Major League Soccer initially put a July 1 deadline on Minneapolis to have a financial and stadium construction plan in place, but that deadline has passed. St. Paul now is trying to make a bid to build the stadium there.

Bill McGuire, who won the bid for an MLS franchise, said that while the deadline has passed, MLS officials are willing to give team representatives more time because they recognize a strong demand for soccer in this community.

The word is that St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is working hard behind the scenes to land the MLS franchise with the same vigor with which he was able to get CHS Field built for the Saints in St. Paul and several other new ventures.

No doubt McGuire has met more than once with Coleman and apparently is not ruling out St. Paul, if that city will give the owners the tax breaks they have been looking for in Minneapolis. Coleman has invited MLS officials to tour a former Metro Transit bus barn site near University and Snelling Avenues, land owned by the Metropolitan Council that has been off the tax rolls for more than 50 years.

Early speculation was that Minneapolis was trying to sell St. Paul as a stadium site just as a ploy, but according to some insiders, it now appears St. Paul is in a better position to get the MLS franchise unless Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and the City Council come through with tax relief in a hurry.

Building excitement

McGuire talked about the high popularity of soccer at the National Sports Center in Blaine, which bodes well for an incoming MLS franchise.

“I think Major League Soccer recognizes what a great state we have for soccer and they are certainly cognizant of the tremendous interest occurring and being displayed here,” McGuire said. “[On Saturday] we were sitting in Blaine watching this great game with one of the top-tier clubs in North America from Mexico, Club Leon, and the place was just alive, vibrant.

“We had people here from Milwaukee and Baltimore coming to see this game. I believe the league sees that, they see the enthusiasm, they see what occurred at Blaine this week with the Schwan’s USA Cup. It’s tremendous. They want to be here, they want to be in Minnesota and they’re pleased we made some meaningful strides in the short period — the announcement was only March 24th or 25th — about the franchise, so they’re working with us to see if we can complete this and bring the MLS team here.

“We’re drawing significant numbers of people up in Blaine, it just shows the growth of the sport. [Minnesota United FC] played three games there this week, including one [Saturday], the place is full. We’ve added seats up there.”

McGuire refused to comment about any meetings he had with St. Paul or Minneapolis politicians, or whether progress had been made regarding getting the proper financial assistance. He said a potential MLS team could play at Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium or the new Vikings stadium, but only on an interim basis.

“I think a possibility of playing on an interim basis is one thing,” he said. “But building the kind of facility that Major League Soccer wants and the sport is demanding to play on an international spectrum, so to speak, wouldn’t be consistent with playing in some of these other facilities. You range things from the ideal of being open and real grass, which we think it needs to be, and most do.”

McGuire also said the newest MLS franchise in Orlando is averaging nearly 37,000 fans per game and already is considering expanding its stadium, which is under construction.

Word is that MLS officials are going to meet or have already met with St. Paul politicians. While they prefer Minneapolis and the farmers market location, they probably would go with St. Paul if the city can fund it. If Minneapolis wants the MLS franchise here, it better act in a hurry. St. Paul is not a pawn in this situation.

Packers profits go up

The Packers, the only publicly traded team in the NFL, released their financial information this week and the team showed profits of $29.2 million, which is up from $25.3 million last year.

The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that the Packers took in record numbers in revenue of $375.7 million — $226.4 million in national revenue (most of that coming from TV contracts) and $149 million in local revenue. Their total revenue jumped 16 percent from last year. Their expenses were $336.3 million, which was up 12.7 percent.

The report showed what every NFL team received in profit-sharing, a total of $7.2 billion that was split in 2014 between all 32 teams (or $226.4 million apiece), which was up from $6 billion or $187.5 million for each team from the previous year.

If some of the media think NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to be fired when he is making that kind of money for the owners, they’re crazy.

Jottings

• The Timberwolves traded two second-round picks to the Cavaliers in order to draft former Apple Valley and Duke star point guard Tyus Jones. One of them, Syracuse forward/center Rakeem Christmas, played in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, while the other, Turkish swingman Cedi Osman, did not. Christmas averaged 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 21 minutes per game over four games for the Cavs.

• Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio and former Sacramento Kings star Peja Stojakovic will be part of a basketball camp being held at Dubai Sports World from Aug. 22-28.

• Former Cooper standout Rashad Vaughn had a productive summer league with the Bucks, averaging 17.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, though Vaughn did struggle by shooting only 36.4 percent from the field and 25 percent on three-pointers.

• Former Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia has gone just 3-for-18 for Triple-A Rochester over his past five games since the minor league All-Star break. He is hitting .262 with nine home runs, 31 RBI and 21 runs scored in 45 games at Rochester this year.

• The Phoenix Business Journal reported last month that current Raiders and former Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has purchased a $2.2 million home near Phoenix with his wife, Samantha, who grew up in Arizona.

• Deolis Guerra, who the Twins received in the Johan Santana trade in 2008 but never played with the team, is now pitching for the Pirates along with former Twins Francisco Liriano and Vance Worley. Guerra has a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings with 11 strikeouts and two walks. Guerra pitched seven consecutive scoreless innings to start his major league career before giving up three runs over five innings in his past two relief appearances.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com