Don Garber: MLS has ‘total belief’ in latest expansion franchise Minnesota United FC

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber strongly believes that the latest expansion franchise to be revealed, Minnesota United FC, will succeed as they represent everything that is spurring the growth of MLS.

Minnesota United FC were officially announced as the league’s 23rd expansion franchise on Wednesday afternoon and will enter the league by 2018 at the latest.

It’s a fascinating turnaround of fortunes for Minnesota United, who currently play in the NASL, as the club almost ceased from existence two years ago.

Uncertainty had surrounded soccer in Minnesota for years and after changing team names, league’s and ownership several times, Dr. Bill McGuire came in to save the club in November 2012.

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“[The owners] are totally committed,” Garber said at Wednesday’s expansion announcement from Target Field. “They love this game, they love this city and they’ve got a great plan for a building.

“They represent exactly what we want and what we need to continue this momentum that we have, that’s really stimulating the growth of our league.”

Don’t Miss: EXCLUSIVE: Minnesota United’s ‘Dark Clouds’ on MLS dream

Garber and the people at the top of the MLS pyramid chose Minnesota as the 23rd expansion franchise despite solid bids from Sacramento Republic, Las Vegas and a second one from Minnesota headed by the NFL’s Vikings ownership.

And the decision to award the latest MLS expansion slot to Minnesota United FC is something the MLS Commissioner thinks will go down as a great one.

“We have total belief in the Twin Cities. This is a market that is young, that is diverse, that has more people riding their bicycles around than they do in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn is a pretty hip place.

“It has an incredible international flair too. It is a city that represents all of the things that we have been able to capitalize on that are allowing our league to be a sport for a new America. It’s diverse, it’s young and it is empowered by people who are the next generation of great sports fans.”

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United are set to enter MLS in time for the start of the 2018 season but could come in a year earlier, depending on developments with LAFC and their stadium plans, though Garber admitted that the date of entry had nothing to do with David Beckham’s proposed Miami franchise.

“It could be as early as 2017. We have a number of moving pieces. That’s part of the dynamic with a young sports league. The target is no later than ‘18 and it could be as early as 2017.

“Los Angeles is coming into our league and they are either ’17 or ’18 and Minnesota will be either ’17 or ’18. It’s not related to Miami.”

Will Minnesota United FC take MLS by storm when they enter the league in the next three years?

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EXCLUSIVE: Minnesota United’s ‘Dark Clouds’ on MLS dream

Minnesota United FC are set to become the latest Major League Soccer expansion franchise when MLS Commissioner Don Garber and United owner Dr. Bill McGuire make the announcement on Wednesday afternoon, and that means another set of passionate supporters are set to enter the league too.

Minnesota United’s largest and oldest supporters group is the Dark Clouds and they have followed the team through thick and thin since they were formed in 2004. They are delighted that the club is finally on its way into MLS and cannot wait for the next era.

“It’s hard not to see the place in MLS as vital,” the Dark Clouds’ President Jim Oliver told MLSGB’s Louis East. “Minnesota’s had second division soccer for going on 26 years now, so we’ve had a team to support for a long time and have managed to survive through lean economic times and fraudsters for owners.
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“Despite that long history though, the competition for getting the rights to the MLS franchise in Minnesota might have put another club in United’s geographic area, which would have spelled doom for our club. That’s why it was so important for United to go for the MLS spot, and why we’re so pleased that our owner Dr. McGuire and his partners were willing to make the commitment.”

Some members of the Dark Clouds have been waiting for as long as two decades for their MLS dream to come true so the fact that United are set to become the league’s 23rd club is certainly something they’ve earned.

“MLS has been around for 20 years, so there’s definitely some among us who’ve been waiting that long,” Oliver added.

“Honestly we’ve been happy to support a lower-division club since the founding of the Dark Clouds 12 years ago, but nobody can say that you don’t dream of the quality players, stadiums and competition that the top flight provides.

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“For the Dark Clouds, we’re excited about all the attention MLS will bring and how it’ll help us to expand the charitable work that our group does. We’ve supported local soccer-related causes for years, and it’ll be great to hopefully turn that trickle of volunteerism and cash donation into a flood.”

Minnesota United’s official website claims: “We are industrious and built around the idea that hard work yields the greatest rewards. We are strong and getting stronger. We are United.”

