Minnesota Awarded Major League Soccer Franchise
Major League Soccer (MLS) has awarded a franchise to Minnesota! The official announcement was made this morning (March 25) at a press conference at Target Field in Minneapolis.
The franchise has been awarded to an ownership group that includes Dr. Bill McGuire, owner of Minneapolis-based professional soccer club Minnesota United, a team currently playing in the North American Soccer League (NASL), as well as Minnesota Twins owners the Pohlad family and Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx owner Glen Taylor.
“Today, we have another historic announcement that will show how far soccer has come in the United States,” said Don Garber, the commissioner of MLS. “Why Minnesota? It’s diverse, it is young and it is powered by people who represent the next generation of sports fans.”
Garber went on to add, "Minnesota has a great history of support of this game,” talking about the state's passion for the game and it's involvement in soccer for the past 40 years at various levels.
Minnesota does, indeed, have a long history of support for soccer, dating all the way back to the original North American Soccer League (NASL), when the Minnesota Kicks called the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota home. That team played for six seasons, between 1976 and 1981, winning four conference titles.
From there, the Minnesota Thunder was in existence for several years and a number of the team's players, such as Manny Lagos and Tony Sanneh, went on to play at higher levels, including for the U.S. Men's National team. In recent years, the team underwent ownership and name changes, evolving into Minnesota United. For the past few seasons, the club has been a member of the North American Soccer League (NASL), which is considered the second tier of professional soccer in the United States.
It will be interesting to see how Minnesota Vikings owner, Zygi Wilf, reacts to the announcement. Wilf had also expressed interest in an MLS franchise, but they would have wanted to have the team play in the new Vikings stadium, which is currently under construction. Major League Soccer has been quite adamant that all its franchises play in their own soccer-specific stadiums.
The current ownership group is working on plans that would see a new soccer-specific stadium built near the farmer's market in downtown Minneapolis, and it will also be interesting to see if the stadium is granted any financial support from the state. While the Minnesota legislature was more than willing to help finance the new $1 billion Vikings project, they have expressed no interest thus far in helping with financing for the soccer stadium with its estimated $150 million price tag, with state leaders already voicing opposition to the idea.
It is not 100% certain at this point exactly when Minnesota United will begin play in Major League Soccer, but it is anticipated to happen beginning in the 2018 season. Minnesota United becomes the 23rd franchise in MLS, which is celebrating its 20th year in existence this season.
You can watch the entire press conference here: