As Stars go for title, their future goes up for a vote

  • Article by: DAVID LA VAQUE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2012 - 7:55 PM

The NASL board is expected to decide Saturday whether to fund the league-owned team for another year.

David Downs called last Saturday's soccer match at the National Sports Center in Blaine the best he has seen as North American Soccer League commissioner.

The game also could stand as the grand finale for professional soccer in Minnesota.

The league's board of governors is expected to vote Saturday on whether to fund the Minnesota Stars FC, a team owned by the league, in 2013. The results won't be made public until after Saturday night's game, the second leg of a two-game, total-goal championship series against Tampa Bay. Minnesota holds a 2-0 advantage.

A no vote means the Stars, defending NASL champions, could fold. Downs said other options include selling the team or finding a new funding source.

"There's very little sense for the league to own a team," Downs said. "We're doing everything in our power to come up with a happy ending, but it's not 100 percent certain."

Downs said he has "met with local prospective owners" who have shown "serious interest."

The United States Soccer Federation has strict ownership standards for Division II teams such as the Stars. They include requiring each team's principal owner to have a net worth of at least $20 million.

"We're past the due diligence portion on both sides," Downs said. "We're negotiating terms and conditions."

Stars CEO Djorn Buchholz said players are not being pressured to win a second consecutive title in the name of survival. But he acknowledged that winning again would make the Stars hard to eliminate.

"All we can control is putting a good product on the field and prove there is a reason to keep us around," Buchholz said.

The Stars drew 39,148 fans during the regular season, an average of 2,796 that ranked fifth in the eight-team NASL. Those figures, Downs said, are "significant increases of 40 to 50 percent" from last season. But he acknowledged, "We would prefer the team to be performing better financially."

The resurrection of the privately owned New York Cosmos, which would give the NASL nine teams in 2013, could make the Stars expendable.

In addition, the Minnesota Vikings have exclusive rights to bring Major League Soccer to its new stadium for five years after its planned 2016 opening.

A potential Vikings MLS bid could scare off potential buyers of the Stars, dooming the team and leaving a void for local soccer fans. Downs said the Vikings "are eager to be cast as a solution" rather than an impediment to the Stars.

"Their attitude is positive and healthy," said Downs, who in September spoke with Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs and stadium development for the Vikings. "They understand the model that's been used in Montreal, Portland and Vancouver of bringing successful Division II franchises into MLS."

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574

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