The MLS season kicks off this weekend after a not-as-quiet offseason as one would normally expect from Major League Soccer teams. Abounding with words such as ‘trade,’ ‘allocation,’ and ‘DP,’ offseason news was a hot commodity. From firing and hiring head coaches (RBNY’s Hans Backe out and Mike Petke in; Chivas USA’s Robin Fraser out and Chelis in; Toronto FC’s Paul Mariner out and Ryan Nelsen in) to rumors of at least one new MLS team (most of the speculation was centered around Queens and in the NYC area), and the integration of MLS (it’s reserve league) and the third tier United Soccer League Professional Division (USL-Pro), fans, analysts, and journalists lustily salivated for soccer news, heresy, and rumors.
Although without a Major League Soccer team, one location and lower league team I believe should have a spotlight on it is Minnesota, and its North American Soccer League team, the Minnesota Stars FC.
A professional soccer team has been in the state of Minnesota for decades – the Minnesota Kicks was founded in 1976 – and has steadily evolved to being the Minnesota Strikers, followed by the Minnesota Thunder and lastly, now into the MN Stars FC.
Even soon-to-be MLS Hall of Famer (don’t throw stones at me if it’s incorrect, it’s my own speculation) Taylor Twellman is indirectly attached to the Minnesota Kicks of yore. Twellman’s father, Tim Twellman, played as a Forward on the Kicks from 1977-1981.
Along with the famous son and father soccer duo of Taylor and Tim Twellman, there have been other soccer legacies in Minnesota.
After retiring from coaching the Minnesota Thunder, Buzz Lagos – a founder and longtime face of Minnesota soccer – continues to be involved with the beautiful game in the state that he grew the game. Lagos’ son, Manny, was a constant name with NASL and MLS rosters throughout the 90s and is currently the Head Coach for the MN Stars FC.
Another famous face for soccer in Minnesota is former LA Galaxy mid/defender Tony Sanneh. Although not inducted yet to the MLS Hall of Fame (again, my own speculation), Sanneh has done a wealth of help for kids in the Twin Cities area through the Sanneh Foundation.
Although not a soccer hotbed (it does get rather cold, if you haven’t heard – ba-dum-tish), Minnesota has a rich history of soccer that shouldn’t be ignored. Soccer fans, especially MN Stars FC supporters (i.e. Dark Clouds) can be described as passionate and intelligent, loyal and devoted. On a related note of excited fans, if you want to support the Stars, learn the words to Wonderwall.
So should MLS come to Minnesota? Possibly. Would the team succeed? Probably.
And as mentioned previously, rumors have been swirling for years about a second MLS New York team, but is that what the league needs? In my (skewed – I grew up in the fine state of Minnesota) opinion, I don’t believe the league is in need of a second NY team. Am I saying Minnesota should invest in a different – or at the very least, renovated – stadium to then invest in MLS? Not exactly, but I’m not opposed to that idea. In addition, MLS Commissioner Don Garber has also mentioned Minnesota in press conferences in the past few years. The words Garber spoke were quite ambiguous but at the very least, a Major League Soccer team in Minnesota isn’t a flailing thought, but rather, along with a team in the Southeast and most likely in the New York City area, Minnesota could be a strong contender.
I love watching English, Spanish, German and French football, but there’s something different about watching MLS and other soccer leagues in the U.S. If MLS can get a foothold in the places where basketball, baseball, and football normally have succeeded and thrived, who’s saying soccer can not do the same? No MLS teams are located in the Southeast (that’s a whole different beast in it’s own right) and there are only two MLS teams in the Midwest (Chicago Fire and Sporting Kansas City). To have communities, like the Twin Cities and the surrounding suburbs, appreciate the beautiful game and support soccer, there needs to be a sustainable team physically located in areas where soccer fans can come and watch. Yes, Minnesota is able, and continues, to sustain a NASL team, but why stop there? News that Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has an interest to bring an MLS team to Minnesota could someday – possibly in the next 7-10 years (yes, that seems like eons from now, but it’ll here before you know it) – become a reality with a Major League Soccer team in the North Star state is optimistic, and yet a possibility. And with players like this: how could you not want a team like Minnesota Stars FC be a part of MLS? At least think about it, will you?