EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After building El Paso Locomotive FC into a USL Championship powerhouse in the Western Conference, Mark Lowry is headed to USL Eastern Conference club, Indy Eleven, KTSM learned on Monday.
The head coach and technical director for three years in El Paso, Lowry told KTSM’s Colin Deaver in an exclusive interview that he would assume the same duties in Indianapolis. He leaves El Paso amicably and with nothing but love from the club and for the city of El Paso.
Lowry’s move to Indy Eleven was first reported by Jeff Rueter of The Athletic, but was confirmed shortly thereafter by KTSM. Lowry exits El Paso after leading Locomotive FC to the playoffs in all three years he was with the club. Lowry was hired as the team’s first head coach and technical director in the summer of 2018.
“I wouldn’t have left if this club wasn’t in a good spot because this club is so important to me and this community is so important to me,” said Lowry. “I want this club to be successful, this community deserves it, so I’m comfortable with how I’ve left it.”
Lowry led Locomotive FC to back-to-back Western Conference Finals in 2019 and 2020 and El Paso was the third-best team in the entire league on points in 2021, before getting upset in the first round of the playoffs.
The move Lowry made from Locomotive FC to another club was by no means unexpected; Lowry has always harbored hopes of moving up to the MLS. However, he told KTSM that despite there being multiple job openings in MLS, none of them reached out to him. So, he went for the next-best thing: an established club in USL that harbors ambitions of moving up to MLS and has tried to do so before.
“Indy Eleven is a market and Indianapolis is a market that has had that aspiration in the past and have tried before,” said Lowry. “I know there’s still the ambition to do that. It’s a market that can case to an MLS team and can hold an MLS team, so that is in the back of my mind.”
Lowry said he was disappointed he didn’t receive any looks from the MLS and that there is not much of a track record of USL coaches moving up to MLS, something he would like to change.
Indy Eleven has been interested in hiring Lowry since parting ways with Martin Rennie in June. Lowry said talks heated up last week after El Paso bowed out of the playoffs. He’ll serve a familiar role as the head coach and technical director at Indy Eleven, a job he loves. He’ll be in charge of building the roster of players in Indianapolis, much like he did in El Paso to great success.
If Lowry does well in Indianapolis – even if the club doesn’t move up to MLS on its own – he could make himself even more attractive to MLS teams. He’ll have proven that he can win in multiple places at a high level and that his system is conducive to success anywhere.
“If I do well at Indy Eleven and we repeat the three years we did here and do it in the East, then it shows my way of playing is capable of getting results in various climates, various markets, various leagues,” said Lowry.
The new Indy Eleven gaffer was clear that this move had nothing to do with money; Locomotive FC presented a very competitive counter offer, Lowry said.
Instead, this was about making the best decision for his family – his wife is from the east coast and his children are nearing middle school – and also, going to a place that will be a fantastic opportunity for him from a career standpoint.
“This was not about a contract, money, none of that factored into this at all. I was very content in El Paso. This was a family decision where I put them first and it’s a good challenge and I’m a sucker for a challenge,” Lowry said.
The announcement of Lowry’s departure was initially made by El Paso club officials Monday morning, but it did not say where he was going. An expansive search for the club’s next head coach and technical director has already begun according to general manager Andrew Forrest.
Forrest told the media on Monday that his phone had been ringing all day with calls from prospective hires. The club will pursue all avenues far and wide – including in-house options like top assistant Matt Williams and player-coach Richie Ryan – and want to make a new hire as soon as possible.
“Everything is on the table. Mark had a great staff and we’ll look at that but this will be an international search just like it was initially,” said Forrest. “There’s qualified candidates in USL and MLS but also candidates around the globe as soccer is a global game. So we will look near and far to find the next coach of this team.”
Lowry’s contributions to the club led to the team boasting a home undefeated streak that spanned over one calendar year while simultaneously being the longest active-running home unbeaten streak in North America.
During his tenure in El Paso, the Birmingham, England native earned a positive record of 42 wins, 19 losses, and 29 draws, including playoffs and the U.S. Open Cup. Lowry’s success on the pitch led to El Paso Locomotive claiming its first piece of silverware when the team lifted the fan-created trophy, the Copa Tejas, at Southwest University Park.
The team also claimed the Copa Tejas Shield having earned the highest points per game average across all Texas clubs in USL, MLS, and NWSL. Lowry created a culture both on and off the pitch that encouraged diversity and inclusivity while fostering a ‘We, Not Me’ mentality that guided the club to monumental achievements. His leadership was recognized as the USL Championship’s July 2021 Coach of the Month.
“Locomotive soccer will forever benefit from the foundation Mark established these past three seasons,” said Alan Ledford, President of MountainStar Sports Group. “His professionalism, intensity, and creative approach to the game were instrumental in establishing a remarkable culture of success for the Locos. The extraordinary connection with the community, our fans and supporters, the team, and its players were a direct result of and a reflection on Mark. We will certainly miss Coach Lowry personally and professionally and wish him and his family all the best in their next adventure.”
Prior to joining El Paso Locomotive FC, Lowry served as the Head Coach with Jacksonville Armada, where he improved the club’s standings while reaching milestones including a first playoff appearance that reached the NPSL Sunshine Conference Finals.
“On behalf of ownership and our entire organization, I want to thank Mark for all he did for Locomotive FC and our region,” and MountainStar Sports Group Co-Owner and Chairman, Josh Hunt. “Our mission to improve the quality of life and promote economic development in the Borderplex through sports and entertainment took a big step forward as a result of Mark’s work, and for that, we are very grateful.”