Name change aside, Minnesota FC will always be United


Minnesota United FC, currently playing Tier 2 professional soccer in the NASL, is expected to share with its fans its worst kept secret next Friday night – it will officially join MLS, along with Atlanta United, starting in 2017. However, don’t expect the “United” label to make the leap with it.

With founding league member D.C. United and Atlanta’s expansion club already in the mix, MLS took the initiative to trademark “Minnesota FC” back in February, much to the dismay of a good portion of United’s fan base.

Since 2009, the State of Hockey’s top professional soccer club has gone from being called the Thunder, to Stars, to Minnesota United and now what looks to be a new, if not too different, reincarnation.

The growth and popularity of the sport in the state has only grown thanks to the general success of owner Bill McGuire’s Loons, and also the mass influx of diverse people groups coming into the market due to the Cities’ role as a major destination hub for many immigrants and refugees.

Go to any home game at Blaine’s NSC and you’ll see people of all different shapes, gender, race, religion, nationalities etc. all united by one common thread, which is their love for the game of soccer, and Minnesota United in particular.

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It doesn’t take a wild imagination to see just how fitting the team’s title is. So why not stick with Minnesota United FC? After all, if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

Between the English Premier League and Football Championship, there are currently nine (that’s right, NINE) clubs named “City” and five named “United”, meaning all 14 could conceivably play in one league in any given year.

However, it appears MLS commissioner Don Garber draws the line at two apiece, with Orlando City FC, New York City FC, D.C. and Atlanta taking the honors, regardless of the fact Minnesota has been around much longer than its expansion partner.

Will the name change have any effect on the fans? To a degree. Petitions were drawn and signed by over a thousand passionate United supporters when the name change was first hinted at, but nothing became of it. The Dark Clouds, Minnesota’s oldest and largest supporter group, have been around since the days of the Thunder, which began play in 1994, so this is really nothing new to them.

Christopher Boyd, an avid United supporter since 2013, isn’t too worried about the club’s impending rebranding.

"“I don’t love it; mostly because the reasoning is silly. On the other hand, I don’t particularly care about the change; the team’s name has changed several times in the past, and what matters is that it’s the same organization… At the same time, I know people who have supported the team since it was created, and stuck with it through every iteration and name change. I understand why they’re upset.”"

Boyd also expressed his enthusiasm at the prospect of Minnesota joining a more stable environment than the somewhat less sure waters of the NASL.

“Ultimately, moving to MLS will make the team more stable and extend their prognosis significantly; there are downsides (like the name change) but ultimately this is a good thing for the team.

"“MLS has problems, but it’s far more stable than the NASL – where at least one team was struggling to pay people on time, and rumors were out that another was having trouble, too – and that’s a good thing. [Changing] their name and brand is a price, but compared to the price of losing the team altogether, it’s one I’ll gladly pay.”"

Boyd is far from alone in his sentiments. The NASL’s clubs in Ft. Lauderdale and OKC have both gone through periods of crisis this season, with checks bouncing for Strikers players and staff, and a recent coaching staff and front office upheaval for Rayo as its parent club in Spain deals with financial struggles of relegation from top flight La Liga. With MLS healthy and thriving, and Tier 3 USL growing faster than corn in July, the NASL is facing a very difficult reality that is swiftly approaching – merge or fold.

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  • Yes, a name change is a small price to pay for security, but just because United may no longer be in the name doesn’t mean its spirit won’t live on in the crowd. Whether you’re a Dark Cloud, a True North Elite, an ordinary fan or a first-timer, Minnesota is now united under one banner at the game’s highest level in North America. The North is rising, and the call of the Loon shall soon be heard in MLS, and all United fans can say is, is it 2017 yet?