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Zygi Wilf Says Major League Soccer to Minnesota if Vikings Get New Proposed Arden Hills Stadium

2011 May 11

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf states he’d like to bring Major League Soccer to Minnesota if a new stadium is built.

Intial sketch of new proposed stadium in Arden Hills, Minnesota.

Zygi Wilf, owner of the Minnesota Vikings NFL team, held a press conference on Tuesday announcing they had reached an agreement with Ramsey County and the city of Arden Hills for a new retractable roof stadium. The proposed stadium would be built on the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant along I-35W north of I-694.

The cost of the stadium with the retractable roof is said to be about $1 billion. A study by the State’s Transportation Department said that an additional $240 million would be needed to improve roads in the area for the stadium.

The new stadium would be a 1.6 million-square-foot facility and would have  21,000 parking spaces which Wilf stated is important to bring the NFL game day experience, complete with tailgating, back to Minnesota.

Wilf, who was born in Germany in 1950, made another announcement that passed by most media without mention. He stated that he would like to bring Major League Soccer to Minnesota if he was able to work out the details of the stadium deal.

“We are very excited for the State of Minnesota for our fans and for all the different events we can bring here,” said Zygi Wilf in his opening statements of the almost hour-long press conference. “Soccer, hopefully the Super Bowl, in which we are in it of course, Final Four and all the great community events that have taken place in the Metrodome over the last 30 years.”

Mark Wilf, Zygi’s brother, continued with the talk of soccer coming to the stadium, this time mentioning MLS.

“We feel the Arden Hills location is ideal for our team, for the community, for the State of Minnesota and for all the public. The stadium will be just ten miles from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. The proximity to downtown, the retractable roof, will make the stadium a major attraction in the upper Midwest to bring Major League Soccer, to bring Final Four college football bowl games and of course the Super Bowl,” said Mark Wilf.

Zygi and Mark Wilf

When the media was allowed to ask questions, Zygi Wilf used the chance to get more specific about his thoughts of MLS in the newly proposed stadium that would share the venue with the Vikings.

“We do plan on providing facilities that provide entertainment for our fans as part of the Vikings venue,” said Zygi Wilf. “The most important thing was to provide a world-class full-day football experience.”

“Also, with the event of a full retractable stadium our goal is to bring Major League Soccer back to Minnesota. The location of here (Arden Hills) being close to Blaine and their facilities for soccer and for youth soccer I think could make this stadium an important part of our youth soccer programs in addition to what’s up in Blaine. We are very excited for what this stadium could bring to our fans and the development will take place after we see what our needs will be.”

Blaine, Minnesota is the home of the National Sports Center Stadium (NSC), an 8,200-seat soccer venue where the Minnesota Thunder spent most of their years playing and is now the home of the NASL Minnesota Stars. The NSC also boast 52 soccer fields and one of the world’s largest youth soccer tournaments drawing over 900 teams from across the globe annually.

This is not the first time Wilf has talked MLS if a new stadium was built. I covered that topic in December of 2009 when the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission proposed a new stadium to replace the Metrodome, which is now nearly 30 years old.

At the time I passed Wilf’s previous comments off as merely hype to get more support behind a stadium for the Vikings. But what I’ve found out since then is Wilf did actually have some initial conversations of some sort with Major League Soccer. That is not to say this is not another attempt to garner support for his new proposed stadium.

While this could be exciting news for Minnesotans, the stadium is still a long way from being done and Major League Soccer to Minnesota would be even a longer shot. Beside Wilf needing to put up the $40 million plus to field an MLS team, the league would have many questions to ask, including if Minnesota would truly be a good place to move or start a new team.

After the start of the 2012 season, MLS will be at 19 teams with the addition of the Montreal Impact. Commissioner Don Garber has stated he does not foresee additional growth in the league for some time after it hits its 20th team. Currently a second team in New York in addition to the Red Bulls and the South East United States seem to be targets for that last expansion team slot.

Still, it’s encouraging to hear the possibility of Minnesota having the highest level of soccer played in the US after having a 22-year history of D2 pro soccer in the area with the Thunder and the Stars. In addition, Minnesota has a history of top level soccer with the old NASL in the Minnesota Kicks, who played from 1976 to 1981, and the Strikers indoor team that played from 1984-1988.

 

71 Responses
  1. May 11, 2011

    Fantastic if they can pull this off. The Kicks had one of the better attended teams back in the NASL days:

    1976…..23,121
    1977…..32,775
    1978…..30,928
    1979…..24,580
    1980…..18,279
    1981…..16,605

    D2 performance of a team isn’t necessarily a good indicator whether or not a team will succeed in MLS. Just look at what Toronto used to draw when it was in USL.

  2. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 11, 2011

    I am with Seamonster.

    I don’t support the idea of a mega-stadium for a billionair, but if MLS came to the Twin Cities that would be awesome! Although, the stadium doesn’t reek of a New England Revolution situation.

  3. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 11, 2011

    *doesn’t = does

    Zygi should show he is serious about MLS and buy the Stars, rebrand them as the Kicks and go from there.

  4. jw7 permalink
    May 11, 2011

    I can’t go there yet. I only have so much emotions to play with.

  5. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 11, 2011

    I wonder if the people that complain about Blaine being too far away to see a Stars game will change their tune if they heard MLS was coming to town.

    That would be hilarious!

  6. ES76 permalink
    May 11, 2011

    I’m a native Minnesotan now living in Portland, where I’m witnessing first hand how a former USL market can thrive in MLS.

    Minnesota would be a great fit for the league. Just like in Portland, Minnesota has a strong history of supporting its old NASL franchise. It would also give the league another strong presence in the upper Midwest.

  7. Luc Picard permalink
    May 11, 2011

    Make it so.

