Minnesota United FC
|Full name||Minnesota United Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Loons, United|
|Stadium||National Sports Center
|Head Coach||Carl Craig|
|League||North American Soccer League|
|Website||Club home page|
Minnesota United FC is an American professional soccer team based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area in Minnesota. Founded in 2010, the team plays in the North American Soccer League (NASL), a professional league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation. The team won the 2011 NASL championship.
The team has historically played its home games at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota, 18 miles north of Minneapolis. The team's colors are sky blue, grey, and black with a red accent. The current head coach is Carl Craig.
- 1 History
- 2 Colors and badge
- 3 Stadium
- 4 Club culture
- 5 Broadcasting
- 6 Players and staff
- 7 Reserve squad
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The National Sports Center began considering fielding a Division 2 men's professional soccer team in December 2009. The then current team, the Minnesota Thunder, were tenants of the National Sports Center and were struggling through financial difficulties. In January 2010, the National Sports Center announced they would field a new team to replace the Minnesota Thunder. The Thunder at the time were not officially folded but were facing financial ruin. Following a team-naming contest, the National Sports Center (NSC) announced the official team name would be NSC Minnesota, with the team nickname being Stars on February 5, 2010. Five days later, former USMNT player Manny Lagos was named as the clubs first head coach.
The team played its first official game on April 11, 2010, a 2–0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. The first goal in franchise history was scored by Daniel Wasson in their next game, a 1–0 victory over the Carolina RailHawks. The Stars enjoyed some impressive victories in their debut season, including a 3–1 win over Crystal Palace Baltimore, a 3–0 win over AC St. Louis, and a 3–1 win over FC Tampa Bay, eventually finishing fourth in their conference. Unfortunately for the Stars, they went out of the playoffs at the quarter final stage, 4–0 on aggregate to the Carolina RailHawks, after defender Andres Arango was issued a red card after just 38 minutes. Simone Bracalello and Brian Cvilikas were the Stars' top scorers in 2010, with 5 goals each. The team averaged an attendance of 1,374 which was 10th out of the 12 league teams.
The Stars announced that for the 2011 season the team would no longer be owned by the National Sports Center but by the North American Soccer League. The United States Soccer Federation created ownership standards where the owner must have a net worth of at least US$20 million, and the National Sports Center did not meet that criterion. The NASL committed to owning the team for three years. The team set a budget of $2 million based on the goal of averaging 1,000 fans per game. By June 5 the team was in second place but a four-game losing streak as part of a 0–6–1 stretch sent the team in a slump before finishing with the sixth and final playoff spot. The Stars knocked off the Tampa Bay Rowdies 1–0 in the quarterfinals before defeating the first-seed Carolina RailHawks on penalty kicks after the two-legged series ended 4–4. A 3–1 home victory was enough to win the NASL championship after the second leg ended in a 0–0 draw. The team averaged around 1,700 fans during the season but drew 2,500 for the playoff semifinals and 4,511 for the final home leg.
On January 9, 2012, the club announced a new logo as well as a new name. The NSC portion of the name, which had led to confusion, was dropped, with the new name being the Minnesota Stars FC. The new logo was revealed with the word 'NSC' removed and the state motto, L’Étoile du Nord, added. The team continued a search for a new owner in the offseason  and opened the 2012 season with a 0–0 draw against the Carolina RailHawks at the Metrodome in front of a crowd of 8,693.
Minnesota faced an October 27, 2012, deadline to find new ownership to ensure a place in the NASL for the 2013 season. At the time the Minnesota Vikings expressed interest in professional soccer in Minnesota but were not contemplating purchasing the Stars. The league planned to vote on whether or not to fund the team for the 2013 season after the conclusion of the 2012 season. The USSF requirement that owners of a Division II team to be worth at least $20 million and a potential MLS bid by the Minnesota Vikings were seen as possible deterrents to finding a potential new owner. On November 9, 2012, the league officially announced that the team was purchased by Bill McGuire. On March 5, 2013, that was followed up by the team rebranding with the name Minnesota United FC. The $1.2 million budget that the Stars were operating on was expanded and the staff size increased to 20 employees for the start of the 2013 season, and has since more than doubled.
