Fans crowded a news conference in Target Field Wednesday morning and chanted: “The team that no one wanted… is going to MLS.”
The soccer team, Minnesota United FC, and their supporters, dubbed Dark Clouds, have both come a long way.
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and team owner Bill McGuire announced that Minnesota has been awarded a MLS expansion team that will play in a new soccer stadium proposed for the edge of downtown Minneapolis. The team will begin playing in 2018.
“It is my distinct pleasure to welcome Minnesota to Major League Soccer,” McGuire said.
McGuire, former UnitedHealth Group CEO, thanked Garber and the MLS. “As a group of Minnesota who loves 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,” he said in a statement.
The franchise ownership group also includes Robert and Jim Pohlad, whose family owns the Minnesota Twins, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and Wendy Carlson Nelson. McGuire bought the team after the 2012 season, which currently plays in the Division II North American Soccer League, below MLS.
The proposed stadium will be located northeast of the Minneapolis Farmers Market. McGuire did not address how the team plans to finance the stadium, but the club will finalize a plan for the venue by July 1, according to a MLS news release.
Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire.
“We have been focused on the farmer’s market area because it represents a downtown site. We believe that a soccer park there can help facilitate development and expansion of that part of our community,” he said. McGuire said the team has been working with the farmers market and will have more details in the weeks to come.
“There’s a vision in place. We will begin unveiling that and sharing it with people so we can all have a smart dialogue about the right way to do this,” he said.
Garber made it clear that a new stadium, which he said would be a “cathedral for our league,” was a key part of the team’s proposal. He said the 15 soccer-specific stadiums that house MLS teams have been a “cornerstone of our league’s growth.” These stadiums have seating capacities between 18,000 and 27,000, according to a MLS new release.
He did not speak to specific details, saying the team has a “great plan” to build the stadium.
Garber said the Minneapolis market is a “perfect recipe of success” with a long history of supporting soccer, an “international flare” and a growing fan base in millennials. In a statement, Robert Pohlad said soccer has a “broad appeal” and “youthful orientation.” The state is home to 70,000 registered youth soccer players.
“This city that represents all of the things that we have been able to capitalize that allows our league to be a sport for a new America. It’s diverse, it’s young and it is empowered by a people who are the next generation of great sports fans,” Garber said.
Current season ticket holders who purchase 2015 season tickets will have priority for the team’s 2018 season seat selection, according to a MLS new release.
The league has added 13 teams since 2005, including Minnesota. The state’s soccer club is the 23rd team to join the MLS and the first located in the Upper Midwest.
“At this point we should only be celebrating,” said City Council Member Jacob Frey (Ward 3). “The MLS has chosen Minnesota for obvious reasons. We are the hot ticket. … Soccer brings cultures together perhaps more than any activity.”