Planning is underway for TCF Bank Stadium to be Minnesota United FC’s home for the 2017 soccer season while the club waits for its newly approved soccer stadium to be built.
The home of the Gophers’ football program would play host to Minnesota’s first season of Major League Soccer (MLS), likely to begin next March. The university has been in talks with United officials about parameters for using the stadium, including how to handle scheduling when Gopher football overlaps the soccer season.
The stadium’s turf field is not preferred. But the longer and wider field are better suited for the team’s personnel and playing style, a source with knowledge of the situation said.
Soccer matches would not be scheduled on Sundays after Gopher home games on Saturdays in the fall, according to another official close to the discussions. There also could be soccer restrictions during spring football practice.
In May, the university installed new FieldTurf but without football yard lines. It purposely kept the permanent design of the new turf less sport-specific, so it would be easier to host other events such as soccer games.
A soccer doubleheader was played in 2014 at the stadium. Minnesota played Ottawa, followed by Greek club Olympiakos against Manchester City of the English Premier League. Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City, made pessimistic remarks about TCF’s sod-over-turf pitch at the time.
Minnesota will play host to Club Leon in a friendly match June 25 at Target Field, the first soccer match held at the Twins stadium. The match likely will not factor into a decision about where the team plays in 2017.
The Loons are awaiting Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature on newly passed legislation that clears the way for a 21,500-seat stadium in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. Lawmakers agreed to a property tax exemption for the land where the team wants to build the stadium and approved a liquor license for it. The team also sought — but did not get — a sales tax exemption on construction materials.
The team would begin playing there in 2018. Stadium approval likely triggers MLS officials to announce the club’s start date. Minnesota United President Nick Rogers has said the team hopes to start MLS play in 2017, which means finding a temporary home stadium for that season.
MLS officials have visited both TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field, which boast ready-made infrastructure and significantly more seating than United’s current home field at the National Sports Center in Blaine. An MLS visit to the Twin Cities in January to look at stadiums did not include the National Sports Center.
It has a soccer specific, grass-field facility that has been the home of Minnesota pro soccer since 2008. But its capacity of about 10,000 is less than half of what the new stadium in St. Paul is designed to hold.
Note: Nottingham Forest central midfielder and Scottish youth international player Jack Blake signed with Minnesota United FC.