On July 19, 2014, Minnesota United FC won 2–0 over Premier League side Swansea City in a friendly match played during the break between the NASL Spring and Fall seasons that drew 9,064 fans to the National Sports Center. Goals were scored by defender Justin Davis and midfielder Greg Jordan. However, Swansea did not field several of their top players, including Michel Vorm, Wilfried Bony, and Ki Sung-Yeung, all of whom played in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
After bringing in several promising new players during the off-season, including Cameroonian national team goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock, Minnesota United FC was a heavy favorite entering the year. However, the team struggled during the Spring Season due to chemistry problems both on and off the field and finishing in 4th place. The summer break saw the departure of break-out star player and member of the US Men's National Team Miguel Ibarra who bid farewell by playing one half for both Minnesota United and his new team Club León in an international friendly in front of 9,388 fans which ended in a 1–1 tie. After several additional roster moves, the Loons came out much stronger in the Fall Season, fighting for the Fall Season Championship and top playoff seed until the last week of the regular season but ultimately finishing in 3rd place.
Minnesota faced the Fall Season champions Ottawa Fury in the semifinal where they took an early lead after a goal by Christian Ramirez. but ultimately lost 2–1 against the Canadian side. Minnesota finished the 2015 combined season with a 14–11–5 record, tallying 54 goals along the way, the highest of any team in the league.
On December 3, 2015, it was announced that head coach Manny Lagos would move to being the team's full-time sporting director while assistant coach Carl Craig would take over the role as head coach for the 2016 season.
Move to Major League Soccer
On March 25, 2015, the league announced that it had awarded the 23rd MLS team in Minneapolis to a Bill McGuire-led ownership group that includes the owners of the Minnesota Twins, Timberwolves and Wild. The team had hoped to build a soccer-specific stadium in Downtown Minneapolis near the Minneapolis Farmers Market but that plan was met with opposition from the mayor. The league selected United over a competing bid by the Minnesota Vikings ownership, who sought to use the under-construction U.S. Bank Stadium as its home field.
Following the announcement, team president Nick Rogers said he expected much of the team, including the name, logo, coach and some players, to remain intact.
On October 23, 2015, the team and the City of Saint Paul announced that a soccer-specific stadium would be built in the Midway area of Saint Paul near the intersection of Snelling Avenue and University Avenue. The stadium would seat about 20,000 and open in 2018 at which time the team would switch to MLS.
League and cup history
|Season||League||Overall||U.S. Open Cup||Top goalscorer||Managers||Average attendance|
|2010||D2 Pro League||4th||30||11||12||7||32||36||40||-||Second Round||B.Cvilikas / S.Bracalello||6||Manny Lagos||1,374|
|2013||NASL Spring||6th||12||4||2||6||18||23||14||Second Round||P.Campos||13||4,445|
|2014||NASL Spring||1st||9||6||2||1||16||9||20||1st||Fourth Round||C.Ramirez||20||8,109|
|2015||NASL Spring||4th||10||3||5||2||15||13||14||3rd||Third Round||C.Ramirez||12||8,767|
|2016||NASL Spring||4th||10||5||1||4||16||12||16||Fourth Round||Carl Craig|
Colors and badge
As the Stars, the team's official colors were blue and yellow, following the tradition established the Minnesota Thunder of Minnesota soccer teams wearing predominantly blue as their home color. Before 2012, the club logo was a shield in two-tone blue and gold, with a stylized star overlaid by the NSC Minnesota wordmark. A new logo was unveiled in January 2012. The logo was designed over a six-month period by a member of the club's supporters group. The word 'NSC' removed and the state motto, L’Étoile du Nord, added along with a soccer ball behind the prominent star.
As Minnesota United, the new logo features a stylized loon, which is the state bird of Minnesota, with eleven spread feathers. The rebranded team's colors were changed to sky blue, grey, and black, with a red accent. Zeus Jones created the designs.
- National Sports Center; Blaine. (Capacity: 8,500). (2010–2012, 2013 Spring Season Finale, Fall season, 2014 season besides August 2 Game)
- Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome; Minneapolis. (Capacity: 60,000). (Season openers, 2013 Spring season besides July 4 Game)
United plays its home games in the 8,500-seat stadium at the National Sports Center, a 600-acre (240 ha) multi-sport complex located in Blaine, Minnesota, which in addition to the soccer stadium, features over 50 full-sized soccer fields, a golf course, a velodrome, a meeting and convention facility, and an eight-sheet ice rink, the Schwan Super Rink.
The team played its home games for the 2013 Spring Season at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Downtown Minneapolis (now demolished). In the past, it has held its season openers there. In 2014 one game was played on a grass field at TCF Bank Stadium as part of a doubleheader with a Manchester City F.C. and Olympiacos F.C. friendly, which was part of the International Challenge Cup.