  8. Kel permalink
    May 11, 2011

    “After the start of the 2012 season MLS will be at 19 teams with the addition of the Montreal Impact. Commissioner Don Garber has stated he does not foresee additional growth in the league for some time after it hits it’s 20th team. Currently a second team in New York in addition to the Red Bulls and the South East United States seem to be targets for that last expansion team slot.”

    You really think Garber would turn down $40 plus million and rich NFL owners like Wilf? As long as rich people in good situations want to buy in, MLS will let them in.

  9. El Padre permalink
    May 11, 2011

    What I don’t get is the all or nothing mentality of a guy like Zygi Wilf. Can’t he just say that “We want a soccer team in the stadium to play at the highest possible level of competition”? That way, he can shoot for MLS and not disregard the NASL. As Brian rightly states, MLS is supposed to be capped at 20 for a time so if he doesn’t get that 2oth coveted spot why should he forget about the beautiful game until the league feels it is ready for further expansion? I think thesuperrookie is right about Mr. Wilf buying the Stars. (Although I think they should rebrand as North Star FC) This would show that he is serious about the other kind of football and maybe that may make the MLS take notice.
    It is a win-win-win situation for him. MN soccer fans win because they get a proper owner to offer stability to their pro team, Zygi wins because he gets attention from the MLS while simultaneously getting the attention of citizens & lawmakers to support the construction project who would not have done so previously if it were only for the Vikings, and the NASL wins because they get another strong franchise until they gain “promotion” to D1. If they don’t get to join the MLS, Wilf will have a soccer team for much less than the $40 million and up asking price of an MLS franchise. If he has that much money and interest, he could invest one quarter of that on his coaching and roster salaries (remember- no NASL salary caps- thanks be to God) and qualify for CONCACAF Champions buy winning the US Open Cup. Thus, they could be on the world stage even as a D2.
    Besides, I know that I will get trashed for this, but MLS going into self imposed expansion hibernation, gives the MLS the position to expand to the remaining “big markets” in the US & Canada and make a rival league worthy of recognition and maybe even TV rights. (I’m not dreaming- even the Puerto Rico Soccer League actually has a TV package sending most of their games throughout a good chunk of Latin America.) Anyway, all of the talk of promotion and relegation is in fact not part of the US sports’ tradition… but merger is! Think big, people! Don’t just settle for one or two teams going up or a franchise or two buying their way eventually into the MLS once they wake from their slumber- think 40 team table! A guy like Zygi Wilf is the perfect sort of investor (along with some of his counterparts around the country) to make it happen. If we are all dreaming about the future, have bigger dreams! :)

  10. El Padre permalink
    May 11, 2011

    @Kel: We’ll see if that logic holds true in NY with big wealthy MLB owners. Besides, the $40 million pricetag keeps going up with each addition.

  11. yankiboy permalink
    May 11, 2011

    @superookie: Like your proposed plan about the Wilfs buying the stars. Maybe, the NASL Commish, Mr. Downs can start trying to sell the idea to Wilfs.

    That way, the NASL would be one franchise closer to maintaining its sanctioning and the league wouldn’t have to operate the club. I propose that Mr. Downs draft YOU for the project. You could take the same charisma that you use for the NASL podcast Tamper match reports and channel that energy into schmoozing the deal done.

    All you have to do is convince him that he could do like the Cascadians and then be like Hunts and and Robert Kraft.

    Of course, after he got an MLS team and they were playing in the stadium he might turn around and do like Uncle Bob and claim hardship, stating that he needed an SSS in order for the club to be profitable. :)

  12. Reeves' Army permalink
    May 11, 2011

    I agree with thesuperrookie. If Zygi is serious, he should buy the Stars. And if NASL (Traffic in particular) is paying attention, they should reach out to Zygi.

  13. Tom permalink
    May 11, 2011

    IMO, I believe what motivates Mr. Wilf with regards to a MLS team has more to do with having a counter-seasonal tenant for the stadium than it does for his love of the game.

  14. yankiboy permalink
    May 11, 2011

    @Kel: I gotta say that I agree with you. In life, and especially with MLS-timing is everything. If a small miracle took place and everything lined up to make this a reality, Donnie G would be telling the Souteasterners “Hey, You guys had your chance!!! We gave you several years. Minnesota came through, you guys didn’t. If you can get a concrete, viable plan in place then we will consider you guys for out next round of expansion..”

    @El Padre: Those big MLS owners had better partner find a way to finance their baseball team. Then they need to stay away from Madoff. After that, they should partner with the new Cosmos.

    If MLS gives the Wilbons an expansion franchise without making sure that they can get their baseball business together then Garber and the Board of Directors deserve a nice, hard cocatazo (ok-before some of you let your imaginations run too wild–it’s a “slap to the head, people). :D

  15. Reeves' Army permalink
    May 11, 2011

    Kel: at different times The Don has also said he could see MLS at 24 teams.

    If 20 is it, Zygi’s probably too late already; #20 is the New York Cosmos, with Orlando City as a dark horse if the Cosmos’ stadium doesn’t materialize. But if they do go to 24, he definitely has a shot if he’s serious.

  16. smatthew permalink
    May 11, 2011

    I believe Tom used the most important word regarding this whole situation, “tenant”. Until Zygi shows he’s serious about bringing a team here and that doesn’t mean having a decent rent agreement for the MLS team this is just talk to sweeten the stadium deal.

  17. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 11, 2011

    I am sure Zygi would love to meet with me :)

  18. PeeKay permalink
    May 11, 2011

    Forget it. MLS will never happen. Read the article again. They were totally trying to dodge the question until they couldn’t.

  19. Steve Knudson permalink
    May 11, 2011

    Is this something MLS would really consider? Wouldn’t it go counter to their strategy the past few years of encouraging teams to play in soccer-specific stadiums? They don’t want to be seen as a “supplement” for the NFL or play in front of 40,000 seats (even on a good attendance day).

