The Angle

Opinion: MLS Must Unite, Not Divide, Minnesota

by on 19 November 2014

On Wednesday morning, news broke that representatives from Sacramento, Las Vegas, and Minnesota will pitch their MLS expansion plans to league executives in New York City. It appears that these meetings will serve as a precursor to serious expansion talks at the league’s Board of Governors meetings on December 6th. Despite repeated denials and cautious language, it seems a very real possibility that MLS may award the 23rd and 24th spots on that date.

While the league news did not mention who would be representing Minnesota, we know for a fact that the Vikings will be making their pitch, and we have learned that Minnesota United FC will state their case as well, despite their lack of comment.

With events moving quickly, it is important that everyone with a stake in this decision make their voice heard. Both bids are compelling. Expansion to Minnesota is a priority for MLS. We all have a stake in making sure it is successful. That is why it is essential that we write in favor of Minnesota United FC’s bid.

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The battle in Minnesota over a possible MLS spot mirrors a two-decade long battle that MLS has had with itself. When the league started, many teams played in cavernous football stadiums with  owners who had other team in other sports and treated their soccer clubs  like unloved stepchildren.

That era is long over. The most successful teams in MLS are now owned by individuals who are dedicated to soccer and dedicated to their club. Teams play in soccer specific stadiums and are increasingly looking to moving into the downtown core. To reflect this, in 2015, MLS will inaugurate a new logo and enter into the era of MLS NEXT. The badge features three stars, representing the pillars of the league. They are “For Club”, “For Country”, and “For Community”.

Minnesota United FC represents the very best of all three values. It is an ambitious club with a proven commitment to winning and providing a top class product on and off the field. It is a club that has become the first lower division team in a decade to produce a USMNT player. And it is a club that shares an unbreakable bond with the soccer community in this state that has supported it through thick and thin. United was born out of the ashes of the Thunder bankruptcy, survived a lack of money, and was saved at the last possible moment by a local ownership. It has a beautiful brand that is taking root in the state and is envied by fans across the world.

Because of this, the team has been embraced by the soccer community in this state. While we welcome the interest from MLS in Minnesota, we already have a professional soccer team, and it is Minnesota United FC. This is a club that has won the support of the fans, and deserves the support of MLS as well. To cast aside the support that already exists here in favor of an entity that does not currently exist would be senseless.

In the Vikings we see the shadows of MLS’ past. The ownership are not from Minnesota and the organization has an NFL team that will be their primary focus. The team would play in the billion dollar Downtown East Stadium, which has been designed with soccer as an afterthought. The stadium would use tarp coverings to reduce the capacity, but this is merely a Potemkin village . Meanwhile, the nature of the playing surface would hurt the ability for a Vikings-owned MLS team to put out a quality product. Many world class players are adverse to playing on football turf, and the too-small dimensions of the field would hurt the ability of teams to play open, attacking soccer.

We are simply not confident that the Vikings understand or care enough about the game we love. In 2012, the Vikings organization had the opportunity to save the Minnesota Stars for a pittance. Instead, they left the team for dead. This rejection is still raw. It is remarkably arrogant  to attempt to woo the Minnesota soccer community after spurning it just two years earlier.

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It may seem redundant or cringingly obvious that a blog that writes about Minnesota United FC would  come out in public support of that team.  But we and our readers have been through many rebrands and resets. It is not loyalty to any one owner, coach, or color scheme that unites us. It is our love of the game and our love of our history, and our love of what we have built here, hand in hand, with our clubs.

We believe that MLS should select Minnesota United FC for expansion based on business reasons alone. But that is not the heart that beats at the center of our argument.

What has been built in Minnesota is not just the work of Dr. McGuire, or Nick Rogers, or Buzz and Manny Lagos. It is the work of all of us. Minnesota United FC represents our community and our history. It is our team, by virtue of being here.

We urge MLS to join us and become a part of that community and that history as well.

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