In 2015, significant temporary seating was added to the National Sports Center to accommodate large increases in attendance. Many matches saw new records set, with typical attendance exceeding 9,000.
During the course of the 2011 NASL season a rivalry was formed between the then-Stars and FC Edmonton known as the Flyover Cup. The name was chosen for Edmonton and Minnesota lying in flight paths for transcontinental flights, but often passed over by tourists. The symbol of the cup is a loon, being an unofficial national bird of Canada and also the state bird of Minnesota.
The club has several recognized supporters groups: Dark Clouds, Wolf's Head, Mankato Dark Clouds, and True North Elite. The club also has several loosely organized unofficial supporters groups.
In 2013, as with all the teams in the NASL, United hosted webcasts of all its matches on NASL Live. Chris Lidholm handled the play by play along with Eric Nordquist as the sideline reporter. At the end of the 2013 season, two home games were broadcast live, one on Fox Sports North, the other on Channel 45.
For the 2015 season all home and away matches were broadcast on KSTC-45 as well as streamed online through ESPN3. U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Alan Willey provided commentary and analysis during the broadcast of the matches.
Players and staff
- As of 26 May 2016 
- Nick Rogers – President 
- Manny Lagos – Sporting Director 
- Carl Craig – Head Coach 
- Peter Rivard – Assistant Coach 
- Ian Fuller – Assistant Coach 
- Paul O'Connor – Goalkeeping Coach 
- Craig Mallace – Director of Camps & Youth Development 
- Dr. Corey Wulf – Team Doctor
- Dr. Brad Moser – Team Doctor
- Yoshiyuki Ono – Team Athletic Trainer
- David Bloomquist – Team Athletic Trainer
- As of Match played 15 June 2016
|Manny Lagos||United States||10 February 2010||3 December 2015||190||78||58||54||264||232||41.05||NAST (1) - 2014, NASL Spring Champion (1) - 2014|
|Carl Craig||England||3 December 2015||12||6||1||5||18||14||50.00|
In November 2013, the club became the second NASL team to announce that it would field a reserve squad in the National Premier Soccer League (Atlanta Silverbacks were the first). Minnesota United FC Reserves began play in the NPSL in 2014 at the Bielenberg Sports Complex and were coached by Donny Mark.
- Marthaler, Jon. "New name, logo for pro soccer: "Minnesota United FC"". StarTribune.com. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- From news services (November 11, 2009) "NSC plans don't include Thunder" Saint Paul Pioneer Press
- Leighton, Tim (January 8, 2010) "Soccer – New team will replace Thunder" Saint Paul Pioneer Press
- Quarstad, Brian. "NSC Minnesota is Name of New Pro Soccer Team – Logo Unveiled | IMS Soccer News". Insidemnsoccer.com. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
- "Manny Lagos Named Head Coach of NSC Minnesota Stars Soccer Team". insidemnsoccer.com. IMSoccer News. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- "USSF Division-2 Pro League". Ussf.demosphere.com. April 11, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
- LA VAQUE, DAVID (April 25, 2010) "Stars launch franchise with a win – The team, the successor to the Thunder, scored its first goal on a penalty kick and made it hold up." Star Tribune
- "USSF Division-2 Pro League". Ussf.demosphere.com. April 16, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
- "USSF Division-2 Pro League". Ussf.demosphere.com. October 9, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
- La Vaque, David (April 29, 2011). "Stars' stability to benefit team on, off the pitch – A three-year ownership commitment from the NASL will allow the club to focus on winning and marketing.". Star Tribune.
- La Vaque, David (January 6, 2011). "NSC Minnesota Stars to kick off with new owner: Their league". Star Tribune.
- Leighton, Tim (January 6, 2011). "Soccer trying again – New league and ownership group for local pro team". Saint Paul Pioneer Press.
- Leighton, Tim (April 30, 2011). "A lasting shining star? – State's pro soccer team more stable financially, eager to win back fans". Saint Paul Pioneer Press.
- From news services (June 5, 2011). "usted Tressel promises win over Michigan". Saint Paul Pioneer Press.
- Staff reports (September 7, 2011). "Stars' losing streak reaches four in a row". Star Tribune.
