Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. 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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Thursday, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber gave his most detailed statement yet on the possibility of bringing an expansion franchise to Minnesota.
The league announced yesterday that it was buying the struggling Chivas USA franchise and making plans to sell it to another Los Angeles group. Speaking with reporters on a conference call, the comissioner also gave some more details on the league's expansion plans - the much-talked-about "four franchises by 2020" plan.
Regarding Minneapolis, he noted that the league has had talks with a potential ownership group, and said, “That opportunity is one that we're excited about as we believe we need more teams in the Midwest. I think if Minneapolis as a market that can continue to show the support that they've had for the NASL club [Minnesota United FC] and if they continue to make progress on a number of different stadium opportunities, there's a real opportunity there.”
Two franchises - Orlando City, which will join the league in 2015, and Miami, which is still in need of a stadium plan - are already spoken for. Garber's comments, in which he gave the most details about Atlanta and Minneapolis, indicate again that the Twin Cities are near the top of the league's list for expansion destinations.
It's also worth noting that the commissioner mentioned both multiple stadium opportunities, and Minnesota United. Many local soccer fans have wondered if the Vikings' ownership has the inside track on an MLS franchise, given that they've already succeeded in wheedling a stadium out of the state, but Garber's statement makes clear that the potential local ownership group is also up in the air.
The stadium issue, as in Miami, may yet be the biggest hurdle to clear in the path towards MLS in Minnesota. It would seem, however, that local fans will also need to demonstrate a committment to supporting the area's already-existing pro soccer team - perhaps the fastest way for fans to encourage the league to send a franchise the Twin Cities' way.
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