Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber today announced that Minnesota has been awarded an expansion team that will begin play in 2018. The new team will be owned by a Minnesota ownership group led by Dr. Bill McGuire and will play in a new soccer-specific stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
“We are proud to welcome Minnesota to Major League Soccer,” said Commissioner Garber. “The ownership group’s commitment to soccer and the community, the area’s growing millennial population and the region’s rich tradition of supporting soccer at all levels in Minnesota were key indicators that this was the right market. The passionate soccer fans in Minnesota will soon have a world-class, downtown soccer stadium that will serve as the home for the new MLS team and become a destination for marquee international sports events.”
Led by Minnesota United FC owner Dr. Bill McGuire, the new MLS team’s ownership group is still being finalized and will be comprised of Minnesota investors including Robert Pohlad, Jim Pohlad, Wendy Carlson Nelson and Glen Taylor. McGuire, a physician, philanthropist and former CEO of UnitedHealth Group, has been actively involved in the Minnesota soccer community since purchasing the Minnesota Stars (now United) in November of 2012.
“I want to thank MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league’s owners for helping us bring Major League Soccer to Minnesota,” said McGuire. “As a group of Minnesotans who love this state and have made a commitment to bring this vision to life, this is a momentous day that we’ve all been waiting for.”
The 16th largest market in the United States with nearly four million people, the Twin Cities are headquarters for 19 Fortune 500 companies -- more than any other metropolitan area its size. The area has one of the fastest-growing millennial populations in the country, as the number of young adults increased nearly 25 percent during the past seven years.
“Soccer’s broad appeal and youthful orientation is so strong that to bring the game, at its highest level, to our community is a tremendous opportunity,” said Robert Pohlad, president of the Pohlad Companies and member of the new franchise ownership group. “Our family believes soccer in this part of downtown Minneapolis can also be a catalyst for development. We look forward to being part of the MLS family.”
Dating back to the 1970’s when the Minnesota Kicks regularly drew crowds of more than 40,000 to their games in the old North American Soccer League, Minnesota has a long-standing soccer tradition. Recently, Minnesota United FC won the 2014 NASL full season title, led by U.S. national team regular Miguel Ibarra. The state also is home to more than 70,000 registered youth soccer players.
“As a former collegiate and professional tennis player, I believe whole heartedly in the positive impact sports has on young people’s development, building community and “evening the playing field” so all can join in,” said Wendy Carlson Nelson, Carlson board member, philanthropist and member of the new franchise ownership group. “The opportunity to bring the highest level of soccer to our hometown, to inspire our young people, to draw us together in Civic pride- this is a huge win for Minnesota. We are a diverse community and soccer is the world’s most popular sport, played on every continent – I believe it will bring our “diverse” Minnesota closer together. This gift will flower and impact beyond the field so let’s come together and make it so.”
A key element of the new club's bid was the proposal to build an outdoor stadium that is centrally located in the community and accessible through public transportation. The proposed stadium would be located in The Farmers Market neighborhood on the western sides of Target Field (home of the Minnesota Twins) and immediately adjacent to Interstate 94. The club is working to finalize the plan for the new stadium by July 1.
With the addition of the new MLS team in Minnesota, 13 clubs have joined MLS since 2005, fulfilling an expansion vision that has transformed the landscape of professional soccer across North America.