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Minnesota Soccer History, News

It’s Official: Minnesota United FC to Enter MLS in 2017

by on 19 August 2016

Almost a year and a half after Don Garber announced that Minnesota United would be joining Major League Soccer, the league and the team held another major event in Saint Paul on Friday night to make it official. Minnesota United FC will be joining MLS next season, playing its first season in the league at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.

United decided to throw a big party at CHS Field, the downtown home of the Saint Paul Saints, complete with a free performance from local hip hop group Doomtree and Astronautalis. A diverse crowd of current fans and new-comers crowded the centerfield area of CHS Field, with the 1,500 in attendance receiving “VIP” lanyards and a chance at a $5 team scarf.

A photo slideshow played on the centerfield jumbotron commemorating the vast history of Minnesota soccer, ranging from the Minnesota Kicks of the old NASL to the Minnesota Thunder and Stars to the present-day NASL’s Minnesota United incarnation. Throughout the outfield, there were children kicking soccer balls, Dark Clouds and True North Elite members waving flags, and various merchandise and season ticket kiosks.

The event kicked off with Apple Valley-born soccer personality Taylor Twellman acting as the host, mentioning how excited he was to return to his home state and see an MLS franchise taking shape. He cited that it was an “accomplishment” that the area has hosted professional soccer for forty years and thanked the Dark Clouds and True North Elite by name.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber took the stage to a large round of applause. He cited the “passion and support” for soccer in this state and how Minnesota needed to have a team in Major League Soccer. He said that any club needs a committed ownership group, praising Dr. Bill McGuire for his active role in keeping the club around. Garber also cited Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman for their passion. He was certain that they would “show the world that something special is happening in MLS… playing in a world class stadium and a terrific brand.”

Garber teased the phrase “uniting” while thanking Coleman for using the Midway site to bring together the Twin Cities for a stadium that’ll be “one of the best in the United States and Canada.” He then moved on to finalize some key points. Yes, the team will play in MLS in 2017. He then brought Dr. McGuire over to announce the name of the club. Joking that “everything we know today comes from the Internet” and citing that there were “lots of dark clouds and no rain,” McGuire took the time to thank Commissioner Garber and his confidence in the organization, as well as the rest of the MLS owners, the Taylor family, the Pohland family, the Nelson-Carlsons, the Bethune family, the Binger family, the Grossman family, and many other “not yet public” minority owners.

NextStopMLS-8-19-2016-1310_551McGuire thanked Mayor Coleman (to a roar of applause) for “having the courage to make this happen” and helping to make Saint Paul “America’s Most Livable City.” He thanked Saint Paul Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann. He thanked TCF Bank Stadium for being the initial home of MLS soccer in Minnesota beginning next year. Citing the investors and neighbors in the Midway, he called this a “total advance” for the area. He then thanked Governor Dayton for his steady hand through all of this.

He then turned the focus to the fans, citing the fans of the Kicks, the Strikers, the Stars, and the Thunder — particularly their commitment and support to the various iterations across the decades. As rain started to fall, he announced that the name of the team “is everything” to the fans of the area. Citing who they are, who they will become, and their values.

“Keeping this in mind, there’s no better way to say it: WE ARE UNITED.” —Owner Dr. Bill McGuire

United entering the league as United is in and of itself something of a surprise. As FiftyFive.One and others have reported, the league was originally going to force a name change upon the team due to the other team entering in 2017 —  Atlanta United — having the same moniker.

However, the intense push-back from fans — not just in Minnesota, but around MLS — seems to have struck a chord with the league and at some point in recent months, the team was allowed to move forward as United.

Governor Dayton planned to keep it brief, saying this was “a great day for Minnesota.” He promised that “we will get the tax pieces done for the stadium. I promise that.” He applauded the private investment of the United ownership group. He then passed the podium to Mayor Coleman. He admired that soccer fans can “take on the rain,” saying that the fan base here is “second to none.” He then gave a shoutout to “the first family in soccer, the Lagos family.” He thanked the city employees of Saint Paul for their hard work, then followed by highlighting the support of the City Council. He wrapped up with a story of the Como High School champions, mentioning that seven languages were shared with the team, relying on soccer as the common language.

The logo was unveiled next and showed very little alteration from the club’s current version. Most notably, the words in the crest were condensed, moving from “Minnesota United FC” to “MNUFC,” giving a much cleaner look.

To close the event out, there was a photo op on the field, with the crowd chanting a continuing slogan for the team: We Are United, Never Divided.

Brian Quarstad and Wes Burdine contributed to this report.

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  • Chris RB

    I wish I could have been there. What a cool night, and how cool that we’re keeping the name. So excited to see where this team (and these fans) go from here.