MLS in 'advanced discussions' with Minnesota United over expansion
MLS announced Monday that it is in "advanced discussions" with NASL club Minnesota United FC regarding league expansion and that the league won't necessarily be capped at 24 clubs. SI.com's Brian Straus reported Friday that the league is set to accept the club's expansion bid, according to various sources.
“We are in advanced discussions with Bill McGuire and his partners in Minnesota to bring a Major League Soccer expansion club to the Twin Cities and are particularly excited about their plans for a new soccer-specific stadium that will serve as the club’s home. We remain on track to announce the next MLS expansion market in the next 30-45 days, though no specific date for an announcement has been set," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Over the course of 2015, we plan to evaluate potential expansion beyond 24 clubs.”
Minnesota United and the NFL's Minnesota Vikings were both vying for expansion teams in the North Star State, and Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf offered the following statement in light of Monday's development:
"We have been informed by Major League Soccer of its plans to pursue an outdoor stadium in Minneapolis. We have been very excited about the possibility of bringing an MLS team to Minnesota fans and deeply committed to providing a phenomenal stadium experience. We offered MLS an ideal situation - a stadium that is certain and will be completed in 2016, a plan that was funded by the public and private sectors to host MLS, and an option that will not require additional government approvals. The new multi-purpose stadium also would have accommodated the length of the MLS season and the growth of the sport in this market.
"At the same time, we commend MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott for their continued success in building the MLS brand, and, most importantly, we are pleased to see they believe in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market."
Minnesota United, which will commence its 2015 NASL season in a couple of weeks, said the following:
"As announced by Major League Soccer, we are in discussions with the league and remain hopeful that they will award an expansion team to Minnesota," United said in a release. "As you may be aware, MLS executives have stated their plan is to announce the next expansion market in the next 30-45 days. MLS leadership is well aware that the passionate soccer fans in Minnesota combined with a world-class, soccer-specific stadium make the Twin Cities and our state a perfect home for the next MLS expansion team."
USL club Sacramento Republic FC has also made a strong play for an MLS franchise, but with Minnesota occupying the league's 23rd slot–Atlanta and Chivas USA's replacement in Los Angeles are slated to be teams 21 and 22 in 2017–and David Beckham's project in Miami slotted for the 24th pending a soccer-specific stadium, that would leave the defending USL champions waiting for the next round of expansion.
That MLS is evaluating expansion beyond 24 teams would keep Sacramento's hope for a successful bid alive for the future.
“Expansion continues to be a priority for Major League Soccer," Garber said. "We have all witnessed the resounding success that Orlando City SC and New York City FC have experienced as their expansion clubs debuted to record crowds at the start of the 2015 season.
“During the past several months, we have conducted expansion meetings with representatives from Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Sacramento and visited all three markets. We have also met with representatives from San Antonio and St. Louis. We recently announced that Las Vegas is no longer being considered for this round of expansion.”
MLS's 2015 expansion teams, Orlando City SC and New York City FC are both 1-0-1 through their first two games–the teams drew against one another in the season opener–and the combined attendance of the teams' home openers was over 100,000.