A new era begins Friday, May 20, at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.

The first year Kokomo Mantis FC soccer team takes to the pitch for its home and franchise opener in the Premier Development League against the St. Louis Lions. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

ABOUT KOKOMO MATIS FC: The newest member of the United States Soccer League’s PDL’s Great Lakes Division is coached by Marcelo Santos. A full-time assistant at NCAA Division I Marquette University and former bench manager of the USL PDL’s Thunder Bay Chill, Santos leads a 20-man roster. The 2016 captains are Arjan Mostafa, Mattin Najafi and Bryan Cieslulka. Mostafa has playing experience overseas, as he’s been on the Iraqi Premier League side Zahko FC and also played for his home country in international competition; Najafi has also starred overseas for his home country of Sweden on the Division I Norrby squad as well as playing for Biancoscudati Padova in the Italian professional leagues; and Cieslulka played for Santos and Marquette University leading them to the 2011 Big East Conference title. He was selected by the Chicago Fire in the MLS Superdraft in 2014 but was released before the season and then worked his way on to rosters for the Swedish professional side Gimo IF FK and also St. Louis FC in the USL PDL.

GET OUTRAGEOUS: The Kokomo Mantis hope fans will cheer and GET OUTRAGEOUS for their favorite players on the team Friday. Fans are asked to be sure to shout and create unique chants to encourage an exciting experience for all in attendance. Vuvuzelas are highly encouraged.  

FROM COACH SANTOS: “We’re pleased through 10 days,” he said when asked about how things are progressing at the Kokomo Mantis FC media day May 18. “Usually, there is a lot of physical work in that timeframe, but they’ve coped very well and nobody is injured.”

Talking about the exhibition 3-0 win over FC Indiana May 14 – “It was just that … an exhibition … It helped us get more fit. The result was great, but we know the challenges ahead.”

Looking ahead to the franchise, home and season opener vs. St. Louis Friday, May 20 – “They are a very well-coached team. It’ll be a good test for us. We feel very prepared though.”

Taking a look at the big picture: “We want to compete immediately, and we’ve put a good team on paper. The tough thing is we are just coming into this as everyone is still getting to know everyone. If we can get things together quickly, we believe we’ll have a good chance to put ourselves into position to win a division championship and beyond. Our process right now, though, is focusing on St. Louis … taking one thing at a time.”

ON THE CALENDAR: Friday’s battle with the Lions is one of two in the opening month. Kokomo Mantis FC hosts WSA Winnipeg Monday, May 23, at 7 p.m.