  20. Steve Knudson permalink
    May 11, 2011

    Ooops! That last line should be “40,000 EMPTY seats (even on a good attendance day).”

  21. May 11, 2011

    What are the odds of Zygi not getting an expansion team but relocating an existing team? That’s what NFL owners do, right? Chivas USA and Columbus come to mind. It would be a shame about Columbus. Mercy killing for Chivas USA.

    And who says the stadium wouldn’t be designed for both football and soccer. Lower level would act as a SSS, upper level blocked off . It’s not like they’re just dropping a team in a 30 year old stadium designed exclusively for football.

    I haven’t seen anything on this either but with a retractable roof, that should mean real grass instead of field turf.

  22. James permalink
    May 11, 2011

    …shoot, someone already beat me on the “It’s too FAR!!!” excuse…

    anyways, agree with Tom the obvious angle for Ziggy is to do what he can to get the gates rotating throughout the year, particularly given the desire for the other real estate development he wishes to do on land that would be purchased from the US Army (which still has to be determined. Business common sense there.

    What doesn’t make business common sense though is to come up with a business plan with Ramsey County for the purchase and development of a stadium like that and still be over $200 million short. I think most of us would be laughed out pitching an idea like that. Afterall, I think we have a rather fresh example of what can happen when promised govermnet dollars don’t materialize!

    That being said, I don’t see ziggy buying the Stars either unless a time table and binding agreements are in place for them to go MLS within a four to five year time frame. Couple the purchase and likely bigger draw by being MLS and the additional indirect revenue coming from onsite other development, I don’t see the ROI being there for him other than just having the Stars as an off-season tenant.

  23. Tom permalink
    May 11, 2011

    IMO, I believe the success of the Seattle Sounders (who play in Qwest Field where the Seattle Seahawks also play) might have made them more open-minded. They are the exception, but it can work.

  24. May 11, 2011

    But that is also a downtown stadium. We all know how much more successful MLS Teams have been with urban settings. This too needs to be factored in.

  25. smatthew permalink
    May 11, 2011

    Let the Vikes move out to the burbs and find our soccer sugardaddy who will build a beauty of a SSS at the dome site.

  26. Minnesota Nice FC permalink
    May 11, 2011

    @BQ: the Arden Hill location isn’t exactly Pizza Hut Park. It certainly isn’t Target Field, but it is easy to get to at this point (that is, pre-30k people trying to get there).

    Like many of you, I welcome the idea of Wilf going after this idea, but I am not really banking on it. Who knows, though? could be great.

    Also, since I know Minnesota Nice FC will never happen (alas), I would like to get in there by saying that Norsemen Athletic Football Club would go perfectly with the Vikings. The crest could be a big-ass Thor’s hammer. Superrookie, when you have your meeting with Zygi, let me know and I’ll show up too.

  27. PeeKay permalink
    May 11, 2011

    How about Minnesota Norse FC?

  28. May 11, 2011

    It scares me to see NFL people, German or otherwise, want to get involved in soccer. I don’t want to see another MLS team become the NFL investor’s loss-leader. I’d rather a prospective MLS team remain in D2 and have an owner focused solely on soccer. It sounds like the old NASL all over again.

  29. May 11, 2011

    If they handled things like the Seahawks/Sounders arrangement, where the stadium was specifically built with soccer in mind AND the ownership treats both it’s NFL and MLS teams with equal respect, it could work.

    But I doubt Minnesota fits into the immediate expansion picture for MLS. Outside chance if they go to 24 teams, but right now I just don’t see it happening. The league for some reason is dying to cram another team into the NY market despite less than total support for the Red Bulls, and the league has ZERO presence in the Southeast US. Atlanta, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale/Miami and Orlando are all probably higher on the league’s wish-list than Minnesota.

    I say good luck to Minnesota. I’d rather see a MLS team go there than NYC or Orlando.

  30. yankiboy permalink
    May 11, 2011

    @Steve Knudson: The MLS does whatever the heck it wants. They weren’t and aren’t worried about Seattle ever getting their own stadium. They have been more than happy to be an NFL supplement in Seattle (and considering the financial success that they MLS version of the Sounders has experienced since Day One–who can blame them???)

    MLS giveth the requirments and MLS taketh away (when it darn well suits them).

  31. JeffreyG permalink
    May 11, 2011

    I really really want this to happen. Wilf seems to be the type of owner that once he has skin in the game he’ll really work to make it the best it can be. I can’t see him pulling a Kraft and letting the team languish. I agree that the best thing he could do would be to buy the Stars and really show his intent to invest in the game (and not just another tenant in the stadium we’re building him).

  32. May 11, 2011

    If MLS expands to 24 teams then we’re going to be considered. The thing is, the stadium won’t be built until at least 2015 so 2016 would be the first year we could even think about having a MLS team. Terry Byrne wants New York Cosmos to be 20th MLS team in 2013. If that happens, then expansion three or four years later wouldn’t be out of the question for more American teams.

    Then again, by that time maybe the NASL and MLS work together to really establish a 2nd division because they can only sustain so many top level teams?

  33. Kenn permalink
    May 11, 2011

    “D2 performance of a team isn’t necessarily a good indicator whether or not a team will succeed in MLS. Just look at what Toronto used to draw when it was in USL.”

    And NASL performance of a team isn’t necessarily a good indicator, either. Look at what Tampa Bay used to draw when it was in the NASL versus what they drew in MLS. But, hey, don’t let me stop your nostalgia parade.

