Minnesota United FC

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Minnesota United
Minnesota United FC (MLS) Primary logo.svg
Nickname(s)The Loons[1]
FoundedMarch 25, 2015; 5 years ago (2015-03-25)
StadiumAllianz Field
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Capacity19,400
OwnerBill McGuire
Head coachAdrian Heath
LeagueMajor League Soccer
2020Western Conference: 4th
Overall: 9th
Playoffs: Conference Finals
WebsiteClub website
Current season

Minnesota United FC is an American professional soccer club based in Saint Paul, Minnesota that plays in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer. The club began play in 2017[2][3] as the league's 22nd club, and replaced the North American Soccer League (NASL) franchise of the same name.

The club played its home games at TCF Bank Stadium, on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, for its first two seasons in MLS play. The club began playing in Saint Paul (becoming the city's fourth professional sports team, joining the Minnesota Wild, the St. Paul Saints, and Minnesota Whitecaps), at Allianz Field in the Midway neighborhood starting in the spring of 2019.[4][5]

Minnesota United FC's ownership is led by Bill McGuire, former CEO of UnitedHealth Group, and includes other Minnesota sports owners: the Pohlad family, owners of the Twins; Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor; former Wild investor Glen Nelson, and his daughter Wendy Carlson Nelson of the Carlson hospitality company.

History[edit]

On March 25, 2015, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber announced Minnesota United as the league's 23rd club and awarded the franchise to a group led by McGuire. The ownership group includes other Minneapolis-St. Paul sports owners, Twins owner Jim Pohlad, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, and Wild investor Glen Nelson. They beat out a competing bid by Minnesota Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf (both of whom would later become minority owners of MLS expansion franchise Nashville SC).[6][7][8] Garber said Minnesota would begin play in 2017 or 2018 – if Los Angeles FC was not ready to play in 2017, Minnesota would take its place.[9]

The Minnesota Legislature had passed a bill in May 2012 for a new NFL stadium projected to open by fall 2016 and gave a provision allowing for the Vikings to pursue an MLS franchise,[10] including a five-year exclusive window to host MLS games in the new stadium.[11] The Wilfs' bid also had the support of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, and Minnesota Senator Tom Bakk called Major League Soccer to inform them that the state legislature would not be providing financing for a soccer-specific stadium.[12] However, Commissioner Garber said that whenever possible, the league preferred a stadium that would be an "outdoor, soccer-specific stadium, 20,000 seats, playing on grass" as opposed to larger, covered venues with artificial turf like U.S. Bank Stadium,[13] and McGuire had the support of Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat and at least three members of the Minneapolis City Council.[12]

2017 season[edit]

The team played their inaugural Major League Soccer match on March 3, 2017, a 5–1 away defeat to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. The result represented the heaviest defeat by an expansion side making their debut. Previously no MLS expansion team had lost by more than two goals in their first game.[14] Christian Ramirez scored the team's first MLS goal.[15] The following weekend they played their home opener against fellow expansion team Atlanta United FC in a snowstorm with an MLS record-low kickoff temperature of 19 °F (−7 °C).[16] They lost the game 6–1,[17] handing Minnesota more unwanted records including the record defeat of any expansion side and becoming the only team in MLS history to concede five or more in consecutive games.[18] Following a 2–2 draw at the Colorado Rapids and a 5–2 loss at New England Revolution, United had conceded 18 goals in their first four games, which is an MLS record through the first six games of a season.[19] The team got its first win in MLS with a 4–2 home victory over Real Salt Lake on April 1.[20] As the season progressed, so had the team. In the mid season, Minnesota had acquired Duluth native Ethan Finlay from Columbus Crew SC and made other signings to improve on the field. United finished its inaugural MLS season in ninth place in the Western Conference.

