Officials from the National Sports Center in Blaine announced that it will form a new minor league soccer team to play in the newly ratified United States Soccer Federation Division II league.

The beginning also signals an end. The new team replaces the Minnesota Thunder, which released all of its players and lost all of its front office personnel in the months following the 2009 season.

"At the urging of many of our colleagues in soccer, the NSC has decided to step in to preserve professional soccer in Minnesota," Kris Bjerkness, the NSC's Chief Administrative Officer, said in a release.

The new team will begin play in April in a 12-team league consisting of several former United Soccer League First Division teams.

Bjerkness will organize the new team. The NSC has also contracted with former Thunder player and later team president Manny Lagos to be its director of soccer operations.

Lagos resigned from the Thunder, a franchise formed 20 years ago by his father, Buzz, last month. USL president Tim Holt said the Thunder lost USL franchise rights immediately after the 2009 season and "departed USL in bad standing with outstanding league debts approaching six figures."

Barclay Kruse, NSC chief communications officer, said the NSC, where the Thunder trained and played its games, is ready to help a new team thrive.

"We own the stadium, the locker rooms and the office space so that makes it financially much more feasible for us to take over a team than it would from an outside owner," Kruse said.


Gophers seeded No. 5 at Duals

The Gophers wrestling team is seeded No. 5 and will face 17th-ranked Missouri to open the annual National Duals at the University of Iowa in Cedar Falls beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. Their second match will be against either fourth-seeded Central Michigan or Northwestern.

The National Duals feature the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III, as well as those competing in NJCAA and NAIA. Other participating teams include: Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State, St. John's, Augsburg and Concordia (Moorhead).


Zuzana Tomcikova, a goalie for the Bemidji State women's hockey team, will play for Slovakia in the Olympics at Vancouver next month.