The heavyweights are positioning for a bid on a Minnesota MLS franchise, and the two sides are anchored by the two leading players in the Twin Cities sports economy: the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins.
We’ve already reported on the Minnesota Vikings’ interest in landing an MLS franchise during the next round of expansion, with a team potentially playing in the team’s new stadium, scheduled to open in 2016 as a replacement for the Metrodome. The Vikings have teamed up with Relevent Sports, a promoter of European friendlies in the United States, on a potential bid. Adding an MLS franchise would turn the new stadium into a true multiuse facility: college and high-school baseball will be played there during the winter and spring as well.
Now we’ve learned about the details of the other side seeking a Minnesota MLS franchise, already associated with the NASL’s Minnesota United FC. Bill McGuire, the former UnitedHealth head honcho whose walked away with an impressive severance package from the heath-care giant in 2006, has owned Minnesota United FC for a few years. He’s been talking with the Minnesota Twins and the Pohlad-owned real-estate investment firm United Properties about a new stadium near Target Field and the Minnesota Farmers Market. This area off downtown Minneapolis is currently made up of light industrial and smaller warehouses, as well as surface parking. Besides Target Field, United Properties has real-estate investments in the area, including the Ford Center.
With the area already well-served by light rail — the three major lines in the Twin Cities already converge at the Target Field Station area — the area would seem to be a natural for a pro-soccer venue.
If a deal can be struck with the city, it would appear the Twins and Minnesota United FC would best appear to fit the criteria set forth by MLS when it comes to expansion franchises: downtown, 25,000-seat facilities backed by a solid ownership group are preferred. The goal, according to MLS officials, is to expand to 24 teams by 2020, from the current 19-team lineup. Orlando and New York City are entering the league next season, and Atlanta has been awarded an expansion franchise as well. Miami has been prominently mentioned as an expansion market, but with the Miami MLS stadium bid losing steam, it would appear two slots could be open for future expansion.
And even if MLS doesn’t end up expanding to the Twin Cities, a new NASL soccer facility in the same location would look to be a prudent investment. Right now Minnesota United FC plays at Blaine’s National Sports Center, located in the northern suburbs. A more centrally located urban stadium would fit into a NASL business plan as well.