Minnesota United to be granted MLS expansion slot on Wednesday
Minnesota United will be confirmed as the next MLS expansion team during a Wednesday news conference at Target Field.
Supporters of the NASL club were informed via email early Monday morning. Later, MLS put out an announcement confirming that commissioner Don Garber and United owner Dr. Bill McGuire would be appearing Wednesday to make an “important announcement on the future of soccer in Minnesota.”
SI.com reported on March 13 that United was the league’s choice.
United—which traces its lineage back through several leagues to the early 1990s—beat out the Minnesota Vikings in the race to run an MLS club in the Twin Cities, which anchor the country’s 15th-largest media market. The Vikings had hoped to field a team inside their $1 billion domed stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2016. The NFL franchise’s intentions forced United, which now plays in the second-tier NASL, to pursue an MLS spot as well.
United’s bid gathered steam last fall when McGuire, whose wealth stems from his time at the helm of healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group, partnered with Minnesota Twins owner Jim Pohlad and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor (news broken by SI.com in October). Later, they were joined by Dr. Glen Nelson, a member of the Carlson family whose privately-held hotel and hospitality company brought in $4.4 billion in 2013, according to Forbes.
The key to United’s bid was its intention to build a downtown, open-air, soccer-specific stadium. The group has access to a piece of property adjacent to the Minneapolis Farmers Market, just a couple blocks from Target Field. It’s unknown whether the club will be able to forge a public-private partnership that might help fund the project. Some $500 million in state and city contributions went toward the Vikings stadium. Meanwhile, Hennepin County board of commissioners chairman Mike Opat has publicly supported United’s MLS bid. Either way, it’s extremely unlikely MLS would have committed to United unless construction of the venue was close to guaranteed. The league and McGuire executed a Letter of Intent several weeks ago.
Minnesota website Northern Pitch reported that United’s stadium and the infrastructure improvements required to build it will cost around $180 million.
MLS’ expansion timeline is in flux. Atlanta remains on schedule to start in 2017 while Los Angeles FC’s entry date likely depends on its progress toward a new stadium. LAFC currently is targeting the site of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, which is next to the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. United could potentially enter MLS in 2017 if LAFC isn’t ready by then, assuming it has the option to start the season in a temporary home. United currently plays at the 8,500-seat National Sports Center in suburban Blaine. If 2017 proves too soon for United, a 2018 entry date is likely.
MLS has committed to adding one more team, a 24th, after United. That race appears to be down to Miami and Sacramento and hinges on whether the former can reach a stadium agreement with potential owners David Beckham, Simon Fuller and Marcelo Claure. Last week, Garber confirmed that MLS this year will “evaluate potential expansion beyond 24 clubs.”