    And while it’s all nice and fuzzy to think of Wilf going NASL if he can’t get an MLS team, let’s be honest here: you’re not going to waste time on an NASL (or USL, for that matter, or any knockoff league that may or may not come around) team just as a lark because he’d be interested in growing the sport or clinging to the hope of future promotion and relegation. The NASL as currently constituted is not a viable alternative – it’s just not. Wilf’s not going to need to fill dates in an NFL-sized stadium with something that’s not going to draw numbers that make it worthwhile. And unless you’re in MLS, it’s unlikely you’re going to draw those numbers.

  34. jw7 permalink
    May 11, 2011

    Sandy UT is not downtown and that is working just fine. The stadium just has to have a good atmosphere surrounding it and Zygi has that idea already in the works.

    The Home Depot is not even close to any tall buildings in LA.
    Those two team are going to make a profit this year!

    Garber said he sees more that 20 teams in a country so large, but no more in the near future… because no one like Zygi was in the mix of strong ownership groups at that time. They want to grow as quickly as possible, just not in the in & out burger style of USL.

    In 2005 nether Seattle. Vancouver or Portland had much fan base in USL 1. I could walk into Swangard stadium with the cheapest ticket and sit anywhere I wanted. After Burnley show up it grew, then after Beckham it grew again, they won the league and it grew, then the EPL team appearances came around and it topped the barrel and they started talking about a team in a higher league. There is a successful process for developing teams from D2 to MLS.

    We also had good showings for big team appearances here in MN during that same time.

    NFL people started the second coming of soccer in the US
    Lamar Hunt.

  35. Ski Dawg permalink
    May 11, 2011

    MH, blame the late Lamar Hunt for NFL owners being able to own as many soccer teams as they want. By my count, the list is currently at 6 of 32 owning at least part of 8 soccer teams worldwide:

    Clark Hunt (son of the aforementioned Hunt): KC Chiefs; FC Dallas and Columbus
    Stan Kroenke: St. Louis Rams; Colorado and Arsenal
    Paul Allen: Seattle Seahawks; Seattle Sounders
    Bob Kraft: New England Patriots; New England Revs
    Randy Lerner: Cleveland Browns; Aston Villa
    Malcolm Glazer: Tampa Bay Bucs; Manchester United

  36. Taylor permalink
    May 11, 2011

    The key is the Wilfs want PROFIT ! There’s no way if they get an MLS team, that they won’t treat it seriously. They have proven that they are not afraid of spending money.

    The distance wouldn’t matter: if the product is good, people will flock to it. A lot of people don’t care about D2 but they might pay attention when MLS teams come to Minnesota. The easiest test might be to invite European teams (won’t be too difficult as Delta has direct flights to and from Amsterdam, London and Paris): see how many people will attend the game

  37. Jim permalink
    May 11, 2011

    @ Seamonster I sincerely hope no MLS teams relocate to MN. Especially the Crew! As an original season ticket holder for the Crew I can’t understand why everyone outside of Ohio wants to move the team. Get your own MLS team and leave mine alone!

  38. May 11, 2011

    MLS should never expand to 24 teams. Most of its teams can’t even sellout their own home games. When the old NASL over ambitiously expanded to 24 teams back in 79, that marked the beginning of the end of that league. Too many of those teams lost way too much money. MLS needs to model itself after the top leagues in Europe with a 20-team limit. That way, the league will always be more competitive and not too watered down with mediocre talent, like the old NASL. If the New York Cosmos can somehow get a new soccer stadium to become the 20th MLS, there is no reason why MN shouldn’t get in line to acquire one of those failing MLS franchises to relocate here. They did it in 1976 when the Denver Dynamos moved to Metropolitan Stadium to become the MN Kicks. If we revive the Minnesota Kicks name, I think they will have many highly enthusiastic older supporters from the getgo because they can relate with the name “Kicks!” Like Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, and soon to be NY Cosmos, these old names already resonate clearly in the psyche of soccer fans. Personally, I would like to see a publically owned soccer team here in MN where anybody is free to invest in purchasing shares of stock. That way, they will be able to share their insights about how the team can be improved. I don’t think we can find a better example of a successful franchise in the US than the publicly owned Green Bay Packers. As much as I hate that team (Go Vikes!), I think they do a marvelous job of running that franchise. If we could get enough investors here in MN to have a publicly owned team, we wouldn’t have to depend entirely on the Wilf family for making it happen. Even if we could somehow land an MLS team here before the new stadium is built, I wouldn’t mind seeing them play in TCF Bank Stadium for the first year or two.

  39. Rodney permalink
    May 11, 2011

    The 20th team will have to pay around $100 million, not $40.

  40. Tom permalink
    May 11, 2011

    Spain population…………47M 20 teams
    Italy population…………60M 20 teams
    England population……….51M 20 teams
    France population………..65M 20 teams
    Germany population……….82M 20 teams
    United States…………..307M 20 teams??

    This doesn’t include the total number of teams in high level leagues in The Netherlands, Belgium, Scotland, Portugal, etc…. The population of the 5 countries listed above with a total of 100 teams pretty much equals the US population. Now I’m not naive or stupid enough to equate the popularity of soccer in Europe with that here in the US nor the competitive landscape here for the sporting dollar (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, college, etc…) but in no way would it be a stretch to have 24 teams based on market populations and the ever growing ratings numbers. So much depends on the business model, ownership groups, and long range strategic planning.

  41. Soccer Boy permalink
    May 11, 2011

    If Wilf really wants MLS in MN, it will come to MN. Remember the AC/DC song “Money Talks?” It might not be fair, but it is reality! Come on you Stars!

  42. May 11, 2011

    Rodney, where in the world are you coming up with that figure. Its not exactly like people are jumping out of the wood work to be the next MLS owner.

