In the midst of a social media portion of a preseason conference call Tuesday, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber lamented that there were too many questions about potential expansion. At the same time, the commissioner has to know that when a league says it is actively looking to grow, any cities mentioned in the mix will be consumed by the thought.
Minneapolis is firmly in that camp.
On the call, Garber reiterated that Minneapolis is “on the short list” for expansion in a league that wants to grow to 24 teams by 2020. He also did nothing to dispel the notion that there is a divergent path to that expansion here and that the previously presumed front-runners — a group led by the Vikings — might not, in fact, hold that status.
Addressing expansion in general early in the call, Garber did not mention the Vikings. He said, “We’ve had a high level of activity with the current Minnesota United. That’s a strong ownership group, very passionate group of guys that are very embedded in the community.”
With a chance to ask a follow-up later, I quizzed Garber as to whether the Vikings or the Minnesota United group — which has the local team in the North American Soccer League but is eyeing a soccer-specific stadium to house an MLS team — are in the lead at this point.
“We have had discussions with the Vikings. Those have been going on, they started maybe a year and a half or maybe two years ago when they first started thinking about their stadium opportunity,” Garber said. “The other group has been very committed to the sport and to the community.”
The commissioner said before he answered the question that he might be dodging it a bit. That became apparent with the end of the answer.
“We’ll continue to evaluate our options there, and ensure that we make the right decision when we make it, but it’s really premature to say anything more than that at this time,” Garber said.
United is staying mum, for the most part, though team president Nick Rogers said on Tuesday: “We’re happy that people outside this market are starting to recognize the efforts we’re making to elevate soccer, a sport which is increasingly important and visible to the people of Minnesota. Our commitment is and has always been to figure out the best way to present that game to our community.”
At the very least: All parties should expect the expansion issue to remain at the forefront.