Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.

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A few thoughts on MLS, the Vikings, stadiums, and Minnesota United

Posted by: Jon Marthaler under Vikings management, Soccer Updated: June 11, 2014 - 10:11 AM

All it took was one sentence in a press release to send the Minnesota soccer community into a tizzy. The release, announcing a press conference this afternoon, included a tidbit from the Minnesota Vikings that the team had formed a "broad strategic alliance" with marketing company Relevent Sports, as part of their efforts to acquire a Major League Soccer franchise.

Relevent Sports is probably best known locally as the group that's putting on the Manchester City - Olympiakos match on August 2 at TCF Bank Stadium, but they're also a company whose CEO, Charlie Stillitano, is a former MLS general manager who still has strong ties to the league. With Vikings VP Lester Bagley reiterating once again the team's desire for MLS, the Vikings' soccer groundswell has started to feel a little more like a tidal wave.

That said, it's worth mentioning that, despite the hype, the Vikings don't have much to show for it. Bagley noted that the Vikings met with MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott on Monday, to update him on the team's stadium situation - but he also admitted that the team currently does not have a specific plan in place to outfit the new stadium for soccer.

Across town, meanwhile, Minnesota's already-existing soccer team was celebrating. NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson gathered with United coach Manny Lagos, team president Nick Rogers, and fullback Justin Davis to hand off the spring championship plate. The United fans in attendance cheered, and later posted pictures of themselves imbibing from the plate in celebration.

United is touting their upcoming schedule as the “Summer of Soccer” in Minnesota. The team has a US Open Cup match against MLS champions Sporting Kansas City next week; if they can beat KC, they’ll host the next game of the competition the following week, one that is almost certain to be against the Portland Timbers. They have a friendly with Premier League side Swansea City, a July 4 game against the Mexico U-21 team, and are playing their August 2 home match at TCF Bank Stadium following the aforementioned Man City-Olympiakos tilt.

Throw in the team’s regular league schedule, which begins again on July 12, and the team’s efforts to organize World Cup-watching parties around town, and the Twin Cities market isn’t exactly hurting for soccer, no matter what the Vikings’ hype says.

It was a picture of the interesting dichotomy between the two soccer groups in town. On the one side is the Vikings, who have a stadium and are loudly hyping their MLS desires. On the other side is United, who actually have a team, fans, and a history - and who are determinedly staying quiet about all things MLS-related, including their desire to potentially acquire a stadium of their own.

At the moment, it’s the stadium issue that is the wild card in the whole process. It’s the one thing that United is missing; it’s the only thing that the Vikings have going for them. While an NFL stadium isn’t necessarily ideal for an MLS team, Seattle and Vancouver have made it work, and the new Atlanta franchise is set to do the same. And given that January and February were the only two months that didn’t see an MLS match in 2013, having an indoor stadium in Minnesota might not be the worst idea in the world, even though it would be painful to watch a game inside on a gorgeous summer evening.

United are rumored to be working on a stadium plan of their own, potentially in tandem with the Twins, potentially at the Farmer’s Market site just behind Target Field. At the moment, though, any United-led stadium plans are nothing more than rumors, and the team refuses to speculate on partners, timelines, or locations.

It’s also worth mentioning Bagley’s comment that the Vikings would have to build "fan by fan." It was the allusion to the beginning of an effort by the team to appeal to the grassroots soccer fans in Minnesota, one that the team has hired local PR / marketing firm One Simple Plan to assist with.

The strangest thing about that comment, though, is that the Vikings have long ignored opportunities to get involved with soccer in Minnesota. United was on the market for two years before Dr. Bill McGuire bought the team; the Vikings could very easily have a team and a fanbase of their very own, and could currently be following the path to MLS that Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, and Montreal all took before them, and that Orlando is scheduled to take next year, by jumping to MLS from a lower league.

Instead, United - which dates back (in some ways) to 1990 - nearly folded before being rescued by McGuire. And now, the Vikings talk about building fan engagement, while soccer fans show up at Brit’s Pub in the middle of a Tuesday to applaud United and drink beer out of their newly-won trophy.

With the two groups competing for MLS, it’s difficult not to write about the situation as a horse race. Ultimately, though, the decision only rests with Major League Soccer itself. While Minneapolis is rumored to be the front-runner, the league could still choose to go elsewhere with its next franchise. If they do pick the Twin Cities, though, who do they opt for? Do they go with the Vikings, with their settled stadium issue and the financial security that goes hand-in-hand with an NFL franchise? Or do they go with the group that’s focused on local soccer, but doesn’t have the resources or the under-construction stadium to match the Wilfs?

It’s a battle over the future of professional soccer in Minnesota. Where will it end up?


Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 Bottom 4th Inning
Washington 2
Boston 6:05 PM
Toronto 6:05 PM
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Dallas 9:30 PM
Calgary 6:00 PM
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 50 2nd Half 4:08
Siena 65
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Navy 6:00 PM
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
American Univ 6:00 PM
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Memphis 8:00 PM
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 34 2nd Half 11:50
Texas State 51 2nd Half 5:43
Appalachian St 53
TX-Arlington 59 2nd Half 7:41
Georgia Southern 24
SC State 27 2nd Half
Bethune-Cookman 24
Delaware State 27 2nd Half 17:07
Coppin State 45
Portland 26 2nd Half 17:52
Santa Clara 38
Norfolk State 17 2nd Half
Hampton 28
NC A&T 38 2nd Half
NC Central 18
Savannah State 22 1st Half 11:00
Florida A&M 13
Virginia Tech 14 1st Half 7:19
Pittsburgh 14
Central Arkansas 10 1st Half 6:39
Nicholls 26
Houston Baptist 14 1st Half 7:41
TX A&M-CC 22
Gardner-Webb 21 1st Half 7:38
Radford 15
Georgia 21 1st Half 7:50
Missouri 14
Old Dominion 16 1st Half 7:48
Marshall 18
Ark-Little Rock 18 1st Half 9:18
Louisiana 9
South Alabama 14 1st Half 7:56
Arkansas State 26
Georgia State 4 1st Half 14:19
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 5:45 PM
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
San Francisco 8:00 PM
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Purdue 8:25 PM
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA


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