned it in passing on the ExtraTime Radio podcast.
Indy Eleven will of course be familiar to Fire fans— some of whom are also Indy fans themselves. Lansing, on the other hand, is new on the scene.
Let’s take a look at our new affiliates,
Indy Eleven, despite being only six-years-old, has quite a strong history with some connections to the Chicago Fire. The team was formed by a group led by Chicago Fire legend, former club president and general manager Peter Wilt. Father Wilt led the club for two years before stepping down to explore other ventures.
Indy Eleven originally played in the NASL, with the 2016 Spring season being their high point as they were undefeated throughout the season. In 2017, Indy Eleven expressed interested in joining MLS but were glossed over during the selection process. After the NASL imploded, Indy transferred to the USL, which had been granted D2 status by US Soccer. They finished in 7th place in the Eastern Conference in their first USL season.
The Chicago Fire and Indy Eleven has met twice previously. Their first encounter was during the fourth round of the US Open Cup back in 2016 where the Fire won in penalties after extra time. The second time they went was during a pre-season friendly last year where Indy Eleven won 2-0.
Since Indy plays in a higher level than Lansing, the Fire will most likely give Indy more of a preferential treatment. Expect homegrown players to be loaned out to Indy at least once during their career.
Lansing Ignite FC
Lansing Ignite FC is an up-and-coming team who will play in the newly formed USL League One - the third tier of American soccer. The club was first announced last September by the owners of minor league baseball team Lansing Lugnuts. Their roster at the moment is still incomplete, currently comprising of players from the NASL and USL. The most notable player on the roster to date would be Ryhs Williams, who played for the New York Cosmos and New York Red Bulls U-23.
Being in the third division would actually carry over some benefits for the Fire. They could loan out players to Lansing who are too inexperienced for MLS but too good for the USL Championship. Players such as recently drafted Ebenezer Ackon— who actually has a history with Lansing, as he played for the now-defunct Lansing United team.