- La Vaqu, David (October 1, 2011). "Soccer veterans see reward for refusing to change course – Little-used Stars Brian Kallman and Brian Cvilikas stayed the course rather than walk away, and later made their mark on a playoff team.". Star Tribune.
- "2011 Schedule". North American Soccer League. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
- Leighton, Tim (October 22, 2011). "Stars seek owner as well as a title". Saint Paul Pioneer Press.
- Augustoviz, Roman (October 23, 2011). "Stars seize early edge in finals – Three goals provided the home team a good start in the total-goal NASL championship series with Fort Lauderdale.". Star Tribune.
- Quarstad, Brian (January 10, 2012). "Minnesota Stars Get New Name and Logo: Minnesota Stars FC". Inside Minnesota Soccer. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- "NSC MINNESOTA STARS ARE NOW MINNESOTA STARS FC". Minnesota Stars FC. January 9, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- Leighton, Tim (April 6, 2012). "Minnesota Stars could envision move up to MLS". Saint Paul Pioneer Press. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- Vomhof Jr., John (April 6, 2012). "For sale: Twin Cities pro soccer team". Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- La Vaque, David (April 6, 2012). "Minnesota Stars face bigger challenge: Winning new fans, owner". Star Tribune. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- La Vaque, David (April 8, 2012). "Champion Stars stymied in scoreless season soccer opener". Star Tribune. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- Steger, Cody (October 4, 2012) "Desperately seeking an owner – League title wasn't enough; Stars are on bubble to remain in soccer league", Saint Paul Pioneer Press
- La Vaque, David (October 27, 2012) "As Stars go for title, their future goes up for a vote – The NASL board is expected to decide Saturday whether to fund the league-owned team for another year." Star Tribune
- Quarstad, Brian (November 9, 2012). "A Day for Minnesota Soccer Fans to Celebrate". Insidemnsoccer.com. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
- "Minnesota Stars FC Rebrands As Minnesota United FC | North American Soccer League". Nasl.com. March 5, 2013. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- Greder, Andy (March 6, 2013) "Can local soccer soar with new name, deep pockets?" Saint Paul Pioneer Press
- "Minnesota United FC 2014 Spring Champion!".
- "Minnesota United Falls in Extra Time". Minnesota United FC. November 8, 2015. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
- "MINNESOTA UNITED ANNOUNCES MANNY LAGOS AS CLUB’S FIRST SPORTING DIRECTOR". mnunitedfc.com. Minnesota United FC. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- Nelson, Tim (March 25, 2015). "Major League Soccer team coming to Minneapolis". Minnesota Public Radio News. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
- Blount, Rachel (March 25, 2015). "United president expects team name, logo, coach to stay the same". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
- Tomasch, Kenn (October 5, 2010). "Taking Attendance: The Final Chapter". Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- Tomasch, Kenn (October 31, 2011). "Taking Attendance: The Final Chapter". Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- Cite error: The named reference
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- Tomasch, Kenn (November 1, 2015). "Taking Attendance 11/1/2015: NASL Sets DII Record, Up 7 Percent". Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- "Giving Our Home State's Soccer Team A New Identity". Zeus Jones. March 5, 2013. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- Walsh, Paul (July 30, 2014) "TCF Bank Stadium first: Grass surface being installed for soccer match – The temporary shift to grass is for Saturday's soccer matches." Star Tribune
- Greder, Andy. "Minnesota United attracting more fans to games". TwinCities.com. Pioneer Press. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
- "Flyover Cup on the Line Saturday Night when Edmonton faces Minnesota". Boxscorenews.com. July 15, 2009. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- "Minnesota United Supporters Groups". mnunitedfc.com. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
- "This is United – New Employee". YouTube. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
- "Introducing Foot Foot". Dark Clouds. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
- "All Home Games To Be Broadcast On KSTC". Minnesota United. March 13, 2014.
- "United broadcast includes both HOME & AWAY in 2015". Minnesota United. March 24, 2015. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
- "Minnesota United FC Roster". mnunitedfc.com. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- "Front Office Staff". Minnesota United FC. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- "Coaching Staff". Minnesota United FC. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- "Minnesota United Fc Announces Reserve Team". National Premier Soccer League. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- "Minnesota United Names Donny Mark as Reserve Team Coach". Minnesota United FC. January 15, 2014. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- "NPSL Playoff Game #1". Lansing United. July 19, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- "UNITED RESERVES JOIN THE PREMIER LEAGUE OF AMERICA". MNUnitedFC.com. January 11, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2016.