Bright Future In Minnesota After Complex History
As our series of articles looking at the game across the pond continues, TEB focuses on Minneapolis, Minnesota which is one of, if not, the best place to live in the United States.
It has also had football on and off since the seventies. Unlike most parts of the States, it has mostly been on.
From the early days in the old North America Soccer League (the one where Trevor Francis, Johan Cruyff, and George Best played) of the Minnesota Kicks, to the Minnesota Thunder, to Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United, there has always been a culture of the sport in the State.
This is Minnesota United‘s story.
They started out their existence in 1990 as Minnesota Thunder, in the old Second Division of whatever the football pyramid in the United States inhabited, which at the time was the old United Soccer League (USL). This era of the club went to six USL finals, and won the league in 1999. Ten years later, playing at the National Sports Center, the club would be no more after going through financial difficulties they were forced to disbanded. They were replaced by the National Sports Center Minnesota Stars, who were put into the new North American Soccer League (NASL).
The first match is to the club that became the Vancouver Whitecaps. In the US, the Whitecaps club that was in the first NASL, the new NASL, and the MLS are different clubs. The last two Whitecaps are technically the same club, but MLS owns the clubs, so any trace to the lower league sides that they were cannot exist because MLS is the ruler of the sport in the country. They know all.
By 2011, the NSC part was dropped by the club, and they were owned by the league (NASL) that lasted for a bit until the MLS bid came around. They were then bought by a group headed up by Dr Bill McGuire, and owners of the other major clubs in Minneapolis.
When the MLS gave them the bid for the twenty second, it was the first time they had put a club in the upper midwest since the Chicago Fire were introduced in 1998. The Chicago Fire are also the best expansion club of all time, winning the double (US Open Cup, and MLS Cup) in their first year of existence. Minnesota would have a lot to live up to with that.
During the same time they were getting the bid together for the MLS club. They secured a site for their own stadium in the old rail yards of St Paul, a local town not too far from Minneapolis. For the time being the club play their matches on the University of Minnesota’s home American Football field of TCF Bank. The actual stadium will be finished in time for next season.
In their first year, United finished like a normal expansion side would, in 19th place overall and 9th in the West. They were able to get another one of their players, Christian Ramirez, into the US National team. That was a big help for a nation that missed out on this summer’s World Cup historically, and are now looking to build for the future.
Minnesota is managed by former Everton Striker Adrian Heath. This is not Heath’s first time as a manager in the MLS, or with an expansion side. His previous stop was with Orlando City when they came up in 2014, and he was there until the middle of 2016. Hopefully, he can right the ship with Minnesota and get them going.
They have a great supporter group, the Dark Clouds. They are there at all matches, and do a number of charitable things around the area. They have branches of the club that are politically active, and are for different interests. Plus, they have great scarves which I am partial to.