MLS make Minneapolis Visit in September

by Brian Quarstad on October 8, 2014

MLS4MN learned from Sports that Major League Soccer’s commissioner Don Garber and President & Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott, visited Minneapolis in late September. Another source close to the situation told MLS4MN that MLS executives met with both Minnesota United FC and the Minnesota Vikings regarding the possibility of an expansion team in the Twin Cities.

The Vikings have previously stated interest in an MLS franchise to play in their new stadium which is currently being constructed and slated to be ready for the beginning of the 2016 NFL season.

Vikings vice president of public affairs Lester Bagley, talked to MLS4MN and confirmed the visit but stated that he didn’t think that the MLS executives visit was particularly newsworthy other then the fact that the league see’s the Twin Cities as a strong market.

“They are evaluating Minnesota compared to other markets,” said Bagley. “They are making the rounds. So we are providing due diligence of what MLS would look like in our new stadium. And those discussions will certainly heat up over the next period of time.”

Bagley said the MLS executives toured their new stadium construction site and were shown architectural renderings of their “house reduction system” – a plan that other teams like Seattle have used and expansion team Atlanta, plans to use. The systems usually use decorated tarps and drapes to reduce the look of a large 60,000 seat stadium to a more intimate MLS sized facility that would seat 20,000.

“It has to be functional and operational as well said Bagley. “It also needs to be costed out. That’s kind of where we are at right now. Making sure the design matches up to the operational needs – that it’s functional.”

He said the house reduction plan has gone through several different iterations that MLS has been involved in. Highlights of the stadium and how it’s designed to be soccer specific were also presented to the MLS executives. “We think it will be ideal for MLS but that ultimately is up to them, where they expand, when and with whom,” said Bagley. He believes they will have a final plan for the house reduction system in the next 30 to 60 days.

After going to the MLS All-Star game this summer, Bagley said the Vikings have continued to talk to other parties in the league and to MLS executives as well.

Minnesota United FC, owned by Dr. Bill McGuire and run by president Nick Rogers, has been extremly careful not to tip their hat if they have a definite interest in MLS. It has been widely speculated that McGuire would partner with the Pohlad family who own the Minnesota Twins and United Property development corporation, and possible other partners, to build a soccer specific stadium in downtown Minneapolis in the North Loop area, close to both the Twins Target Field and the Minneapolis Farmers Market site. The North Loop, has seen a tremendous housing boom recently and United Properties, who helped to create the new transit center near Target Field, home of the Twins, have discussed more development in that area.

McGuire and Rogers have been cautious not to speak publicly about a move from their current league, the NASL (North American Soccer League) –which plays at the 2nd division level of US soccer– to MLS which is 1st division. However, both have been quite open with fans of the team on building a soccer specific stadium. They have discussed the possibility of moving the Loons out of Blaine, MN., where they currently play at the National Sports Center’s Stadium, to a more central location in the Twin Cities. In those conversations a second site has been mentioned – the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN and on the light rail line that connects to downtown Minneapolis.

Rogers once tweeted that he thought it was in bad taste to participate in one league while talking about moving to another league. He recently stated that the organization is always open to business opportunities and would explore all possibilities. MLS commissioner Garber has acknowledged meetings with Minnesota United.

Rogers declined to comment for this story.

With the Wilf’s push to win an MLS franchise the pressure is mounting on United to announce their intent for a stadium and a plan to get it accomplished. Sources close to the situation are saying they believe McGuire is waiting until after this falls elections before pushing out his plan but say his group has  been quietly working behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, the Vikings are heading towards a dilemma as they continue the rapid construction of their new stadium. There will need to be mechanical parts built into the current plans to accommodate that house reduction system. The problem is, the Vikings have no idea if they will actually get an MLS franchise. Yet, they will need to make an investment into the stadium infrastructure to accommodate that system before that decision is actually made by MLS.

“We’ve got about 20 months from having the stadium open. So we are at the point in construction were we have to factor this element in. We will be at the point soon on whether to invest or not. We are not there yet,” said Bagley.

Edited 12:40 p.m.

In the Sports Illustrated story also posted today, Brian Straus claims that McGuire and Minnesota United are now looking at partnering not only with Jim Pohlad but also with Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and possibly an investor in English Championship club Derby County. If true, it’s a partnership that would cary much clout.

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The Silence

by Joe Leyba on September 30, 2014

There has been a lot of MLS expansion talk in the news lately.  Sacramento is on fire.  Las Vegas is trying to push through a new soccer stadium.  And Minnesota, despite sending two different ownership groups to Portland for the MLS All-Star Game, has had little news to offer on the expansion front.

One piece of news that has come out over the past two months is the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority amended a usage agreement with the Vikings for their new stadium. The MSFA will charge the Vikings $20,000 for every MLS home game if it secures a soccer franchise in the new stadium. The MSFA would generate an estimated $340,000 annually in the agreement. The Vikings would handle all game-day expenses.

Minnesota United are letting their actions do the talking, clinching a NASL playoff spot and being in the driver’s seat to host the Soccer Bowl.   They’ve even made national news recently with Miguel Ibarra getting a potential US national team call-up.

So why is Minnesota so quiet when everybody else is making so much noise about expansion?  Is it because both MN organizations want to get it right before going public with their bid?  Did MLS tell the Vikings to take a low profile while the Peterson incident is going on?  Is MN United waiting until after Election Day to announce a new stadium?  Does a Minnesota owner now own Chivas USA?  The internet is entertaining because you can speculate – unfortunately that doesn’t really get us anywhere.  Until we hear some real news all we can do is watch some quality soccer and wait.