Minnesota United—and yes, the name is Minnesota United—confirmed its 2017 entry into Major League Soccer at a St. Paul event on Friday evening, celebrating the end of four decades of uncertainty surrounding the status of the pro game in the Twin Cities.
Under numerous names and owners and through just about every league that’s given soccer a go in the U.S., Minnesota has been supportive but also struggled to find stability. As recently as late 2012, the club now called United was in danger of folding. But Bill McGuire, the physician and executive who once ran UnitedHealth Group, rescued the North American Soccer League franchise, renamed it and now, after fending off a challenge from the NFL’s Vikings, will take it into MLS.
United will spend 2017 at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, and most or all of 2018 as well, as it builds a 21,000-seat arena in the Midway area of St. Paul.
McGuire, whose investor group includes the owners of the Timberwolves and Twins, was awarded the rights to an MLS team in March. But Friday’s announcement was delayed as United worked to firm up its temporary and permanent stadium plans. Meanwhile, early objections from Atlanta United (next year’s other expansion team) and the MLS office cast doubt on whether the Minnesota club would keep its name. It wouldn’t be Twin Cities soccer without a bit of uncertainty but answers finally fell into place and United, the league, St. Paul and the state of Minnesota were ready to move forward.
“This club has had support through four or five ownership groups, through different stadiums, through decades and decades and finally, it all leads to this day,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said.
The commissioner then introduced McGuire, and fans chanting “United! United!” welcomed him to the microphone. The name was the high-profile question heading into Friday—the club was considering ‘Minnesota FC’ when it appeared MLS would limit itself to two Uniteds—but in the end McGuire and the fans got what they wanted.
“What’s in the name? In this case, it’s everything,” McGuire said. “Look across this throng of people. Consider where we’ve been and what is in front of us. Think about who we are. Who we will become, and what we value. You can’t really say it better than, ‘We are United.’”
The club’s popular loon and star logo will remain, with the current version that reads ‘Minnesota United FC’ being streamlined next year to read ‘MNUFC.’