Minneapolis to get 23rd MLS team, if they can get new stadium, so open your wallets, Minnesotans!

According to multiple reports, Minneapolis has been chosen by MLS as the site of the league’s 23rd franchise. And the winning ownership group will reportedly be the current owners of the NASL’s Minnesota United, which includes the owners of the Twins and Timberwolves as investors, over the owners of the Vikings, who also were in the running.

That’s significant because unlike the Vikings plan, which would have seen an expansion soccer team sharing the new football stadium, the United plan would involve a new soccer-only stadium being built downtown near the Twins’ Target Field, though how to pay for it remains an open question. It’s an open question that will need to be resolved soon, though — the reports are that MLS is making the expansion team contingent on getting a stadium approved — so expect lots of “If you want a team, cough up some public dough” rhetoric in the near future.

This is not surprising, given that it’s how MLS has handled things in the past (and how it’s now apparently handling David Beckham’s planned Miami franchise, which is getting booted to the back of the line until it gets a stadium plan that both Beckham and the league are happy with). After NYC F.C. and whatever the new Atlanta franchise ends up being called were granted franchises without soccer-only stadium deals in place, it seemed for a minute like the league might be willing to let in anyone with a big enough check without playing some stadium brinkmanship first, but it’s nice to know that everything is apparently back to normal in the sports blackmail game.


20 comments on “Minneapolis to get 23rd MLS team, if they can get new stadium, so open your wallets, Minnesotans!

  1. MLS is basically a wholly-owned subsidiary of the “big four” leagues at this point — the competition in Minnesota pitted an NFL bid against an NBA/MLB bid, and Sacramento now has the 49ers’ backing in a potential bid. NYCFC will be making at Yankee Stadium for the foreseeable future, Atlanta thing is only happening because of Arthur Blank, and LAFC is a who’s-who of NBA/MLB shareholders.

  2. The rumor in these parts is that KJ has left town in an effort to get MLS to change its collective mind.

    To which I say, Go Minnesota!

  3. Is there actually enough talent to fill the rosters of all these expansion teams? I’m sure worldwide there is but for the salary levels that will be afforded by the sport’s current popularity in the US don’t seem like they would be high enough to pull talent away from nations where the sport is at the top. Having a bunch of teams with poor quality talent isn’t going to do much for changing the sport’s image here.

  4. Jason, that’s a concern many of us have. There is a maximum number of non-US players allowed per team, and there’s a limited number of good Americans that want to play in MLS, so the already-stretched talent pool will get thinner. Although, there a 2x as many clubs now as there were 15 years ago and the quality of play has increased dramatically since then, so maybe we’ll be OK, but I have my doubts.

    In the long term, this could make MLS a more viable option for many youngsters and convince them to choose the sport as a career, but a salary increase would do more than incresing the number of available jobs.

  5. How many American players choose to go overseas to play rather than accept MLS salaries? I’ve never actually checked.

  6. Neil, there are usually about 30 Americans playing professionally in England, Mexico, Germany, and Scandinavia*(if the last few years are a guide). Other countries not so much. They pay more, provide much better coaching,

    I agree with the points Jason and Chris make and think MLS play has gotten better (but I still see things that makes me think of left-handed pitching in MLB). I think the MLS is also limited by coaching (skills coaching not so much tactical or conditioning coaching). I think a lot of players play in Europe for more money but several mention the availability of good coaching (a player that aspires to bigger things will want the better coaching and exposure of Europe–at least while they are young).

    I will also say I am not a fan of the MLS economic model. It continues to be too unfair to players. I know that a lot of the newer franchises have passionate and knowledgeable fans but my own (admittedly limited) experience is that filling up seats just to fill up seats is a short term strategy.

    *If you count Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark there are always quite a few Americans playing there. There are a few playing Iceland usually but not technically Scandinavia.

  7. Another 30 players would help competitive levels in MLS some, but wouldn’t make a tremendous difference. Not that MLS shouldn’t start paying players a decent wage (the new CBA will help some but not a ton), but it’s still a long, long way from being a top club league. Which is nothing to be ashamed of — plenty of countries don’t have top club leagues — but it’s going to continue to make the league a tough sell to those Americans who are accustomed to buying up all the world’s best players.

  8. People have been making the talent diluted argument since 2005. Ten years later and ten new teams and quality of play has never been better. Fact is at least 250 million player through out the world. The American and Canadian player pool is limited.

  9. MLS games are now being broadcast through out Europe and will lead to more players coming over to get playing time and impress national coaches. Also the dollar is stable and lifestyle pretty nice in parts of the USA.

  10. Yep, that got Bradley Wright-Phillips into the Three Lions.

    Seriously… First, I can’t think of a single European player who got the attention of his national team coach by being in MLS. Sure there might be one, but even relatively tiny Belgium has its pick of players from the EPL, La Liga and the Bundesliga to fill out a roster. Second, you do know that our national team coach is constantly banging on for US players to go Europe and play so they can be practicing/playing day-in day-out against the best players in the world, right?

