Major League Soccer today announced the selection of established club Minnesota United FC to be the next expansion club. By choosing the ownership group led by Dr. Bill McGuire, they rejected the bid from the NFL Minnesota Vikings ownership group. This selection says a few things about the direction the league might be taking in the future.
Looking at the recent MLS expansion experiences illustrates why an established club in a small market is the wiser course of action. David Beckham's Miami venture is in doubt due to stadium issues, while Atlanta's future MLS club has seen some criticism for being a secondary tenant in the new Atlanta Falcons' stadium.
Of course, New York City FC's launch this season has seen plenty of controversy in terms their present day stadium, the lack of future stadium plans, and player issues with parent club Manchester City. Large markets like Miami, Atlanta, and New York can all weather these issues to still be successful clubs.
A smaller market like Minneapolis, much like Orlando, is a place where MLS has to get it right the first time. This pick for the next expansion market has to give teams Sacramento Republic and San Antonio Scorpions confidence, as both have similar track records to Minnesota and Orlando with established fan bases and soccer specific stadium plans ready to go. On the other end of the spectrum, the St. Louis bid, with a joint NFL-MLS stadium, might feel more threatened by this selection.
Additionally, expansion in the the upper Midwest helps to fill out another largely underserved region by the league. Much as Orlando City filled that void in the Southeast, a team in Minnesota will be important for both the city of Minneapolis as well as the surrounding region.
It's good to see an established supporter culture and club be rewarded with a team in the top flight and MLS will be a better league with Minnesota United FC in it.
Getting To Know Minnesota United FC
Formerly the Minnesota Stars, the club was established in 2010. Right now, the Loons play in the second tier NASL, where they were champions in 2011. The club's major rivals are FC Edmonton, with whom they compete for the Flyover Cup.
There are three recognized supporters groups, Dark Clouds, Wolf's Head, and the Loon's Nest. With expansion into Minneapolis, top tier professional soccer returns to the Twin Cities, as the Minnesota Kicks of the old NASL played there between 1976-1981. The present day Minnesota roster includes Orlando City legend Jamie Watson.
What do you make of this pick for MLS expansion? Where do you think the MLS expansion party goes next?