  43. May 11, 2011

    Remember Tom, soccer is the #1 sport in all those countries. There is no major competition with baseball, basketball, football or even hockey. In the US, we have a lot to choose from, so on a hot summer night when both baseball and soccer games are being played, people have to make a choice of where they would rather go. Also keep in mind, many of those leagues in Europe don’t draw that many people to their stadiums for soccer matches. If you look up average attendances from most of these European leagues, these figures are not that impressive. Even the Italian League, which is considered a top 4 in Europe, doesn’t do that good compared to England, Germany and Spain. But the main reason for having less teams is to make the league more competitive. Having too many teams equates with a watered down talent pool. If you were around to watch the NASL when they expanded to 24 teams, you know exactly what I mean.

  44. Thundergunner permalink
    May 11, 2011

    This location in Arden Hill isn’t good. No transit access and would require more than $200 in transportation improvements just to make it work. That equals wasted public money.

    And the Wilfs are just playing with us. They’d do MLS if they could make money at it, but they likely can’t, so they won’t do it. But they are salesmen and right now they are selling a $750 million public subsidy for their business. They’ll tell us whatever they think will get them another supporter anywhere, including that they’d love to bring MLS to Minnesota.

    It’s all BS, and there are many other much more important investments right now than this, even if it came with a guaranteed MLS team.

  45. Tom permalink
    May 11, 2011

    @CJ
    I believe I referenced all the key points you mentioned in my post. What I was trying to express is that with our population base and with over 50 metropolitan areas with over 1M people (not including Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver) that IMO, 24 teams would not be a stretch.

  46. May 12, 2011

    Tom,
    you are right. Based on population and metropolitan stats alone, you could even have over 30 teams, just like any of the major sports in our country. But that still weakens the competition because it dilutes the quality pool of great players. To attract a large fan base who are more than willing to attend soccer games, you need superstar caliber players who are very entertaining to watch. We all know that the best players in the world prefer to be in Europe where the big $ contracts are the norm. Even most of the best American players are over there making 3 times more than what they would be making here in MLS. So if we had all these MLS teams playing in all the big market locations, but no one is really interested in going to the games because they find soccer too boring to watch, then maybe it’s not such a good idea to expand the league. It may always be difficult for MLS to compete with the top leagues in Europe of bringing great players here to help sell out our stadiums. I just don’t think the average American finds soccer that interesting to watch unless more exciting plays lead to producing more goals. To them, it just looks like a bunch of players on a field kicking a ball around. And maybe you can witness a goal or two during the game if you are patient enough to continue watching. However, if every team had at least one Rinaldo, Messi or Rooney, they would be looking forward to watching more games. But we know that probably won’t happening anytime soon, so have to be careful about expanding too fast. I anticipate several of these type of gifted soccer players will sprout up on our shores over the next 5 to 10 years. Our next challenge will be encouraging them to stay home to play on our soil so MLS can become one of the top leagues in the world. When these type of gifted soccer players start becoming a dime a dozen in the US, then we can discuss expansion to all the big markets. Until then lets work on improving the quality of the league instead of the quantity.

  47. unicorn4711 permalink
    May 12, 2011

    I support this. Use the name North Stars FC. I know there is a lot of talk about FIFA rules that state than no league shall have more than twenty members, but MLS is different. It’s in two countries. Two really big countries. An unbalanced schedule of 40 matches should let MLS follow the spirit of the FIFA directive while letting it get to a number of teams necessary to actually have a presence in North America.

    For MLS to gain exposure in the US and Canada it has to have a strong presence in all the regions. To do that, you need at least 28 teams. Probably more. I favor a big league with six teams in Canada and teams in every major US region. Without it, MLS will never get the kind of TV package that brings in revenue. The league needs solid revenue to develop US players through academies and youth programs. Marketing the league now has got to be amazingly difficult with no teams (and thus no fans) in the entire south east. People all across NA cheer for local teams and don’t care about sports without a local team. The regionalism here is just more dramatic than in any other country. Without a continental presence, advertisers and TV networks will relegate it to a locally supported minor sport and pay for it accordingly.

    To have a continental presence, Minnesota is a really good market. It’s fairly big, has a good soccer tradition, and is the gravity point for the Dakotas, Iowa, and western Wisconsin. Like Seattle and Portland, Minnesotans think of themselves as trending forward and modern. If Wilf can deliver on a modern stadium that works well for soccer, I can’t see the MLS turning that down. I would have preferred a downtown location (Denver has lower attendance numbers since moving out of the DT), but whatever. Beggars can’t be choosers.

  48. May 12, 2011

    Good points Unicorn! Instead of expanding the league, it’s best to develop all the First Division teams like in EPL. That way, the bottom two finishers of MLS each year will get relegated, and the two best finishers in First Division can move up and play with the big boys. By doing this, the competition will always be higher, since no team wants to be relegated. And all First Division teams will feel like they have something to play for. If we keep it at 20 teams, all teams can play a 38 game schedule, with each team playing each other twice (home and away). That way, season ticket holders will have a chance to see every MLS team each year. A 38 game schedule is plenty, considering additional games that will need to be played for US Open Cup, CONCAF, and possible friendly games with teams from Europe. So we are looking at a busy season already from March to November. By going to this format, all the major regions can still have teams that develop youth programs and academies. Now they will have an opportunity to earn a spot to play in MLS, instead of just getting one. This will push every area to become more competitive knowing that all they have to do is finish in the top two spots. So every year we might see two new teams from different regions get a chance to shine in MLS, while the teams that get relegated work on improvement down in First Division. Any thoughts?

  49. Kel permalink
    May 12, 2011

    @CJ – Promotion/relegation is not happening. We’ve been over this 1,000,000 times. This is not England. MLS is single entity and operates in a closed system. D2 is clearly not ready for it and might not be for 20-30 years, if ever. Anyone that brings it up shows they are out of touch with what is happening in American soccer and is usually ignored. Sorry.

    MLS will continue to expand until there are no more rich people willing to give them lots of money.

