By Eric Silva Brenneman
Despite the evils of FIFA, there is nothing like the World Cup. It is and always will be the greatest and most popular sporting event in the world. Nobody should have to wait another four years to get their football/soccer fix, and the good news is there is no wait. With footy now more available in the U.S. than ever before between the Premier League broadcasts on NBC, MLS (Major League Soccer) on ESPN, Liga Mexicana on Univision, the Bundesliga on Fox coming in 2015, not to mention accessing whatever league you want online, you can fill your plate easily. While it’s great to watch on TV, nothing beats singing and screaming your heart out at a live professional match. So come support your Loons, The Minnesota United.
I’ve been following the MN team and its evolving names, management, stadiums, etc., for over a decade. Even though they won the B League (MLS is the A League) North American Soccer League (NASL) Championship in 2011 (what a party in the rain!), I must say, the current team is something special to watch. As of this writing, Minnesota United (MNU) are #1 in the NASL standings and have essentially sealed their post-season berth quite early in the season. With players from all over the U.S. and Brazil, Italy, Canada, Japan, Serbia, and others countries represented, the team plays with fire.
MNU play until October at the National Sports Center (NSC) in Blaine. Check out the remaining schedule at http://www.mnunitedfc.com/schedules. Tickets are very affordable and while you can purchase online, it’s not a problem to buy at the stadium upon arrival. It can be family friendly sitting on one side, or if you’d like a more authentic and rowdy experience, you can stand with the Dark Clouds supporters on the other side of the pitch. If the drive is an issue, the Dark Clouds organize a party bus that leaves from The Nomad World Pub on Cedar (21+ for sure, your fee includes a pair of Surlys). From experience, it sells out fast! During the pre-season, the team spent time training in England and made history as the first team from the U.S. ever to stay and train at St. George’s Park, home of the English National Team. While playing matches with some English clubs, they made big connections, too.
This will have already happened after publication, but Premier League team out of Wales, Swansea City, is coming to town for an exhibition match with MNU. Another very special event this year that any footy-head should make it to, is the International Champions Cup coming to TCF Bank Stadium and featuring a match between Manchester City of England and Olympiacos of Greece on August 2nd. You read that right: Aguero, Negredo, Toure, Silva, Dzeko, Kompany, and the rest of the best Emirate oil money can buy, many of whom would have just finished their respective World Cup national team duties, are coming to Minneapolis. Talk about a huge score for our Minnesota football community. MNU got in on the action, too, and set up a double header playing an NASL match immediately following the current Premier League and Superleague (Greece) Champions.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that with the growing popularity of the sport, MNU consistently playing well in the NASL, and fans filling more space in the stands, there have been plenty of rumors surrounding the next phase of the team. A move into MLS has been thrown around for a few years and the Vikings stadium deal (glad we voted on that one…wait…) wrote in a clause for an MLS team. What has started to heat up recently, which I could not have predicted even 5 years ago, is a battle of our Minnesota billionaires (and Bond villains) Zygi Wilf of the Vikings and Jim Pohlad of the Twins as to who may get the team, who may build a new stadium (this again!?!), and so on. Similar to our friends in Green Bay, when Swansea City comes to town, they bring with them the only partially publicly owned team in the Premier League. It’s my hope we can get some management pointers from them and continue to see MNU as the people’s team of our Twin Cities. So before they blow up and become household names, keep your football momentum moving forward and get out and see the Loons so you can tell folks you got to see that Miguel Ibarra goal back in the day.