The road to the North American Soccer League finals starts Saturday night for Minnesota United FC, and it could end as early as the Fourth of July this season.
Rather than a traditional postseason of playoffs, the NASL has split its schedule into halves this year. The winner of each half will meet for the league title in the Soccer Bowl in November.
Minnesota United, which opens against San Antonio at 7 p.m. at the Metrodome, completes the first half on July 4, its first home game at the National Sports Center in Blaine. The team will play its first five home games at the Metrodome.
If one team wins both seasons, it will play the team with the second-most points during the full season.
The team, formerly called Minnesota Stars FC, won the league title in 2011 and finished runner-up last year.
Minnesota United, under new owner Bill McGuire, has acquired two former league MVPs — Eitenne Barbara and Pablo Campos — and picked up top goaltender Daryl Sattler.
Hill-Murray job filled
Hill-Murray has hired Tony Danna as its new head football coach. Danna, 24, is a 2007 graduate of the school and was a Division III All-America linebacker at the University of St. Thomas in 2011. He was the Pioneers’ defensive coordinator last season.
Danna is the Pioneers’ fourth football coach in four years. He replaces Mark Mauer, who was at Hill-Murray for one year but resigned in February after being arrested in a prostitution sting in Fridley.
Alt leaving Gophers
• Defenseman Mark Alt of the Gophers has agreed to a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, a source confirmed. He is the fourth junior to turn pro. His rights were traded to the Flyers in January by Carolina, which drafted him in the second round in 2010. The 6-3, 205-pound Alt had seven assists this season.
• Senior defenseman Seth Helgeson has signed an amateur tryout contract with Albany of the American Hockey League.
• San Jose has signed Minnesota State Mankato winger Eriah Hayes to an entry-level contract. Hayes, a free agent, was named to the all-WCHA third team and is from La Crescent, Minn.
• Michigan won the team title in the Big Ten men’s gymnastics meet on Friday at the Sports Pavilion with a score of 438.900. Two Wolverines finished 1-2 in the all-around competition: Sam Mikulak (89.850) and Adrian de los Angeles (87.350). The Gophers were third as a team (430.350).
• The Gophers’ men’s tennis team beat Penn State 5-2 in University Park, Pa. Rok Bonin won 6-3, 7-5 at first singles and at second doubles. … In Minneapolis, the Minnesota women’s team beat the Nittany Lions 4-3. Natallia Pintusava won 7-5, 6-1 at first singles.
• The Gophers’ women’s golf team was 11th out of 18 teams in the Rebel Intercollegiate tournament in Oxford, Miss. Minnesota had a first-round team total of 15-over-par 303.