More of those rewards are just around the corner now. An MLS franchise could enter the league within the next three years and United fans will hope to dominate in the top flight the same way they have done in the NASL over the past four years.

The NASL started it’s second chapter in 2011, and Minnesota United won the championship at the end of that first season. United then won the NASL Spring Championship last season and will look to enter MLS in style by continuing to dominate the second-tier of US Soccer until then.

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

“We’re expecting big things from United,” Oliver continued. “The ownership group has show a commitment to really raise the level even in the second division, bringing in great players and staff and systems that kept us firmly on top of the table last year.”

“There’s no other second division club in this country that commits resources to things like preseason tours (England last year and Brazil this year) and signings on the level we’ve seen from United in recent years. Dr. McGuire wants a dominant side and he’s done what it takes to build one. We can’t wait to see that in MLS.”

Are you looking forward to seeing Minnesota United enter MLS as the latest expansion franchise?

Minnesota United FC to seal next MLS expansion spot on Wednesday

Major League Soccer is set to announce Minnesota United FC as the league’s next expansion franchise on Wednesday afternoon as MLS will “make an important announcement on the future of soccer in Minnesota” at Target Field.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Minnesota United owner Dr. Bill McGuire will make the announcement at noon ET (16:00 GMT) on Wednesday as the Twin Cities are set to host the league’s 23rd team. The event will be streamed live on MLSSoccer.com.

The league confirmed that it was in discussion with Minnesota United about a possible expansion franchise last week and it is thought that the city’s plans for a downtown, open-air, soccer-specific stadium were key in their successful bid.

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“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,” the club said in a statement on their website last week.

United currently play in the North American Soccer League and play in front of around 8,500 fans at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

They took on Swansea City in Blaine last summer and beat the Premier League side 2-0 on their preseason tour.

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USMNT midfielder Miguel Ibarra and Northern Ireland international Jonny Steele both play for United and are two names that many will recognise.

It is unclear as to when they will enter the league at this point, though that should be confirmed in Wednesday’s announcement.

Atlanta FC are set to enter MLS in 2017, while Los Angeles FC are also expected to join the same year though that depends on their progress towards a new stadium.

David Beckham’s Miami franchise is still fighting for a slot, along with Sacramento Republic and those two look set to battle for the 24th slot, though the league is getting prepared to expand beyond 24 teams in the coming years.

What do you make of Minnesota United FC being announced as Major League Soccer’s next expansion franchise?

MLS to listen to three expansion projects tomorrow

Major League Soccer will meet with three MLS expansion candidates on Thursday as MLS Commissioner Don Garber looks to meet his target of 24 teams by the end of the decade.

Sacramento, Las Vegas and Minneapolis representatives will all present their cases to the league office in New York but no firm decisions will be made until after December 6 – at the MLS Board of Governors meeting.

MLS has grown rapidly in recent years and the rate of expansion across the country is showing no signs of slowing down.

New York City FC and Orlando City SC enter the league next season, while Atlanta and Los Angeles FC are set to join in 2017.

David Beckham’s Miami franchise is still hoping to join MLS but problems with stadium plans and other issues are stalling progress.

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Without Miami, the league will have 22 teams in 2017, and two more are expected by 2020.

Three more markets will look to join the rapidly growing league when they present their cases at MLS headquarters tomorrow.

Sacramento has a big support base for soccer and they are already used to filling a soccer specific stadium with over 11,000 fans in USL Pro.

Minnesota is another area with a strong soccer support base but two separate groups will present their cases for an MLS side.

One group owns the current NASL team Minnesota United, while the other owns NFL side Minnesota Vikings and perhaps importantly the new 65,000-seater stadium they are set to move into in 2016.

The third expansion hopeful is Las Vegas but there is so much doubt surrounding the project on the west coast that it is unlikely they will be implemented by the end of the decade.

The city does not currently have a soccer team so it is difficult to know how much people would take to it, and an MLS franchise would have to compete with so many other entertainment outlets.

Major League Soccer looks certain to have at least 24 teams by 2020 and tomorrow’s meeting in New York could set the ball rolling for at least one more MLS franchise.

Who do you think has the strongest case for an MLS expansion franchise?