Major League Soccer (MLS) announced on March 25 it is awarding an expansion franchise to the state of Minnesota. The team will begin playing in 2018.
Major League Soccer (MLS) has awarded an expansion franchise to Minnesota.
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According to a March 25 press release on Major League Soccer's official website, the new Minnesota team will start playing in 2018. The team's owners will be led by Dr. Bill McGuire, owner of the North American Soccer League's (NASL) Minnesota United FC.
McGuire has been an active player in the Minnesota soccer community since he purchased the then-Minnesota Stars in 2012. Other investors who will join McGuire in the team's ownership group are Robert Pohlad, Jim Pohlad, Wendy Carlson Nelson and Glen Taylor, per MLSSoccer.com.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Michael Rand reported on Wednesday the new Minnesota team could begin play as early as 2017.
MLS commissioner Don Garber told the league's official website he is excited about the development:
"We are proud to welcome Minnesota to Major League Soccer. The ownership group's commitment to soccer and the community, the area's growing millenial population and the region's rich tradition of supporting soccer at all levels in Minnesota were key indicators that this was the right market.
"The passionate soccer fans in Minnesota will soon have a world-class, downtown soccer stadium that will serve as the home for the new MLS team and become a destination for marquee international sports events."
He also said McGuire has "become an avid and passionate lover of our game," per Rand.
For his part, McGuire described the day the league awarded an expansion team to Minnesota as "momentous," per MLSSoccer.com:
"I want to thank MLS commissioner Don Garber and the league's owners for helping us bring Major League Soccer to Minnesota. As a group of Minnesotans who love this state and have made a commitment to bring this vision to life, this is a momentous day that we've all been waiting for."
The Minnesota group convinced Major League Soccer of its ability to sustain support in their state by way of an accessible, centrally-located outdoor stadium. The MLSSoccer.com press release says "The proposed stadium would be located in the Farmers Market neighborhood on the western side of Target Field and immediately adjacent to Interstate 94."
Garber also told Rand the Minnesota market has the "perfect recipe for success" in Major League Soccer.
A separate MLSSoccer.com update reveals other groups which had been lobbying for an MLS franchise include a second one in Minnesota backed by the NFL's Minnesota Vikings as well as groups from Sacramento, Ca. and Las Vegas, Nev. San Antonio and St. Louis have made their intentions known for future expansion.
With the inclusion of the new Minnesota team, Major League Soccer will have 23 teams by 2018. The league aims to have 24 teams by 2020, per the league's official website.
Garber announced the league will look into expanding beyong the 24 targeted teams in 2020. "Over the course of 2015, we plan to evaluate potential expansion beyond 24 clubs," he said. Major League Soccer grew to 20 teams in 2015 with the addition of Orlando City SC and New York City FC, per MLSSoccer.com.
Minnesota's passion for soccer dates back to the 1970s when an average of 40,000 fans came to watch the NASL's Minnesota Kicks. The state also had a successful minor-league team known as the Minnesota Thunder in the 1990s and 2000s. MLSSoccer.com estimates Minnesota's registered youth soccer players to be in the 70,000 range.
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