An advertisement for Major League Soccer season tickets sits front and center on Minnesota United FC’s website, accompanied by an action shot of defender Justin Davis.
On Twitter, the soccer club tries enticing buyers with sales pitches such as, “It’s MLS time. Place your deposit and join us at TCF Bank Stadium in 2017,” and “You’re gonna want to be a part of this... .”
But what about Davis? Or any other current Loons player? Will they be part of the club’s inaugural MLS season?
Uncertainty reigns as players try focusing on a playoff push through the final eight weeks of the North American Soccer League fall season. Minnesota plays Rayo OKC at 7 p.m. Saturday at National Sports Center Stadium in Blaine, the Loons’ first home match since the Aug. 19 announcement of the team joining MLS next season.
Forever United. To coach Carl Craig, his staff and players, the club’s two-word mantra feels like a question.
“We’ve got this opportunity,” Craig said. “I think everyone in the dressing room would like to be here next year, but we don’t control that. What we do control is that we’re here now and have a season to play. If the club decides that they want to keep us around, great. If we drag our backsides, there’s a better chance that we won’t be kept.”
The club is not expected to begin solidifying next season’s roster until after it completes play this fall.
Player contracts, as well those for Craig and his staff, are not transferrable. Expansion teams such as Minnesota typically sign four to six of their current players for the first MLS season. The bulk of the 28-man roster comes through the expansion draft, the SuperDraft, trades and international signings.
Minnesota’s roster includes MLS veterans who signed before this season in Jeb Brovsky, Danny Cruz and Ben Speas. Proven NASL players include Christian Ramirez (age 25), Stefano Pinho (25), Kevin Venegas (27) and Davis (28).
Ramirez, the NASL leader with 13 goals, downplayed the notion that his or anyone’s MLS spot is secure.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” Ramirez said. “I feel pressure to develop my game and put myself in the best position to take a step forward.”
More than just soccer weighs on some players’ minds. Ramirez plans to get married in December. Midfielder Jeb Brovsky and his wife, Caitlin, are young parents.
“Minnesota is our speed of life,” said Brovsky, a veteran of three MLS clubs. “We want to stay and put ourselves in the best position to be valuable to the club and to our community. We want to be settled, but the sad thing about this business is you’re rarely ever settled.”
The team’s on-field success, Brovsky said, should be each player’s focus.
“If we want to solidify our spot next year, we need to win this year,” he said. “Results matter.”
That means accepting your role, said J.C. Banks, a promising forward/midfielder who has started just six matches this season.
“We’ve got half a year left where we can prove ourselves,” Banks said. “If you do what you need to do in the system, you’re going to look good. If guys are trying to do their own thing, it’s probably going to break down. We all still have a goal of winning a championship.”
Though focused on the season, Craig has encouraged players to make the most of the opportunity to garner attention for next season — whatever it holds.
“Yes, there’s a future that’s not too far away,” he said. “If Minnesota decides not to keep a certain player or any of us, we can best serve ourselves by doing a good job now and putting ourselves in a healthy position to move somewhere else.”