TICC recently spoke with Peter Wilt on the Indy Eleven and their upcoming match with the Cosmos. Another topic to come up was the NASL side coming together in Chicago. Peter offered us some unique insight on NASL Chicago, goals, their view on the Chicago Fire, and a look at what happened with the Chicago Sting Supporters Trust.
“2017 is our goal. We want to be playing soccer in the NASL by 2017,” Wilt told TICC when asked about the timeline. “For that to happen, we need to have our application accepted by the league by June. The league owners will be meeting in June and we hope they’ll be considering our application at that point. If it’s accepted, I think we’re good to go for April 2017 kickoff. If we don’t, then we either need to wait for 2018 or, frankly, give it up. The challenge right now is we’re in discussion with a couple of venues. If we can get that sorted out before June, I think there’s a very good chance that we’ll be playing next year in the North American Soccer League.”
We also asked Wilt his thoughts on the naming of the club, considering the push from the Sting Trust to bring back the Sting name.
“For the name, we are soliciting fans for their opinion on what the team name should be at our website, ChicagoNASL.com. There’s a survey tab, and maybe 4 or 5 questions, including what would you like the name to be,” said Wilt. “Early on, the voting has about 40% of the entries suggesting Chicago Sting. It’s a good number. It’s far and away above the second place number. But, at the same time it means that 60% of the people voting don’t want it to be Chicago Sting. So we’ll listen to all the input, we’re going to take consideration that it’s not an election, it’s more of a poll, an advisory thing, and first we need to get a team, before we worry too much about what the name of the team will be. But we’re considering all options.”
“This is really about being the people’s team and the city of Chicago’s team, wanting to play in the city of Chicago.”
“I don’t think this is really about taking market share from the Fire. Chicago, like New York, is big enough to have more than one team and support both of them, especially with the geographic differentiation between the Fire, out in the suburbs, and the Chicago NASL team planning to be in the city. There’s nine million people in Chicago and four million that care about soccer and you have about a hundred thousand different individuals that go to pro soccer in Chicago right now so that means there’s 3.9 million people who care about pro soccer in Chicago who aren’t going to games for whatever reason. And I think a new team in the city can attract its own share without taking away from the Fire. I actually think having a strong Chicago Fire would be good for the NASL and vice versa, because it will get more people talking about professional soccer in Chicagoland.”
After a long push from the Supporters Trust to #BringTheSting, it appeared things had fallen apart between the new club and this group. This does appear to be the case.
“We had a few conversations. I thought it was going in a positive direction,” said Wilt on the Trust. “Then, they found out that it wasn’t likely going to be named Chicago Sting, or at least it wasn’t definitely going to be Chicago Sting. They told me they were okay with that. They also wanted to have the Sting Trust have more than 50% of the team. I told them that wasn’t going to happen, that the Supporters’ Trust could likely have between five to ten percent. And they weren’t thrilled with that, but they were okay with it and they still wanted to support it.”
Ultimately, Wilt and a member of the group’s leadership hit an impasse.
“Then, there came a conflict between one of their leaders and myself, a difference of opinion on something. He told me he didn’t feel he could work with us anymore. And it was a shame because I really liked those guys and I really think they could have been helpful.”
But that being said, we’re going to go forward with supporters’ trust concept nonetheless and it’s going to be unique, it’s going to be really interesting, kind of like the Packers’ situation where the fans own a piece of the team, only the difference is these fans will actually have voting shares. So they’ll have a say in how the team goes forward.”
It’s an interesting look at the start of a new NASL side and, while it’s a shame that these two groups couldn’t reconcile their differences, I’m hopeful this team does generate support and interest from the city of Chicago once they find a venue and begin play. After seeing the MLS v NASL storyline for as often as we do, it is also refreshing to see this team support the Fire and have confidence in what it can offer its town.
The 2018 or bust line caught me by surprise, but with an individual like Peter Wilt at the helm, I also don’t feel it’s cause for concern and we will see this team kick a ball, hopefully by the start of next season.