With Minnesota United FC making the jump from the North American Soccer League (NASL) to Major League Soccer this year, there are sure be to new fans who make that jump along with them from being a casual follower to becoming a full-blown MNUFC lunatic. As an entity geared toward following, discussing and over-analyzing all things related to MN United, we at E Pluribus Loonum are here to help bridge that gap between new, curious fans and hardcore Loon hooligans.
So what do you need to know as a fan to get you up to speed on the culture that this team, personnel and supporters have worked to build over the years?
It’s a tough question to answer -- and one that will surely require more reading across the blog than this post alone. But for starters, fans new to MN United and the MLS should know the basics of the team’s history, its fandom and its future.
For one, it’s important to understand that Minnesota United FC as it stands today is a team that has endured a lot of change over the years. Back in 2010 the National Sports Center (NSC) created NSC Minnesota, known by fans as the Stars. Before too long, ownership of the Stars shifted from NSC’s control to the NASL after the league announced new ownership criteria that the NSC did not meet.
In 2012 the team rebranded as Minnesota Stars FC where they continued to stumble around the division, built on small successes. But later that year, the team was purchased by its current owner, Bill McGuire, and was rebranded yet again in 2013 as Minnesota United FC. From there, the Loons went on to win the NASL Championship in 2014 and solidified themselves as competitive contenders throughout the league.
As the team continued to build on its success and garner support throughout the state, a bid for the MLS was inevitable and finally took hold in 2015.
This big news is sure to grow the fanbase as Minnesota makes its way into the national soccer conversation at a time when the sport is burgeoning in the United States. But it’s important to understand that Minnesota soccer fans know their stuff, and they’ve been around fostering a tight niche of followers for many years.
This group of diehards has gone on to create different supporter groups -- like the Dark Clouds, the True North Elite and Wolf’s Head -- all with the common goal of supporting Minnesota soccer and advancing it in any way possible. And with such passionate and devoted fans, it should come as no surprise that each match turns into a spectacle full of energy fueled by chants, songs and cheers.
With the season fast approaching, there are still a lot of things that need to take place and details that need to be ironed out before the Loons take the pitch at TCF Bank Stadium this spring. The team is currently scheduled to name its new coach next Tuesday (with various sources pointing to Adrian Heath), but they also have a roster to fill, which will rely on a combination of drafting, free agency and signing players from their NASL roster. So far, there is strong speculation that they will bring back defenders Justin Davis and Kevin Venegas, and there is a lot of talk around whether or not they will ante up and pay Christian Ramirez, who’s established himself in the past few years as a guy with an uncanny knack for finding the back of the net.
How the Loons proceed in free agency and approach the series of drafts in December will determine the future of this franchise and the direction in which it proceeds. All of that is to say, the MLS is a much different league than the NASL. The decisions for the team at this stage are crucial and will determine whether they can make that leap to the majors in a successful way.