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How faith and hard work paid off for Minnesota’s soccer supporters

minnesota-united

Minnesota is perhaps the most deserving market for MLS that has joined the league since Portland was announced in April 2009.

The region, which has played host to a team in a professional league since 1990 — the longest such streak for any American market — has been through its ups and down of the “wild wild west” of lower division soccer.

In the early 2000’s, the Minnesota Thunder were among the most successful teams in the lower divisions in terms of attracting fans. But the lack of a suitable venue close to the city center in either Minneapolis or St Paul would hasten the demise of the club that folded after the 2009 USL season.

By this point, any other market may have been left without pro soccer for some period of time, but the National Sports Center (NSC) — whose stadium was used by the Thunder — launched a new team known as the NSC Minnesota Stars that competed in the USSF Division 2 league in 2010 and was affiliated with the NASL, which was not yet a recognized league at that time.

Operating a Division 2 team was more expensive than the NSC had anticipated but instead of folding the team, the NASL itself opted to operate the club and keep it located in the Twin Cities area for a period of up to three seasons. During the first season the NASL operated the Minnesota Stars, the club had the lowest payroll in the league but went on an improbable run and won the league title.

A major reason why the NASL choose to own and operate a club in Minnesota while abandoning other teams with ownership issues such as St Louis and Baltimore was fairly straightforward. Minnesota had a long history of supporting the sport, was a large media market and was the corporate headquarters for many large companies that the league would hope to do business with. It is these same elements that would make Minnesota a logical MLS expansion city.

The following season, attempts were undertaken by the league to find a buyer for the club. Operating a team at the expense of the other owners in NASL was becoming cost-prohibitive especially considering the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport boasts some of the highest airfares in the country.

Following a shootout defeat in an epic second leg NASL final against Tampa Bay, Dr. Bill McGuire stepped forward and purchased the team. At the time, the Stars — which McGuire rebranded Minnesota United — seemed like a lame duck because MLS was destined to put a team in Minnesota and it was assumed the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings would be the ownership group.

But through aggressive marketing, the creation of successful community ties and the development of an outdoor stadium plan, Minnesota United eventually became the choice of Major League Soccer. With a built in fan base, a strong supporters’ group and strong community ties, Minnesota United is almost certain to be a hit in Major League Soccer.

Today’s announcement fulfills the hopes and expectations that fueled 25 consecutive years of support for lower division soccer in the state. It is a proud day for Minnesota and justified payoff for all of those who showed faith in the market.

 

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Smokey Bacon

    March 25, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Glad to see they went with United rather than something silly like Vikings or Twins 🙂

    • CTBlues

      March 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      Or Lakers.

  2. nickp91

    March 25, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Minnesota is good soccer market

  3. Bishopville Red

    March 25, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Big congrats to club and fans. Lots of positives shared about both for a while now.

    SB

    • Rej4sl

      March 25, 2015 at 6:27 pm

      Oops meant to rate plus one, sorry. Go Minnesota.

  4. Sean

    March 25, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Native Minnesotan here.

    To me the real argument in favor of a Minnesota franchise is the success of the previous professional team (in terms of attendance) in the original incarnation of the NASL back in the 70s. The Minnesota Kicks, who played at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington (a suburb of the Twin Cities) regularly averaged over 25,000 fans and I believe even averaged northward of 30,000 a couple of years before the league switched to indoors in the 80s. Minnesotans have always loved soccer. Fun Fact: the Mall of America was built on the site of that stadium.

    The team always finished first or second in their division and was constructed mainly of 30-something English players, the only one of whom I can recall off the top of my head was their leading goal-scorer, “the Artful Dodger,” Alan Willey. My very first sporting event attended was to see the Kicks play the New York Cosmos at the Met. Sadly neither Pele nor Beckenbauer played on that occasion. I don’t think either of those players frequently played outside of home games. The Kicks reached their pinnacle in their very first year where they lost the Soccer Bowl to Toronto with the winning goal scored by none other than the great Eusèbio.

    I must admit that I am an Arsenal fan now these many years and I haven’t really taken to MLS. There is little doubt however that you will see a full stadium and passionate fans in Minneapolis when the 2018 season begins.

    -Sean

  5. Kei

    March 25, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    So how big an expansion fee did this NBA/MLB-backed entity pay in order to join MLS? #BoughtNotBuilt

    • HAHA

      March 25, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      About the same as your big boy foreign clubs you all claim to be such big fans of for ONE player! They dont build sh*t, they just buy their way to the top!

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