  50. Minnesota Nice FC permalink
    May 12, 2011

    A brief note: people keep on citing NASL to either say, “look it could happen here” or more often to say “NASL did the same thing and then they folded” in just about every conversation about MLS (ok, I’m exaggerating). We’re in a completely different world. Soccer is different. Sports are different. Soccer in the US is different. Etc. Just because it worked or didn’t work in NASL means just about nothing.
    The same goes for the Premier League (e.g. X works in England). Saying we’re going to build and set up American soccer like the Premier League or anywhere else is crazy talk. The US and MLS will build slowly, organically, frustratingly, ineptly, etc… in its own way.

  51. Saverio permalink
    May 12, 2011

    The bottom line is placing 20,000 fans in a 60,000+ seat stadium is poor optics. Part of the attraction for any sport is the atmosphere generated by the fans. You just don’t get in an empty arena.
    @CJ–Not every team in Europe have a Messi, Rooney, Totti etc. Name me one player (off the top of head) that is a superstar from teams such as Wigan, Blackpool, Espanyol, Racing Santander, Hannover 96, FC Köln, Sampdoria, Chievo. These are all teams in the top 4 leagues in Europe. Yes, exciting players are needed but even the top leagues are finding it difficult to find superstars. What is needed is a team that can provide excitement on the field. The Vancouver Whitecaps are great example. Even though they sit near the bottom of the Western division, they are exciting to watch and only a few clubs in the MLS can match them for atmosphere.

  52. Chrös permalink
    May 12, 2011

    Full disclosure: I hate everything about a plan to subsidize a stadium, suburban retail complex and 21,000 parking spots for the Wilf brothers in Arden Hills. The Wilfs, who are barely paying anything, are the only ones who truly benefit from having this monopoly in Arden Hills rather than a downtown stadium.

    That said, wouldn’t this go away from everything MLS has been trying to do with the last several expansion teams? The Vikings are planning an enormous stadium with no current access to public transit in the suburbs.

  53. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 12, 2011

    This is our moment to organize for MLS4MN.

    We may not all agree on the tactics used to get a stadium built, but never before have we ever heard of someone discussing the idea of bringing MLS to Minnesota (except for Ol’ One Shoes), so, we need to stand up and get organized. We need to support the NSC Minnesota Stars and spread the word.

    mls4mn.com

    Seamonster just set it up, but expect a lot more to come of it in the coming weeks. Get ready to spread the word. GRASSROOTS STYLE. We can pull a Sons of Ben.

    We will pull DARK CLOUDs and bring the Total Jackassery to the MLS!

  54. Fugue permalink
    May 12, 2011

    Of course, for us soccer fans this news is encouraging. However, let’s keep our
    pants on and not be dopes about it. There are a number of issues here that we
    should be aware of and not have our reach out streatch our grasp:

    1. This proposal by the Wilfs is *entirely* to get the stadium built for the
    Vikings. I highly doubt that Ziggy cares much about soccer. What he cares
    about is making this deal look as good as possible to extract as much money as
    he can. The added benefit of money during the NFL off season is great too but
    it’s not the primary reason he’s pitching this. It’s just to grease the skids.

    2a. As MLS is starting to discover, a game is about not only the action on the
    field but about the build-up to the game (see: Portland and Seattle). This is
    best facilitated by a stadium that is centrally located and near mass transit
    and in an urban area. IOW: in (or very near)a city center.

    2b. Urban area! Notice that almost all soccer clubs the world over represent a
    specific urban area, not a geographic location. This “localness” fosters
    loyalty to the club and more involment in it. You really can’t do this unless
    you pin the club to a city or, in our case, the TC urban area. You won’t get
    this in Arden Hills.

    3. At least 2 months of the season will have those damnable grid lines. And be
    played on Fieldturf. Ugh. We don’t want that do we?

    4. North Stars FC?! WTF. That’s as good as we can do? I’ll throw my hat in the
    ring: How about Minneapolis (or Twin Cities) Athletic FC! Specific to the most
    probably area of support for the club with the obligatory homage to our European brethren.

  55. May 12, 2011

    A million times Kel? Sounds like you were beating a dead horse. My suggestion was just another compromise to get other major market teams involved without trying to expand the MLS schedule. I think the “bigwigs” of the league know that expanding beyond a 20-team league won’t be happening for a super long time, if ever at all. They know the mistakes of what happened to the NASL when they expanded too quickly to 24 teams back in 79. As much as some may not agree, especially living in an ever changing world, we can still learn valuable lessons from history. Civilizations who think they can ignore this simple principle end up repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

  56. May 12, 2011

    Saverio,
    you do have a point about empty seats. However, I see it as motivation to fill the seats. I had season tickets the first 3 years for the Minnesota Kicks at Met Stadium, which seated a little over 45,000. Even though the Kicks only averaged about 23,000 their first year, they did sell out when Pele and the NY Cosmos came to town (over 45,000). And when they played the final game that year at the Met before earning a trip to the Soccer Bowl, more than 49,000 fans somehow squeezed in there (and probably broke a few fire hazzards)! So having a bigger stadium has much more potential to bring in more people. You can’t do that with a 20,000 stadium. When the Kicks averaged nearly 33,000 fans their second year, it showed just how much a team’s popularity can grow in one year. Another point I would like to make about empty seats is just because the stadium is half empty, it doesn’t mean it can’t get loud and rowdy. I have been to several Minnesota Swarm games this year, which only averaged between 5,000-10,000 fans per game, and the place always seemed much more lively and enthusiastic than going to a Minnesota Wild game, which always played in front of sellout crowds of over 18,000. I know soccer fans can make a lot of noise, even though the stadium might be half full. Still, you want a place that can house a lot more people when some of the top teams from around the world show up for a friendly match. If Man U, Barcelona, or Inter Milan ever came, I bet at least 60,000 people would show up to watch. Again, you can’t schedule a game like that in a 20,000 seat stadium. Want to host a US National game? Future World Cup game? Then a big stadium is needed. You are right, most teams throughout Europe don’t have big stars. I would estimate that only the top 6 or 7 teams in each league have at least 2 or 3 players good enough to make their own National teams. Yes, putting together a great team that plays an exciting brand of soccer will always supersede a team that only has one exciting superstar.

