Report: Minneapolis is ‘near lock’ in soccer expansion

It’s a sure bet that Major League Soccer will select Minneapolis for a new franchise, a soccer news website suggests.

American Soccer Now cites a source within MLS saying Minneapolis is the frontrunner for one of two expansion teams.

“The people at the league office love the idea of another team in the upper Midwest because the networks really like games starting in Central time,” said one league source. “Plus Minnesota is a big market that has supported lower-division soccer for a long time and there are so many companies like Target and U.S. Bank based in Minneapolis that there would be great corporate support.

The question now is whether soccer will be played “on plastic”, says Northern Pitch, which says a group vying for a new, outdoor stadium seems to be the favored group.

However, despite United’s recent success, the decisive factor separating the two local bidders may have been the open air, grass surface stadium proposed by the Loons in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis. The new Vikings stadium currently under construction will have a fixed, transparent roof, as well as an artificial playing surface. No current or future MLS team plays in a domed stadium with a non-retractable roof. The most similar stadium situation is that of the Vancouver Whitecaps who share a dome with a retractable roof with the CFL’s BC Lions. The future Atlanta team will also share a retractable roof venue with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. With all of this information, it appears the Vikings bid has taken a back seat, although they declined to comment on this story.

The remaining wild card is actually getting the United stadium funded. Sources have put the MLS price tag of the Minneapolis franchise around $100 million (which is in line with recent expansion fees) and the complete stadium project with the franchise fee at approximately $300 million. In the ASN article, a source says that United “made a lot of progress behind the scenes the last few months and they don’t expect [a lack of a final deal] to get in the way.”

In attaining “near lock” stadus, Minneapolis has leapfrogged over Miami, American Soccer Now says.

There’s no indication how an outdoor stadium would be funded. “Progress has been quietly made behind the scenes and a deal for land and funding is expected to be reached soon,” according to ASN.