Minnesota United, LAFC Now In a Race For 2017

The club that finishes its stadium deal first joins MLS with Atlanta
by Ray Marcham   |   Saturday, March 28, 2015

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

With a single statement, how Major League Soccer expansion will play out in 2017 is now not as certain as it originally was.

Wednesday’s announcement that Minnesota United was coming to MLS was full of tidbits about how the timeline for MUFC will play out. The major one is the planned stadium near Target Field, which the league expects a financial roadmap for by July.

If that happens, then things get real interesting. The aftereffects would not only concern the Twin Cities, but in Los Angeles as well, even if the initial announcement had Minnesota making its MLS debut in three years.

Commissioner Don Garber mentioned at the official announcement event in Minneapolis that Minnesota United could get into MLS in 2017 or 2018. He also gave that same time frame for Los Angeles FC, the club that’s expected to replace Chivas USA as the second team in southern California. It all depends on the respective stadium situations for the two areas.

Minnesota United has a stadium site, and it’s in the west end of downtown Minneapolis, by the Farmers Market. It’s not far from the two other major league stadiums, Target Field (where the MUFC announcement was made, and home of MLB’s Twins) and the Target Center (home of the NBA’s Timberwolves). The press release making the announcement of expansion into the Twin Cities stated a 2018 start date, but if the financing for the stadium comes through before Garber’s July deadline, then the Loons could have their MLS debut speeded up a bit.

That would happen if LAFC can’t get their stadium situation figured out by then. While the current site of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, between the Coliseum and the University of Southern California campus in Exhibition Park, is now seen as the likely location for a stadium for LAFC, there are still many issues that lie ahead. That includes financing, an agreement between USC (which oversees the Arena site) and LAFC, and settling on a final design.

How quickly LAFC can get that done will determine when they get into MLS. If LAFC ownership and USC can hammer out a deal quickly, and it doesn’t fall apart, then the plan to start play in 2017, along with Atlanta, remains intact.

But if there are any more delays in Los Angeles, and Minnesota United gets their stadium financing done by July, then the timeline could, and likely would, end up changing. MUFC would be moving up their MLS debut to 2017, while LAFC would be pushed back to a 2018 start, coming into the league with either Miami or Sacramento.

So, suddenly, there is a race to become the 22nd team in MLS. The large group of investors who are backing LAFC will now have to try and move forward with their plans quickly if they still want to join the league in two years. Garber has put them under pressure to get that stadium deal done, and if it’s at the Sports Arena site, so be it.

Of course, Minnesota United is also under pressure to get their stadium deal done. If there is no financial plan by Garber’s July deadline, then the move to MLS becomes less certain. While all sides said on Wednesday in Minneapolis that the MUFC-MLS announcement wouldn’t have been made if there wasn’t confidence that the plan comes together, there is that bit of uncertainty that hangs over the whole situation. Bill McGuire and his investors know that any stumble at this stage could cost them, and cost them big.

That’s because waiting in the wings are Miami and Sacramento. Garber is starting to make a bigger push on David Beckham and his group to get the stadium situation in south Florida done, and done soon. The latest sites mentioned are near Marlins Park in Little Havana, and in the Overtown neighborhood. While neither site is the downtown location that Garber wants, he would have to accept one or the other if he wants MLS in Miami.

And if there’s one thing that Sacramento has over Miami, it is a stadium site. The city has already chosen a site in the Railyards area of downtown, and Sacramento Republic FC ownership has already stated that they have the money ready to build the stadium without any public financing. While there is a feeling that Sacramento is now on the outside looking in for an MLS club right now, any stadium problems in Minnesota or Miami puts Sacramento right back in the mix.

However, at this moment, it’s a race between Minnesota and Los Angeles for 2017. Whichever club gets their stadium plan done and puts shovels in the ground will be the winner, and will join Atlanta in MLS in two years. The loser sees their start date moved to 2018, and the pressure to get a stadium deal done will only increase.

The clock is now ticking.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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