The Vikings took another step Friday in their attempt to bring a Major League Soccer team to the Twin Cities.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority amended a usage agreement with the Vikings for their new stadium, which opens in 2016. The MSFA will charge the Vikings $20,000 for every MLS home game if it secures a soccer franchise in the new stadium. The MSFA would generate an estimated $340,000 annually in the agreement. The Vikings would handle all game-day expenses.
“We are just trying to make sure Major League Soccer knows that we’d love them as a tenant,” MSFA chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said.
The agreement further strengthens the commitment from the Vikings and the MSFA to Major League Soccer on obtaining a franchise, said Lester Bagley, the team’s executive vice president of public affairs and stadium development.
It also puts pressure on Minnesota United FC, the Blaine-based North American Soccer League franchise that also is pursuing plans to bring MLS to Minneapolis but hasn’t publicly announced its stadium plans.
United President Nick Rogers, through a team spokesman, declined to comment on the MSFA’s usage agreement.
“We know there’s other interest in the market, but we’re zeroed in on what we have to offer,” Bagley said. “Everything lines up pretty well. Ultimately it’s up to Major League Soccer, and they are very interested in this market.”
The MLS has 19 teams and plans to expand to 24 by 2020, with Minneapolis as an attractive city. The Vikings announced in June their pursuit to bring an MLS team to the Twin Cities. They have a five-year exclusive-rights window for a team to play at the new stadium, and plan to reduce the seating capacity to between 20,000 and 25,000 for soccer games if they own a franchise.
Minnesot United is owned by former UnitedHealth executive William McGuire, and his group would like a soccer-specific, open-air stadium. A site near the downtown Minneapolis Farmers Market has been prominently mentioned. The United group would need to have a stadium plan in place before proceeding with a formal bid on an MLS franchise.
Staff writer Mike Kaszuba contributed to this story.