MLS is coming to Minnesota! On Wednesday, the league announced that Minneapolis has been award the league’s 23rd franchise. The team, Minnesota United FC, will begin play in MLS in 2018.
In a statement released to the press, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, ““We are proud to welcome Minnesota to Major League Soccer. The ownership group’s commitment to soccer and the community, the area’s growing millennial population and the region’s rich tradition of supporting soccer at all levels in Minnesota were key indicators that this was the right market.”
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Although they are considered an expansion team, Minnesota United FC are by no means new to the game of soccer. The team was founded in 2010 and has mostly played in the North American Soccer League. They have been quite successful, winning the 2011 Soccer Bowl and finishing in first place during the 2014 NASL spring season.
While the structure will likely remain the same in their transition from the NASL to MLS there will be some changes. Perhaps the biggest change will be in the ownership structure. Although owner Bill McGuire will continue to be the team’s main owner, he will be joined by a group of investors that includes the Robert and Jim Pohlad (whose father, Carl, owns the Minnesota Twins) and Glen Taylor (who owns the Minnesota Timberwolves).
The team will also be moving into a new soccer-specific stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The stadium would be near both Target Field (where the Twins play) and the Minnesota Farmers Market. It would also be an outdoor stadium and seat about 20,000 people. As of this moment it is unclear how the team and the city are going to pay for the new stadium.
The addition of Minnesota United FC is a huge win for MLS. Minneapolis is the 15th largest television market in the United States and the league has been desperate to add a team from the Midwest.
Of course the big losers in this deal is the NASL. The league which is currently the official second division of US Soccer has long believed that they are on equal footing with that of MLS. But losing one of their top franchises, coupled with the challenge by USL for their second division status, will certainly hurt their efforts to grow.
In a statement released to the press earlier today, the NASL said “The developments in Minneapolis only serve to affirm once again, that the NASL is building high-caliber clubs, both on and off the field, and playing a leadership role in the evolution of professional soccer in North America. The announcement will not affect how we approach our plans for the future.”
They would go on to say, “We are as committed as ever to continuing the growth in our existing markets and expanding into new markets where we see great opportunities for our players and fans – the groups our league is built around. ”
With Minnesota United FC becoming the 23rd team in MLS, that leaves just one open expansion spot for 2018. Although the league seems to heavily favor Miami as the next city to join the league, that deal seems to be falling apart. If the recent piece in Howler Magazine is any indication as to the progress that group has made in securing a soccer-specific stadium one would have to be concerned about their ability to finish the deal.
The other cities that are still reportedly in contention for the league’s 24th franchise are Sacramento and San Antonio. For a time Las Vegas was being considered but the league announced in February that they were no longer being considered.