The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 24, 2020 1:00 am

Beasley now all business

More interested in soccer's front office than sideline

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

What does a veteran of four World Cups and four Gold Cup championships do when his soccer playing career is over?

Some players would try to get into coaching, but that was never a path that Fort Wayne native DaMarcus Beasley wanted to pursue.

“If you want to coach in any sport, you've really gotta love coaching,” Beasley said. “I can't do that. It's not for me.” 

What does intrigue Beasley about soccer is the “business side” of team operations. After retiring from pro soccer after the 2019 MLS season, Beasley has decided that his next career aspiration is to bring a pro team to the Summit City and assume an executive role with that club.

He was approached by the USL League One, sanctioned in the third division of the US Soccer pyramid, which is trying to bring a team to Fort Wayne. Beasley found the idea to be a “no-brainer” and is putting together an investment group that will bankroll the hoped-for team. Beasley said he is hoping to have the team ready for play for the 2022 season, but that could be pushed back to 2023.

Either way, getting the team going is a goal he is clearly passionate about.

“It would mean everything,” Beasley said of being a major part of a team in Fort Wayne. “Anyone that knows me knows, even though I haven't lived in Fort Wayne for a long time, I'm still a homebody. I never forgot where I came from. I've always been close to Fort Wayne, so to be able to put a professional team in a sport that I love, have loved for my whole life, to be able to help kids to realize and reach their dreams and get to professional soccer and maybe even a World Cup someday, that'd be amazing to me.”

“I would love to see in the paper, 'When I was 16 I played for the Fort Wayne team' and then he's playing in a World Cup at 24,” added Beasley, whose National Soccer School runs an annual summer camp in Fort Wayne. “For me that would be the icing on the cake.”

A recent story in ESPN reported that Beasley had secured about 60% of the financing necessary to bring the team into existence, but he told the Journal Gazette that he got a “little bit too ahead of myself” when he provided that number. 

The next step for Beasley is to reconnect with the Fort Wayne city government and some investors that might have been interested before the COVID-19 pandemic forced discussions to stall. Beasley said the city, including Mayor Tom Henry, seemed interested in the idea of another team in town and ESPN reported the possibility of a new 7,500-seat stadium in the North River area of downtown. 

A spokesperson for the mayor's office, John Perlich, confirmed that the city has spoken to Beasley about the possibility of bringing a team to Fort Wayne, but said that talks, especially about any development projects, are in the early stages.

“The City of Fort Wayne's leadership team, including Mayor Tom Henry, has had a few conversations with DaMarcus Beasley and others as part of a potential investment group interested in bringing professional soccer and a development project to Fort Wayne,” Perlich wrote in a statement to The Journal Gazette. “No project or development plan is in place.

“There would be a lot of work ahead to get to an approved project. We do believe it would have the potential to complement the other professional sports offerings and quality of life attractions we have in the community.”

Beasley is excited not only about helping to bring soccer to Fort Wayne, but also about giving the city another professional team to add to the ranks that already include the Komets, TinCaps and Mad Ants. He believes his future team would thrive in a city that has shown a passion for supporting pro sports.

“Soccer is the fastest-growing sport in America,” Beasley said. “It's on TV, you can catch it any time if you want to. And the fact that people in Fort Wayne, they love their sports, they love getting behind their teams, they love going out and going to games.

“Soccer is a fast sport, so I think even a non-soccer fan can get into it and make a day out of it.”

Beasley wouldn't be the first to try to bring a soccer team to Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne FC of the National Premier Soccer League, at the fourth tier of US Soccer, was formed in 2019 and was scheduled to open its inaugural season Saturday before COVID-19 intervened and forced the cancellation of the season. 

Beasley praised the support the NPSL club has found in Fort Wayne and said he had planned to come to the team's first game.

Erik Magner, president and co-owner of Fort Wayne FC, said his team has met with Beasley and said both groups are on the “same page.” Fort Wayne FC hopes to play 2-3 years in the NPSL and then move up to the USL, according to Magner.

“His love for soccer is great,” Magner said of Beasley. “We both have the same goal and same objectives.”

For now, Beasley's objectives include speaking with as many knowledgeable people as he can about the business of soccer. He has reached out to a wide array of executives with questions about everything related to running a team. He does not yet have a “set role” in mind for himself with his potential USL team, but he plans to listen to all the advice he can get and learn as quickly as possible.

“This is not something where I'm going to come in and say 'I'm the boss, I'm gonna do this,'” Beasley said. “I'm ready to learn. I have enough to get me started, but I need help, I have no problem saying I need help and I want help. ... Do I think I could do the job of sporting director or vice president? Yes, I do think that. But 100% I need help and I want to bring in people that are smarter than me ... working hand in hand with people with the same vision.”

Beasley's vision would help him further grow the game he loves in the city he still calls home.

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