MLS announces Minnesota United FC will join league for 2017 season
Major League Soccer has announced that Minnesota United FC will begin play in the league in 2017.
The current North American Soccer League club will keep its name and its loon logo when it moves to MLS alongside Atlanta United as two expansion franchises beginning play next season.
Plans for a new stadium are still being finalised with the St. Paul City Council, as well as the Minnesota state legislature, so the team will play the 2017 season at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium.
The two additional teams will take the total number of clubs in MLS to 22. Commissioner Don Garber was on hand for the presentation of the team to officially welcome them to the league.
"We are proud to officially announce that Minnesota United FC will join Major League Soccer in 2017," Garber said. "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 are key indicators that this will be a very successful MLS market."
Former UnitedHealth CEO Bill McGuire rescued Minnesota United with his purchase of the financially struggling franchise in 2013. MLS last year formally awarded the expansion franchise to McGuire and his group of investors.
Beginning with the popular Kicks in the late 1970s, then to the Thunder and the Stars and now United, Minnesota has had several iterations of professional soccer. With growing immigrant populations and an increasing segment of adults ages 18-34, the Twin Cities market has key MLS demographics covered.
McGuire and his partners have pledged to pay the entire bill for a 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium that's expected to cost about $150 million. But they're seeking a still-unapproved property tax exemption from the state for the St. Paul site, an abandoned Metro Transit bus barn in the Midway neighborhood.
Appearing at the same news conference, Gov. Mark Dayton pledged to keep pushing for that tax break when the Legislature reconvenes next year.
The MLS board of governors has expressed support of expansion up to 28 clubs, with a 24-team league by 2020. Twenty clubs are playing this season, with franchises in Atlanta and Los Angeles also set to join in 2017. Miami is in line to be the 24th team, if the David Beckham-backed group can complete plans for a new stadium there.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.