WCCO MINNEAPOLIS – Major League Soccer is coming to Minnesota. The league made it official on Wednesday at Target Field when they announced that the Minnesota United FC team would play in the league starting in 2018.
It’s the news die-hard soccer fans here have been waiting years for. So what exactly happened today? People in the Twin Cities know their soccer, but might not know a lot about Major League Soccer. It’s the top-tier of the game in the U.S., and now it’s coming to Minneapolis.
The game features high-end talent and there was some fanfare at Target Field Wednesday to kick it off. Soccer star Landon Donovan was at the event, and it was kicked off with passion. It was all part of a pep fest to bring an energy for a team and the league.
“When 60,000 people turn out in Orlando for the opening game of the Orlando city franchise, which they did this last weekend, when 43,000 people last weekend go to Yankee stadium to go see the New York expansion franchise play,” Chris Wright with the Timberwolves said.
They are banking on the World Cup helping to have captured the imagination of what can be, and that the talent will stand out even to the novice.
“You’re going to see soccer at a much higher level with players that are world class. We have some of the best young American players in the world playing right here in our league,” MLS President Don Garber said.
It is inspiration for the soccer community. The players for the area’s current highest-level, the Minnesota United have incentive to make it.
And they hope the wave of kids who play soccer now have major league role models.
“This is going to be great for the kids growing up. I think that’s how everybody playing for the team now kind of started,” Tony Sanneh said. “You’re aspiring to be a professional player and watching your idols growing up, so obviously this will be more exposure for the team and it’s great for the kids.”
Garber said that the Minnesota United club would be a good fit for the league because of its dedicated ownership group, passionate fans and Minneapolis’ growing millennial population.
“[The city] is diverse, it’s young, and it’s empowered by people who will be the next generation of sports fans,” Garber said.
Today was the first step for an ownerhsip group to say it will happen and for a soccer community to sing.
Bill McGuire, Glen Taylor of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Pohlad’s with the Minnesota Twins are the primary owners. For some perspective on the sport, the highest-paid players earn about $6 million to $7 million a year, and an ideal stadium seats about 20,000 fans. During the celebratory press conference at Target Field, Garber said that the ownership group is “totally committed” to building a new stadium.
While officials didn’t mention how the project will be funded, they did say the stadium was a key element for the bid to play in MLS.
Officials say the stadium is expected to cost around $150 million and it would be located near the Minneapolis Farmers Market, just west of Target Field.
The new team’s owners say they are working to finalize a plan for the stadium by July 1. While it’s not yet clear if the team’s ownership will ask for public money, politicians do not appear eager to have taxpayers fund part of another downtown stadium.
In 2012, lawmakers passed a bill to help finance a nearly $1 billion stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. That stadium is currently under construction on the site where the Metrodome used to stand.