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Major League Soccer team coming to Minneapolis

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Welcome to MLS soccer
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, left, welcomed Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire to the top level of professional soccer during a news conference, Friday, March 25, 2015.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Updated: 3:20 p.m. | Posted: 10:45 a.m.

Major League Soccer announced Wednesday that Minnesota will be the home of a new Major League Soccer team. The owners also announced plans to build an open-air soccer stadium in Minneapolis.

The winning bid for the expansion team came from ex-UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire, who led a partnership that includes Minnesota Twins owners in the Pohlad family, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, Carlson board member Wendy Carlson Nelson and former Minnesota Wild investor Glen Nelson.  

McGuire owns the North American Soccer League's Minnesota United, the latest incarnation of teams previously known as the Minnesota Thunder, the NSC Stars and the Minnesota Stars.

League officials said the team will start to play in 2018 in a stadium being planned for downtown Minneapolis. 

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said the large population of young people in the area and the region's long tradition of supporting soccer factored into the league's choice to expand to Minnesota.

He described Minneapolis as a "cool, funky, hip city."

"It has an incredible international flair to it," Garber said of Minneapolis. "It is a city that represents all of the things that we've been able to capitalize on that allows our league to be the sport for a new America." 

Bill McGuire
Bill McGuire is owner of North American Soccer League's Minnesota United and a partner in the winning bid for a Major League Soccer expansion team.
Courtesy Bill McGuire

The Minneapolis team will be among the final pair added to meet the league's goal to expand to 24 teams by 2020. In the last decade, the league has added 13 clubs from across the country.     League officials said the stadium was a main factor in the league's decision, which the league earlier estimated would cost between $100 million and $150 million to build. 

The proposed stadium would be located near the Minneapolis Farmers Market on the western side of Target Field. League officials said final plans for the stadium will be released by July 1. 

McGuire said the soccer stadium could complement the farmers market and help facilitate development in the area.

"We believe a soccer park there can help facilitate development and expansion of that part of our community," McGuire said. 

But the team may face some difficulty getting public subsidies for yet another stadium in a city that's added three other new sports stadiums in the last decade. 

The idea of public financing for the stadium met with opposition from legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton, who advised that it would need to be privately financed.

Despite apparent opposition from state lawmakers to public financing of the new stadium, McGuire has not ruled out asking for a public subsidy. 

An attorney for the owners group reportedly told a meeting of Minneapolis real estate investors that the team would seek a "higher percentage of private dollars than any pro stadium project in the Twin Cities," a hint that it would not be entirely privately funded.

McGuire was noncommittal during an afternoon interview with MPR News. He noted that the investor group had not yet rolled out its stadium financing plans in detail.

"I'm pretty confident that the vision we will lay out ... will be embraced by a lot of different people," he said. "We'll see how that comes together once we put it out there."

Asked if that meant the group had given up on public financing, McGuire said, "I'm saying we haven't asked anybody or laid anything out yet and it's premature to talk about any of that stuff."

Site for proposed soccer stadium
The site of a new open-air soccer stadium proposed for downtown Minneapolis.
Courtesy of Major League Soccer

Although Hennepin County officials have said that the sales tax for Target Field is running ahead of the debt payment for that stadium, and could theoretically help pay for another stadium, key lawmakers are opposed to that option.

Minneapolis Council Member Blong Yang represents the area where McGuire's proposed stadium would be constructed and has spoken to members of the partnership about their plans.

"Part of me feels like this is great for the area there, and for my ward, part of me would have wished it was in the heart of Ward 5 and not on the outskirts," Yang said. "They don't need the development as bad as other parts of Ward 5 or north Minneapolis."

Yang said he'd welcome development in the district but opposes any public subsidy for a possible stadium.

A spokesperson for the University of Minnesota said no one from Major League Soccer or McGuire's partnership has contacted the school about using its athletic facilities even temporarily.

McGuire's partnership was competing for the franchise with the owners of the Minnesota Vikings. The football team has a five-year exclusive right to bring a Major League Soccer team to play in the $1.1 billion football stadium that's currently under construction in downtown Minneapolis.  

McGuire bought Minnesota United in 2012 after the league took over the struggling franchise. The team plays out of the National Sports Center Stadium in Blaine, Minn.

If successful, the new Major League Soccer team would be the sixth major league sports team in the Twin Cities, joining the Vikings, Twins, Wild, Timberwolves and Lynx.