    Fugue,
    The Wilf family has been talking getting an MLS team for a long time. Zygi was born in Germany. Soccer is in his blood. He loved the Cosmos while growing up in New York. I think he sincerely wants a MLS team. If the stadium bill passes, he will make sure the stadium is carefully designed for both football and soccer (like in Seattle). Urban settings are nice because of population density and mass transit, but I think having a tailgaiting option will always bring in more people. Especially with all the pre-game festivities. After comparing previous stats between the MN Kicks, who played at the Met with tailgaiting, with the MN Strikers, who played at the Metrodome with no tailgaiting, the Kicks averages were significantly higher every single year.

  57. Ski Dawg permalink
    May 12, 2011

    Three points I’d like to make:

    1. Tom, Germany’s Bundesliga has 18 teams, not 20.

    2. CJ, I agree with you that eventually the US is going to have to start pro/rel. In my opinion, FIFA made that very clear by not giving us the 2022 World Cup.

    3. Unicorn, North Stars FC? Are we recycling team names from other sports now (in this case, hockey)?

  58. Fugue permalink
    May 12, 2011

    @CJ Ziggy was born in Germany but raised in the states. And just because one is born in Europe doesn’t mean they care about MLS. What Ziggy does care about is getting this stadium deal done. And I feel he’s using a *possible* MLS club as bait to make this deal more finacially palatable to the taxpayers of Ramsey Co/State of Mn. Let’s be honest about at least that much and not be too desparate. I do agree that tailgating is a nice thing to have but it is an open question if that is enough to draw crowds. There’s no tailgating for Twins games and they still draw good crows even though their pitching stinks! Why? Because of other things to do downtown.

    Now, I’m sure that the new stadium will be designed for future soccer (MLS or some exibition matches or USMNT even) but 65K is a lot of seats and I just don’t think we are like Seattle in our love of soccer. Or put it this way: I don’t want to jeprodize our chance to make soccer a viable sport in the TC because folks see 40K + empty seats in the stands and those horrid, horrid grid lines in Aug, Sept, Oct, and hopefully Nov.

    Maybe Arden Hills is close enough for most fans to get to. Maybe therre will be a light rail to that stadium in the future. Maybe tailgating is what will draw the crowds..Maybe we’ll draw enough to make a 65K stadium not look ridiculous (see: N.E.). Maybe the grid lines will be removed for MLS matches. Maybe. But I would hate to blow our one bite at this apple (if the 20 team limit is indeed true) and get a team that is, pardon the phrase, the red-headed step child of Mn. sports. all because we believed in “maybe”.

    I just feel Ziggy is using us. And in more ways than one.

  59. May 12, 2011

    Fugue,
    You may be right about Ziggy. This is why I would rather have a publicly owned MLS team here in MN. Imagine anyone like you and me being able to take ownership of an MLS team. Imagine having the freedom to voice your concerns as a stockholder and others actually listening to you. Wouldn’t that be great if enough of us got together to invest in such an enterprise? 65K seats is a lot to fill at first, but please remember, this sport will continue to grow over the next 30 years. If Seattle can draw over 35K a game, there is no reason why it can’t happen here. Currently, they are the 15th largest market in the US, which is right ahead of us (16th). While looking at previous stats of average attendances in the old NASL, MN and Seattle were always neck in neck for the top few spots in the league. New England is not a good comparison because they never ever drew that well. If you look at the average attendance records of the New England Tea Man of the old NASL, its not that impressive. On another note, it took the NFL over 50 years to sellout big stadiums. Heck, they even had trouble drawing enough people for the first several Superbowls. So I wouldn’t be too worried about not filling the stands at first. However, I don’t think it is economically realistic to keep building new stadiums every 15 to 20 years to house more fans just because your team has outgrown the size and profitability of the older stadium. If your team is great, exciting, more fan friendly, and can contribute to the community in some positive way, the fan support will rise naturally. Before you know it, we will be drawing average attendances comparable to Man U (over 65K). In the meantime, we could just close off the upper deck (like in Seattle) and only sell tickets to the lower level of the stadium. Since all of the action will hopefully be down on the playing field, there is no good reason to be staring up at the upper level of empty seats anyway. But if it really bothers you to look up and see the empty seats, then leave it up to me to figure out a way to get more people to the games. I have a few good strategies up my sleeve. You know, I hear you about the yellow lines. I played varsity high school soccer here in MN. So I have vivid memories of sharing a stadium with the varsity football team. Personally, it didn’t bother me as a player, or to watch the girls play on the same field before us. Within the next couple of years, I anticipate the development of new technologies that will be able to remove these lines from a playing field within a few hours, so it won’t look as bad.

  60. ripsaa permalink
    May 12, 2011

    @ Minnesota Nice FC

    “A brief note: people keep on citing NASL to either say, “look it could happen here” or more often to say “NASL did the same thing and then they folded” in just about every conversation about MLS”

    AMEN I so tired of people saying this…totally different in todays game.

  61. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 12, 2011

    fugue-

    Zygi may be trying to use us, but we can use that against him in the long run. We can show him there is support here for MLS. We don’t want to sit by the sidelines during the stadium debate and just hope he remembers us at the end of the line. We want to be there in the middle of the room making everyone realize that there are people in this city that want MLS.

    When else has this ever happened? The ball is rolling. Let’s throw the damn thing off the cliff. The worst thing that can happen is we get more people to go to Stars games!

