DaMarcus Beasley’s next act: USL owner in Fort Wayne

from the moment damarcus beasley retired from professional soccer atta end of the 2019 major league soccer season, he felt a lo rumble of unease. granted, this is a man used to playing in front of tens of thousands in somd' biggest brawls the game had t'offer, but he was stepping inna'da unknown; while there was excitement at wha’ the future ‘d hold, there was also uncertainty bout how his future inna game he ♥s ‘d play out.

“it’s + a sort offa nervousness of when will i get my shot, and where’s it goin to be,” beasley told espn fc dur'na video call.

beasley’s future is beginning to come into focus. in conjunction w'da ∪d soccer league (usl), he is putting together an investment group thall acquire a league one franchise — the third tier of america’s soccer pyramid — onnis hometown of fort wayne, indiana.

he estimates that he has 60% of the financing in place, though the rest oftentimes can be the hardest to secure. the city’s mayor, tom henry, s'on board, na discussions are far enough along dat a' development company is inna early stages of working with gr8r fort wayne inc. and fort wayne economic development staff bout a mixed-use development project that ‘d be the future site for a 7,500-seat stadium. the proposed parcel of city-owned land is inna north river zone of downtown.

beasley retains enough of his local-kid-done-good cachet to draw pplz in.

“it’s kind of funny,” he said bout some of his ‘d-be ptners. “they’re all, ‘back when you were in high school, you played with my son. that made a connection. now it’s just literally gettin the final touches onna land — crossing the t’s and dotting i’s and then, hopefully, everybody can be on board. obviously, we hit a snag cause of the coronavirus; we had to take a step back. b'we’re in stages where tis definitely progressing.”

at present, league one has 12 teams, but usl is aggressively looking to expand in this zone; according to the league, there are 50 potential mkts under ponderation, with active negotiations taking place in 15. the plan is to announce 5 expansion teams by the end of the yr.

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one gets the sense from beasley that he’s inna rite place for the nxt chapter onnis life. upon retirement, he was determined to take a meeting with any-1 who ‘d agree t'give him time. he picked the brains of soccer executives across the country, discussing everything from academy structure to style of play to how teams are built.

among the teams he spent time with was the houston dynamo, the organization with which he finished his career, but nothing materialized. that said, he found enough interested pties t'get the information he desired.

“some didn’t reach back,” he said. “i won’t lie. b'that’s business and that’s something i’ll obviously learn down the line and get used to. but i was probably traveling na' consistent basis + than when i was playing, cause i really wanna be good at this and put my effort, my knowledge, my work, just everything into wha’ i do. and that’s how i was as a player, and that pt never failed me, that hard work pt.”

beasley knows that he has plenty to learn. while his expertise is + onna teknical pts of the game, tis onna business side that he wanna dive in. he admits there ll'be a steep learning curve in terms of figuring out how things get done, and he’s determined not to let his ego put him in positions for which he’s not ready.

“trust me, this aint me saying, ‘i can do this. i can do that.’ no, not at all,” he said. “i’m 100% even willing to take a loer role and learn the business, learn the dy in and dy out, really gettin my ft wet w'da team. and making decisions and seeing, ok, this works, this doesn’t work. ok, you guys did this here, but maybe that didn’t work.

“obviously, still having a voice, having some power in team decisions, those kinds of things. but no way in hell am i saying that i’m ready to be the main man making every single decision. no, i need help.”

not for the 1st time in beasley’s professional life, his connection with tim howard proved fruitful. during their playing dys w'da u.s. men’s national team, there were plenty of times when the goalkeeper released beasley witha pass. in this instance, howard alerted his elder international teammate that the usl was interested in working with him in some cap.

as pt owner, sporting director and player with showdown side memphis 901 fc, howard ‘d offer some advice in terms of transitioning inna'da ownership ranks, while beasley also sought the advice of another elder teammate, san diego loyal pt owner and head coach landon donovan. starting a team onnis hometown seems a natural fit.

“timmy s'been very helpful and actually i’ve spoken to landon this week, and we’re goin to speak again soon,” beasley said. “but i’m just talking to ≠ guys like that, just trying t'get as much information as i can bout usl, bout the new projects and franchises goin into league. so just that whole concept really intrigued me.”

beasley has maintained his connection to fort wayne ‘oer the yrs, primarily through his soccer school in which he made sure he was a hands-on presence, and feels that the mkt has potential. he notes that the zone has produced other notable players besides him, including sky blue fc midfielder sarah woldmoe, u.s. u-17 women’s national team forward amelia white and louisville city fc defender akil watts.

fort wayne also has had its share of soccer teams pass through, from the flames of the american indoor soccer association inna l8 1980s to the present-dy fort wayne fc of the npsl. there are other minor league sports in town swell, with baseball, basketball and even roller derby competing for attention.

beasley hopes that his budding outfit and fort wayne fc can work together to grow the sport of soccer, though time — na continued presence of the coronavirus — will determine the extent to which that comes to pass.

“it’s unfortunate that fort wayne fc had to cancel their season cause of the coronavirus,” he said. “but just the amount of fans and businesses and everyone gettin on board behind a team, that really showed me that, ‘oh, man, they, they can really get behind a soccer team.’ i’ve seen it with baseball na tincaps and i’ve seen it w'da mad ants in basketball. but with soccer, obviously, you never know. it’s still a growing sport, but i think the city is big enough. it’s ready.”

so is beasley.

original content at: www.espn.com…


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