Minnesota United FC bade farewell to TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon and aimed toward a new era with Sunday’s record-setting 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in its home finale.
The announced attendance of 52,242 tickets sold surpassed the state’s single-game record for a home team, the 49,572 fans who watched a 1976 Minnesota Kicks game against San Jose in the North American Soccer League.
Fans arrived as much as four hours early on a sunny, brilliantly blue afternoon to partake in free tomato soup, pumpkin cobbler and apple cider in a “fan zone” outside the stadium that also offered face painting and stocking cap giveaways.
Some left after Har Mar Superstar’s postgame concert and a fireworks show having watched Galaxy superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic do what he does — he scored a goal and beautifully assisted on another as his team took a 3-0 lead that kept alive its playoff aspirations.
The Loons end their season Sunday at Columbus.
“Our supporters have been magnificent,” coach Adrian Heath said of the gatherings at TCF Bank Stadium. “I can’t thank them enough. I’m just disappointed we can’t give them a performance that warranted the level of support we had. This has been a good home for us.”
The Loons were unable to win on the road but produced winning records both seasons at the Bank, including this season’s 10-6-1 mark.
The next time the Loons play a home game, it will be next spring at their 19,400-seat, soccer-specific Allianz Field in St. Paul. Following Sunday’s game, the new stadium was ceremonially lit for the first time. It is wrapped with an exterior skin that will light up with many colors and animations.
Sunday’s attendance capped the franchise’s season-long effort — 50K to Midway, it was called — to sell 50,000-plus tickets to season-ticket holders, those on the waiting list and through corporate and group sales. The goal was reached, even if some empty seats mostly high up went unused.
United CEO Chris Wright called the day an “incredible, historic moment for the franchise, the league and for soccer” and said, “It tells the story how the franchise has arrived and taken its place in the marketplace.” He also noted the good weather.
“We expected snow, the logical way to start and end a season,” he said.
The Loons didn’t convert a couple of early chances and the Galaxy scored twice within a minute early in the second half — with Ibrahimovic featured prominently in both — after it led 1-0 at halftime. United defender and Minnesota’s own Brent Kallman said the big crowd probably gave his team a little extra adrenaline.
“It showed a bit,” Kallman said. “We seemed to be a little nervy and jumpy in the first half. … Everybody was so fired up. It was an experience for sure.”
Until Sunday, the franchise’s largest home crowd was 35,043 fans who attended its very first home game on a snowy day in March 2017.
“It tells you everything,” Heath said about Sunday’s crowd. “It’s growing, the game is here to stay. I spoke a few weeks ago and somebody said, ‘You think the game will survive?’ I said them days have long gone. The game is getting better and stronger every year. We have to build on that. We have to keep them engaged by constantly moving the club forward. It’s going to be an important year for us. I’m fully aware of that.”