2018 season[edit]

MNUFC lost two key players - midfielders Kevin Molino and Ethan Finlay - to season-ending knee injuries early in the 2018 season. Shortly before Finlay's injury, the team signed its first Designated Player; Darwin Quintero joined Minnesota United from Liga MX's Club América. Despite joining the team after five matches had already been played, Quintero led the team for 2018 in both goals (11) and assists (15). On July 4, 2018, Quintero scored a hat trick in a home match versus Toronto FC, the first in Minnesota United's history. Colombian forward Ángelo Rodríguez joined the club as its second Designated Player later in the season. MNUFC averaged nearly 24,000 fans per match during its second year at TCF Bank Stadium, including a crowd of 52,242 at the final match in their temporary home. The team managed 10 wins at home, but struggled on the road with only one victory.

2019 season[edit]

MNUFC made substantial roster additions prior to the 2019 season, including its third Designated Player, midfielder Ján Greguš from F.C. Copenhagen; 2017 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara, traded from Sporting KC; longtime Seattle Sounders defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso; Ligue 2 defender Romain Métanire; and goalkeeper Vito Mannone, loaned from Reading F.C..

After beginning the 2019 season with five matches on the road, MNUFC played their first match at the new Allianz Field on April 13, earning a 3-3 draw versus New York City FC. The team went on to post 10 wins, 6 draws and 2 losses at home. MNUFC's performance on the road was vastly improved in 2019, posting 5 wins and 2 draws including a 2-0 statement win at LAFC on September 1.

The club made a very successful run in the 2019 U.S. Open Cup. On August 27, the club traveled to Mercedes Benz Stadium to take on Atlanta United in the Cup final, Minnesota's first final appearance since joining MLS. The match resulted in a 2–1 Atlanta victory.[21]

MNUFC finished fourth in the Western Conference, after placing as high as second late in the regular season. As a result, the club was awarded a spot in the 2020 Leagues Cup. MNUFC played in its first MLS playoff match, hosting the LA Galaxy on October 20; the result was a 2-1 defeat.[22]

Two players received league-wide honors at the conclusion of the season. Ike Opara was named 2019 MLS Defender of the Year, winning the award for the second time.[23] Vito Mannone, who earned 11 cleansheets and conceded only 43 goals, was named 2019 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.[24]

2020 season[edit]

After the 2019 season, Minnesota United traded Darwin Quintero to the Houston Dynamo for midfielder Marlon Hairston and $600,000 in allocation money. [25] Upon the end of goalkeeper Vito Mannone's loan, Minnesota United brought in Tyler Miller (soccer) via trade with Los Angeles FC to take the starting job. Prior to the season, MNUFC added a number of players including striker Luis Amarilla via loan from Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield. [26]

The Loons got off to an excellent start for 2020 with two convincing road wins at the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes in March, before Major League Soccer suspended its season due to the COVID-19 epidemic, first for 30 days and then indefinitely as the severity of the epidemic became clearer. [27]

The 2020 season re-started in July with the league's MLS is Back Tournament, held in Orlando, Florida and including 24 of the league's 26 teams. The month-long tournament included a group stage, counted as part of the regular season standings; and a knockout stage. [28] The Loons finished second in Group D, with one win and two draws. In the knockout stage, MNUFC defeated the Columbus Crew 1-1 on penalty kicks and the San Jose Earthquakes 4-1, before losing to Orlando City SC in the tournament semifinal.

Following the tournament, the 2020 season resumed normal match play, with a planned schedule of 18 matches ending on November 8. The Loons continued to add players, with midfielder Emanuel Reynoso joining the club from Boca Juniors as a Designated Player,[29] and veteran forward Kei Kamara joining via trade from the Colorado Rapids.[30]

MNUFC finished the regular season in fourth place in the MLS Western Conference. They hosted their second playoff match in franchise history, defeating the Colorado Rapids 3–0 at Allianz Field, then went on to defeat No. 1 seeded Sporting Kansas City 3–0 on the road. The Loons played in the 2020 Western Conference final match to the Seattle Sounders FC, also on the road, and were defeated 3–2 by two late goals.[31]

Colors and badge[edit]

The badge features a stylized loon, which is the state bird of Minnesota, with eleven spread feathers, one for each of the players on the field. The team's colors are sky blue, grey, and black, with a red accent. The blue line across the logo represents the Mississippi River. Either side of the blue represents the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. The grey color represents the Iron Range of Minnesota. The upward pointing crest and the North Star were inspired by L'Etoile du Nord which is the state motto.[32][33] Zeus Jones created the designs.[34]