    Finally, the stadium in Arden Hills isn’t a done deal. We all know that. It probably won’t happen, but if it does great. If it doesn’t and they go with Minneapolis than we have the organization set up to help ensure it meets MLS standards! Why would we not want to be on the vanguard of this? What if no stadium is made and Zygi moves to LA…well that can happen, but maybe, just maybe, some daddy warbucks out there see the passion #mls4mn has created and we get it done that way (like Sons of Ben)!

    THIS IS OUR TIME. LOSE THE SHIRTS. GET EXCITED. JUMP AROUND.

  62. Kel permalink
    May 12, 2011

    @Ski Dawg – If you think FIFA didn’t give us the WC because of pro/rel, then you are sadly misinformed. FIFA doesn’t care about minor league soccer in the United States or any of that nonsense. The only thing they care about is $$$$. If we bribed them more than Qatar did, than the WC would be here. That’s FIFA.

    Pro/rel is not happening here. MLS will keep expanding and it will take many years for D2 and D3 to get their house in order. We’ll probably be middle aged by then.

  63. Ski Dawg permalink
    May 13, 2011

    Kel, what was the first thing FIFA’s President asked President Obama? “When is the US going to start pro/rel?” That’s a fact, bribery or not. Get YOUR facts straight.

  64. May 13, 2011

    Ski Dawg,

    Actually, I thought the first thing he asked Obama, Garber and company is when are you going to a FIFA schedule. That of course was followed up by a number of people in Europe including Arsene Wenger saying they think Europe should adapt the American soccer schedule as it makes more sense instead of playing through the winters. Even it if was the first thing he said it shows you how out of touch Blatter is with soccer around the globe. Blatter’s days are short lived the way things are going.

  65. Darren permalink
    May 13, 2011

    Zygi Wilf is a god. Give the man every billion he requires to build his new stadium.

    That’s how these stadium things get build, right? As long as its “my” team that need the stadium, build it. Everyone else should just shut up and pay the taxes.

    Oh yeah, and get an iron clad agreement that an MLS team will play in that stadium within 2 years or else he has to give all the money back.

    Despite the success or lack thereof of shoe-string budget DII soccer in Minnesota, a MLS socccer team funded by a billionaire and played in a carefully designed multiuse stadium that can fully accommodate soccer (ala Seattle), backed by a smart marketing campaign, and given local media coverage, will wildly succeed in Minnesota.

    I would bet a billion dollars of your money on that!

  66. thesuperrookie permalink
    May 13, 2011

    MLS can work here.

    I am not saying it is the best way to spend money on a stadium for a billionaire.

    But, IF IT IS GOING TO BE SPENT, why not show the passion for MLS and get our piece of the soccer pie?

  67. May 13, 2011

    The recent news of MN interested in a MLS team has been featured on the MLS facebook page. In response, hundreds of fans from all over the US have posted their comments pleading for their city to get the next MLS team. Let the biding wars begin.

  68. Dave L permalink
    May 13, 2011

    I recently presented the idea that expansion will drive revenue for MLS, which in turn will support salary levels that compete with European leagues (especially after UEFA’s fair-play regulations kick in and affect bidding prices). See http://footiebusiness.com/

    For a true entrepenuer, MLS offers the highest ROI, and a higher ceiling than other sports because of the potentially global fanbase.

  69. unicorn4711 permalink
    May 15, 2011

    Relegation/promotion won’t happen in North America. It makes negotiating a favorable TV contract way the heck harder. Imagine a scenario where the NY and LA teams were currently not in the MLS when the contract with Fox/ESPN or whomever came up for renegotiation. The value of the deal would drop 20%. European leagues can get away with religation/promoation because they’ll always have fans in the major media markets, no matter who drops. England is the perfect example.

    North America is a different ball of wax. It’s a shame FIFA just don’t get this. I’m really, really happy MLS has figured this out and is even willing to defy FIFA a bit to make their point.

    All that said, I think 28-3? teams is necessary to get local interest in enough major markets to get the huge continental contract for MLS. If you stick with 20 your just a regional sport like Lacross. ESPN won’t pay big money for the rights.

    Next, any chance of a commuter rail line to Arden Hills? Is there existing track like towards big lake? Not an immediate issue, but interesting.

  70. May 18, 2011

    Unicorn,
    not sure if I buy your logic about needing to get over 28 teams to get local interest in enough major markets to get the huge continental contract for MLS. One could argue that hockey is a regional sport (mostly northern states have all the youth leagues), yet I can watch a nationally televised game every weekend on NBC. Major League Lacrosse is not even a close comparison to MLS. I bet that league doesn’t even have more than 10 teams. If you look at MLS, the teams cover everywhere in the continental US except the deep south (including Florida). But they would rather watch NASCAR anyway, so they don’t deserve to have an MLS team. Furthermore, Florida already blew their golden opportunity when they couldn’t even support a team in Tampa Bay and Miami. Having 20 teams is plenty for right now. If we got one here in MN, a local TV station could televise all their AWAY games, and a local radio station will more than likely broadcast every game. This is what they did for the MN Kicks back in the old NASL. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if either Fox Sports North or Fox Soccer Channel televised some/most of their HOME games. Don’t think ESPN will step up to the plate anytime soon. It seems they are more interested in televising Poker than MLS.

  71. May 18, 2011

    When it comes down to it, fans want to see an exciting brand of soccer when watching it on TV. It will be difficult for the average TV viewer to watch it on TV if the games are low/no scoring (0-0, 1-0, 1-1 or even 2-1). Maybe that’s why ESPN would rather televise Poker instead of MLS. There is no question that the most exciting moment during a soccer game is when a goal is scored. But when your team averages less than 2 goals a game, then you are not really giving your fans much to become excited about. So something needs to be done to open up the game more. If not, then the average TV viewer will continue to think soccer is just a boring game.

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