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How the LIPAFC became ‘the single most important sporting and cultural event in human history’

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/05/24, 12:50PM EDT


As it shapes up for its network television debut, here’s how Louisville and Indy supporters came together to create an American icon

Billed as 'the single most important sporting and cultural event in human history', the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest has taken on a life of its own since coming into being. | Photo courtesy Indy Eleven

If there’s anything you need to know about the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest, it’s this.

The silliness of the name is the point.

“The whole thing is, Louisville and Indy don’t really have a rivalry in terms of two cities,” said former Brickyard Battalion President Peter Evans. “It’s not a Manchester-Liverpool thing or something like that. It’s just, we’re two cities that are close to each other.”

When Indy Eleven and Louisville City FC first took to the field to square off in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2015, they inhabited different universes. The Boys in Blue were in their second season in the North American Soccer League, while LouCity had just kicked off its inaugural season in the USL Championship.

But when Indy joined the USL Championship in 2018, and this being soccer, both sets of supporters felt they needed to give the matchups between the sides a nickname, lest someone else come in – like the clubs themselves, or even worse, the league – and do it for them.

The problem the leadership of the BYB and Louisville Coopers faced was most of the ideas being bandied about – like the Horsepower Derby, to name one – didn’t strike them as all that great.

“Us and Louisville, we kind of both seemingly understood we didn't want the word Derby involved,” said Evans. “That one has a bigger significance in Louisville, and that just felt weird. We really wanted to name it, and people kept coming up with names like the I-65 Derby or insert-anything-else-here Derby, and they all sucked.”

To drive this message home, the Louisville Coopers’ Twitter account fired off a missive. 

For Evans, it immediately struck a chord.

“At that point, I sent them a DM from the [Indy supporters’ group] Slaughterhouse 19 account and said, ‘Hey, I think that’s pretty close to what we need it to be. It needs to just be stupid. It needs to be about the proximity of the two cities,’” said Evans. “It turned into a thing where we agreed that it’s actually really funny. So, both the Coopers and Slaughterhouse and BYB agreed, let’s run with this. Let’s push this really hard and be like, ‘This is what the name is going to be.’”

Quickly, the mythology around the “the single most important sporting and cultural event in human history” began to spring up in mockumentaries and across social media channels.

And then came the trophy.

“One night we were playing Louisville, and as we were driving back, we noticed a bunch of construction barrels coming toward the bridge to cross back into Indiana,” said Evans. “And I started laughing and said, ‘you know, it’d be really funny if we just stole a barrel and made that the trophy.’ And we obviously didn’t do it, because that’s not a good idea.

“But somebody from the Coopers around the same time had a similar idea, and we started talking back and forth via DMs. And before I knew it – six months later, I thought the idea had kind of been there and died – I get a picture in the Slaughterhouse 19 DMs with the message, ‘hey, will this work?’ And it’s a barrel that looks like it’s been hit by three cars. I’m like, ‘What the hell's going on here?’ And they replied, ‘Yeah, we’re at the Kentucky Department of Transportation. They donated this to us because we asked for it.’”

The LIPAFC and its trophy are now staples of the USL Championship landscape, and as serious as the competition is on the field – LouCity holds a 10-5-6 record all-time over Indy, including wins in both of the meetings in the USL Championship Playoffs – and in the stands as their sides battle, the hyperbole that accompanies the game is part of its allure.

“We've known for a long time that this is the No. 1 game in all of U.S. Soccer regardless of what level, what league you're playing in,” said the BYB’s David Ziemba. “This is it. This is the place that you want to be two times a year, you want to see this match. It’s just great.”

Everything that makes the LIPAFC great will be on display this Saturday when Louisville City FC hosts Indy Eleven as the sides meet on CBS in the first network broadcast of a USL Championship game in the league’s history. Led by the Brickyard Battalion, Indy fans will make their presence felt at Lynn Family Stadium as they have each year since the venue opened, with the Louisville Coopers in the familiar home at the Estopinal End bringing the noise and the smoke.

For people tuning in and getting their first glimpse of the USL Championship, both sets of supporters are ready to put on a show alongside what’s happening on the field.

“I think they’re going to see the best rivalry in the league, regardless of what any other supporters’ groups want to say,” said Evans. “They’re going to hear an atmosphere that’s going to be two supporters’ groups giving it everything they have for the entire 90 minutes. … It’s going to be a wild environment.”

It’s a landmark day for the league, and for the rivalry, and one that given the quality in both squads should provide a high level of entertainment on the field.

For Evans, though, there will also be the moment when play-by-play announcer Mike Watts welcomes everyone to the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest, and that will make him – and plenty of others – smile.

“I said this to my wife. I was like, ‘I played a hand in the fact that on Saturday, you're going to have to see this absolutely ridiculous name on CBS, the network’” said Evans. “If that is part of a legacy to leave with the club, I’m very happy.”

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