    I watch MLS and it’s okay. But the lengths that MLS true believers go to to convince themselves that it’s on par with Europe (or even close) is every bit as annoying as Euro snobs who refuse to watch MLS because it’s not the EPL.

  11. I should have written clearer. There are around 30 players in EACH of England, Germany, Mexico, and Scandinavia for around 130 playing abroad everywhere. In England and Germany many of these are youth players (basically avoiding the US HS, club and college system).

    Steven, everybody knows the U.S. TV ratings for MLS are terrible so nobody is watching in Europe either (not even imagined insomniac coaches). I think saying that MLS has not gotten worse (which is mostly true) is the classic example of damning with faint praise.

  12. @Steven: “Fact is at least 250 million player through out the world. The American and Canadian player pool is limited.”

    Did you not just torpedo your own argument there? The North American talent pool is limited indeed, so it would stand to reason that every expansion team would only drain it even further.

    People have justifiably been making the talent diluted argument because MLS has created a situation where most teams are constructed in the form of [aging star player] + 10.

  13. Yanks Abroad has the total at 119, but about 100 of those are outside the top leagues (Ligue 1, EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Eredivisie). And even some of the guys like Cameron Carter-Vickers are youth team guys (don’t think he’s every made it out of the Tottenham reserves and don’t know if he’s even declared a national team preference, so he might not end up even being “American”). Outside of goalkeepers, our presence in Europe is still pretty pitiful.

  14. They’d be decent players on MLS rosters, though. Higher starting salaries will help, but I don’t know how you get out of the “nobody wants to play in the U.S. because all the best competition is in Europe because nobody wants to play in the U.S.” trap.

  15. @Neil: MLS is never getting out of that trap. If the Don and his employers were in any way interested in making American soccer better, they’d drop the whole “top league by 2022” charade and focus instead on developing players who could make the grade in the premier European leagues (a la Latin America, smaller Euro leagues, and increasingly, East Asia).

    NYCFC’s much-ballyhooed (as can be by US standards, anyway) home debut drew a 0.2 rating on ESPN2, at a reasonable time slot on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know if there were any EPL games on the telly this past weekend, but I’d fathom a guess that each one of them drew at least twice that number.

  16. The level of play has suffered over the last 7 to 10 years, it’s crazy to believe play is better than ever. I’ve seen every world cup since 1978, remember the NASL well, and followed MLS since its 1996 inception.

    Long time owners are trying to scratch back money the only way they can, expansion fees, and that’s hurting the league. AEG still owns the Galaxy and Dynamo. Chivas USA and bringing back the Earthquakes was a mistake. Columbus should have been relocated, and the same could be said for Dallas.

    The league would be more appealing if it were at about 16 teams right now, but the big problem is that original teams are some of the clubs with the lowest attendance figures. MLS at 20 teams is unwatchable, 24 teams is going to look like the 90’s again.

  17. MLS is doing fine, I’d say. Quality of play is average for a smaller European league (Switzerland or Czech Republic, perhaps, on the high end). Sometimes a little laughable on the defensive side, but a decent family day out and a low-paying way to live the dream for soccer players.

    To live up to its ambition–which not only seems to include a World Cup championship but also revolutionize urban life as we know it and restore prosperity to American cities, all with “no tax dollars”–this model seems a bit short. So I’d agree that selling franchises and (even better) getting free development land “in exchange for” a taxpayer financed stadium is probably the way most of these owners see the path to “success.”

  18. As of the last Forbes estimates about half the teams were still losing money, that’s not doing “fine”. Expect to see attendance drop as the newness of the expansion clubs runs out.

    I’ve got 2 Champions League matches on live right now on my basic cable, 2 more tomorrow, and a bunch of EPL matches on the weekends. I also get some of the UEFA league, EURO qualifying, and FA Cup. Add in the basic sports pak for GolTV and BeINTV and I get Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, Bundesliga, French Ligue 1, and even the English Championship league.

    There’s at least 10 games a week of better soccer than MLS on TV and that’s not counting any of the premium packages or internet feeds. I don’t see ratings improving while the talent level is continually being diluted.

  19. @ Neil

    The Atlanta franchise doesn’t need a Soccer Specific Stadium because Blank owns the MLS club and the Falcons. Same exception the Revs and Sounders get.

  20. @David Benz pretty much agree with everything you said.

    I suspect that MLS may be cooking the books a bit when it comes to losing money though, particularly to the tune of $100 million per annum as they claimed not too long ago. End of the day, these owners are raking in oodles of money from expansion fees, publicly funded stadiums, and SUM revenues (via USMNT matches and summer Euro friendlies), on top of seeing their franchise valuations rise year over year, to the point where it seems like another bubble is just waiting to burst.

    The league is certainly not doing itself any favors by seemingly expanding into whatever market wants a team of its own. What’s going to happen when towns like Buffalo and Jacksonville decide plunking down nine-figure fees for a new franchise isn’t worth their while?