MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Major League Soccer is expected to confirm during a news conference this week that an expansion franchise has been awarded to Minnesota.
MLS said Monday that Commissioner Don Garber will join Bill McGuire, the owner of the Minnesota United club in the North American Soccer League, for "an important announcement" Wednesday without specifying the nature of it. The news conference will be held at Target Field, the home of baseball's Minnesota Twins.
Minnesota United, which plays home games in the second-tier NASL in Blaine, a suburb north of Minneapolis, didn't respond to requests for further information about the announcement. Dan Courtemanche, the executive vice president of communications for MLS, declined to divulge details.
But one week ago, the league confirmed it's been in "advanced discussions" with McGuire and his partners about bringing a team to Minneapolis that would become the 23rd MLS franchise.
The statement from Garber issued then by the league expressed excitement about the McGuire group's plans for a new soccer-specific stadium. McGuire is a former UnitedHealth Group executive.
Twins owner Jim Pohlad has joined Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor as backers of McGuire's group. Speculation about a site for the new soccer venue has centered on the area near where the MLB and NBA teams play in the city's burgeoning North Loop neighborhood on the west edge of downtown.
There have been no publicized details of building or financing plans, though, and the appetite among state and local politicians for considering contributions is nonexistent. Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday that a public stadium subsidy for soccer would be a non-starter.
"I congratulate them on their apparent success of bringing a team to Minnesota, and I think if they are doing so they need to fully realize that it is something they are going to have to pay for out of their own private resources," Dayton said.
MLS has preferred smaller open-air venues, so Vikings owners were passed over in their pursuit of the expansion franchise for their massive, covered NFL stadium set to open in 2016.
The Vikings and their designers revealed plans for curtaining off extra seats to make the environment more intimate, and they had the advantage of a paid-for, under-construction home. But that wasn't enough to sway MLS officials.
Once the new $1 billion Vikings stadium opens in 2016, the Vikings owners have an exclusive five-year window to bring a soccer franchise to play there per the state legislation. Absent a deal with the Vikings, the McGuire-led group would not be able to use the stadium then.
Sacramento, California, has also been under consideration in the league's plan to expand to 24 teams. MLS has 20 teams this season. Franchises are on their way to Atlanta and the Los Angeles area for 2017, and Miami was previously promised a team if a new stadium can be secured, but that hasn't happened yet. Garber also said last week the league will evaluate further expansion beyond its current goal of 24 clubs. Las Vegas, St. Louis and San Antonio have been considered by MLS.
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