Kit suppliers and shirt sponsors[edit]

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor Sleeve sponsor
2017–2020 Adidas Target[35]
2020– Allianz

Club culture[edit]

PK the loon

Minnesota United's mascot is PK, a loon. PK has been the club mascot since mid-2014.[36][37] The two main supporter groups of Minnesota United FC are Dark Clouds and True North Elite, although the over-arching organization "MNWonderwall" includes affiliated groups the Red Loons and Dark Glitterati as well.[38] In early 2019, Wonderwall founded "THUNDERWALL", a coalition drumline permanently affixed in Allianz Field that provides percussion to support chants in the Wonderwall section during match days.

Fans of Minnesota United sing the Oasis song "Wonderwall" after all home victories.[39][40]

Stadium[edit]

Coordinates: 44°57′10″N 93°09′54″W / 44.9528°N 93.1651°W / 44.9528; -93.1651 McGuire stated a desire to build an 18,500-seat, outdoor soccer-specific stadium next to the Minneapolis Farmers Market in downtown Minneapolis.[41] At the time of the club's launch, the league did not give any timeline for the stadium plan, but said it was working on finalizing a plan by July 1, 2015, the deadline set by the league.[12] Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said he would oppose a publicly financed stadium, but said he would not oppose ancillary support for infrastructure reinforcements.[13]

In a plan released in April 2015, the ownership showed a projected cost for the stadium of $250 million: $100 million for MLS expansion fee, $30 million for land acquisition, and $120 million for construction.[12] The ownership group met with Governor Dayton and other state political leaders to share the plan.[42] The group asked the politicians for a sales tax exemption of up to $3 million on construction materials, as well as breaks or caps on city and county property taxes for the stadium site.[43] The tax relief could potentially add up to around $50 million.[12]

The day after the meeting, Mayor Hodges said she opposed the sales tax and property tax exemption because unlike other stadiums in Minneapolis that have received similar breaks, Minnesota United's stadium would be privately owned.[44] The following week, the Minnesota Senate voted 61–4 to prevent any state funds or tax expenditures from being used for the stadium, although the vote was termed "largely symbolic" as McGuire had not asked for state funds and the bill would not prevent the team from seeking city or county funds.[45] McGuire later said that he would be open to signing the property over to Minneapolis, Hennepin County, or another public entity if that would make property tax exemption possible.[46]

Although the July 1 deadline passed without a stadium deal, and the plan for a Downtown Minneapolis stadium was the primary reason for choosing McGuire's group, league deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said Minnesota was still considered an expansion site, partly because of interest from the neighboring St. Paul.[47] Later that month, St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman spoke to Abbott proposed building on a city-owned vacant lot that formerly housed the Metro Transit bus barn near Interstate 94.[48]

On August 31, 2015, the team's deal for an exclusive right to purchase industrial land near the Farmer's Market expired with no public statement about any extension of the deal.[49]

On September 8, 2015, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners passed a non-binding resolution to support the stadium's construction on the St. Paul bus barn site, provided the design and construction are paid for by private funds.[50] On October 23, 2015, it was announced that Minnesota United would build a stadium on the 35-acre St. Paul Bus Barn site.[51] The proposed stadium will seat approximately 20,000, is to be completed in 2018, and will be privately financed.[52]

On November 25, 2015, Minnesota United FC hired Populous to design the stadium.[53] On December 9, 2015, the team hired Mortenson Construction as part of the stadium construction along with Populous.[54]

On February 24, 2016, the team revealed design plans for their 21,500-seat soccer-specific stadium, set to be built by 2018 and financed privately by the team.[55]

On July 25, 2017, the stadium's name was announced as Allianz Field,[56][57] which opened in March 2019.[58]

Minnesota United FC vs Atlanta United FC in their inaugural MLS home match at TCF Bank Stadium, March 12, 2017.

On August 19, 2016, it was announced that Minnesota United would play in the 2017 Major League Soccer season, with home matches at TCF Bank Stadium.[59][60][61] The stadium had been home to the club for 2017–2018 while their soccer specific stadium was in construction.

