The battle for Minnesota

The battle for Minnesota

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 1, 2014
  • Minnesota Expansion

One thing is perfectly clear in the MLS expansion race – we have some serious fights on our hands.

The biggest fight of them all may be in Minnesota with two groups vying for the attention of Major League Soccer. Both groups will go center stage this weekend as TCF Bank Stadium will be hosting a big double-header to show off what the Twin Cities are all about.

We’ve discussed the groups before but for those new to this Minnesota to MLS discussion, I’ll lay them out once more for you.

In one corner, we have a group led by the Wilf family that owns the Vikings. This group is helping stage a match between powerhouses Manchester City and Olympiakos in the Guinness International Champions Cup.

In the other corner, led by former UnitedHealth executive William McGuire, who owns the existing Minnesota United franchise in the NASL. Following the big Manchester City-Olympiakos match in the ICC, the NASL side will take the field against Ottawa in hopes to break a NASL attendance record.

I’ve been told some MLS officials will be on hand to meet with both groups this weekend. Needless to say this will be a battle royal type affair but a friendly one as well. Both sides have their fans that want to see a MLS team in their market but at the end of the day MLS will go with what works best for them like we’ve seen in other markets.

More details on stadiums

I wasn’t aware of this detail until reading this piece in the Star Tribune this morning. The NFL’s Vikings stadium would be constructed in a way that allows a MLS team to cover up the upper deck of the venue, similar to what we see in Vancouver and what we will get in Atlanta.

Architects are also fine-tuning plans to cover the upper bowl during soccer matches, giving the stadium a capacity of 20,000-25,000. The Vikings have shown those preliminary designs to MLS officials and local leaders, and they plan to unveil the finished product to the public this fall at their stadium preview center.

“Given our circumstances, we think we can make this stadium exciting and a great gameday experience for fans,” Bagley said.

Ah yes, an intimate gameday experience that we’ve seen work out well in Vancouver. I still have my questions about other markets making this type of thing work. Then again, the early MLS fan in me is just hesitant about teams playing in NFL venues again full-time. We know the good that can come in it like with Seattle but we also know the bad in it with New England.

On the opposite end, the NASL team’s venue would be far more suited for what MLS currently has for the majority of their teams. A smaller, open-air venue in a downtown setting.

That’s the type of facility the McGuire-backed United group is pushing to build. Though United officials won’t acknowledge that they have renderings for a downtown Minneapolis stadium near the Farmers Market, the Star Tribune has spoken to people who have viewed the plans. It would be an open-air stadium with views of the Minneapolis skyline, similar to Target Field.

The United group would need to have a stadium plan in place before proceeding with a formal bid on an MLS franchise, and that is their biggest hurdle. They are working behind the scenes with multiple partners, though no formal deals have been announced.

My gut still feels like the United group is the group for MLS to roll with in terms of stadiums as long as they can get it built. Thankfully most MLS stadiums have been far cheaper to build compare to other stadiums like the one the Vikings are building ($1 billion).