Players and staff[edit]

Players[edit]

As of February 16, 2021[62]
No. Pos. Player Nation
1 GK Tyler Miller  United States
2 DF Noah Billingsley  New Zealand
3 DF Ike Opara  United States
8 MF Ján Greguš (DP)  Slovakia
10 MF Emanuel Reynoso (DP)  Argentina
11 MF Thomás Chacón (DP)  Uruguay
13 MF Ethan Finlay  United States
15 DF Michael Boxall  New Zealand
17 MF Robin Lod  Finland
19 DF Romain Métanire  Madagascar
20 MF Sam Gleadle  England
21 DF Bakaye Dibassy  Mali
27 FW Foster Langsdorf  United States
30 GK Adrian Zendejas  United States
31 MF Hassani Dotson  United States
77 DF Chase Gasper  United States
97 GK Dayne St. Clair (GA)  Canada
99 GK Fred Emmings (HG)  Luxembourg
DF Callum Montgomery  Canada
DF Jukka Raitala  Finland
DF DJ Taylor  United States
MF Wil Trapp  United States

Management[edit]

Team records[edit]

List of seasons[edit]

As of December 8, 2020[67]

For the full season-by-season history, see List of Minnesota United FC seasons.

Season League Position Playoffs USOC Continental / Other Average
attendance
Top goalscorer(s)
Div League Pld W L D GF GA GD Pts PPG Conf. Overall Name(s) Goals
2017 1 MLS 34 10 18 6 47 70 –21 36 1.06 9th 19th DNQ R4 DNQ 20,538 United States Christian Ramirez 14
2018 MLS 34 11 20 3 49 71 –22 36 1.06 10th 18th Ro16 23,902 Colombia Darwin Quintero 11
2019 MLS 34 15 11 8 52 43 +9 53 1.56 4th 7th R1 RU 19,723 Colombia Darwin Quintero 10
2020 MLS 21 9 5 7 36 26 +10 34 1.62 4th 9th SF NH Leagues Cup
MLS is Back Tournament
NH
SF
N/A Trinidad and Tobago Kevin Molino 13

^ 1. Avg. Attendance include statistics from league matches only.
^ 2. Top Goalscorer(s) includes all goals scored in League, Playoffs, U.S. Open Cup, MLS is Back Tournament, CONCACAF Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, and other competitive continental matches.

Record vs. international opponents[edit]

Date Competition Venue Home Team Result Away Team
February 3, 2017 Friendly Kino Sports Complex Minnesota United FC 1–1 Croatia NK Istra 1961
July 15, 2017 Friendly TCF Bank Stadium Minnesota United FC 1–1[68] Mexico Atlas
July 11, 2018 Friendly TCF Bank Stadium Minnesota United FC 1–2[69] Costa Rica Saprissa
May 22, 2019 Friendly Allianz Field Minnesota United FC 0–1[70] Germany Hertha Berlin
July 17, 2019 Friendly Allianz Field Minnesota United FC 0–3[71] England Aston Villa
September 7, 2019 Friendly Allianz Field Minnesota United FC 2–2 Mexico C.F. Pachuca

Honors[edit]

Broadcasting[edit]

All non-nationally broadcast Minnesota United games were broadcast locally on WFTC for the 2017 Major League Soccer season, then moved to Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Wisconsin in the 2018 season. KSTP serves as the team's radio partner.[72]

Minnesota United's commentary team features Callum Williams as the play-by-play commentator. Williams had previously worked for Sporting Kansas City when they were known as the Kansas City Wizards and during their rebrand as Sporting Kansas City. He has also worked in his native UK for notable broadcasters including the BBC and Sky Sports.[73] Williams is joined in the commentary box by Kyndra de St. Aubin who provides color commentary. De St. Aubin, a Stillwater native, is the only female color commentator currently covering Major League Soccer. Prior to joining Minnesota United's broadcast team, she worked across the country covering many men's and women's soccer games at college and professional levels.[74] She also covered the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup as part of the five broadcast teams that covered that tournament.[75]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]