The Twin Cities is less than a month away from preseason professional soccer. Major League Soccer’s newest team, Minnesota United FC, takes the pitch against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Thursday, Feb. 9 in their first exhibition match as a franchise. This game is just a warm up for the regular season, which will be needed because the team will be playing outside in Minnesota while its still scarf weather.
With a new league and fresh opponents in town, which games should fans look forward to the most? Here are the five most anticipated games of on the Loons schedule:
5. L.A. Galaxy – Sunday, May 21 – 4:00 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium (ESPN)
Longtime soccer fans in Minnesota will remember the L.A. Galaxy as the last MLS team to play a meaningful game in Minneapolis. In 2004, the Galaxy lost to the United Soccer League’s Minnesota Thunder before a crowd of more than 5,000 fans at the Metrodome.
This win had come before MLS felt “the Beckham effect,” but it was a joyous moment for soccer fans who haven’t had much to cheer for in recent decades. Yet, since the Beckham effect took hold of the league, L.A. Galaxy have been synonymous with fame. Fans can tap into both the Beckham effect and the Thunder’s 2004 win during this game.
(Beckham did play in Minneapolis with the Galaxy against the Thunder in a 2007 friendly game before 20,000 fans, but the 2004 match was the last to count in a larger competition.)
4. Colorado Rapids – Sunday, April 23 – 5:00 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium
Colorado played for the MLS Cup in 2016 and finished second overall in the Western Conference in the regular season. If the Rapids can repeat this success in 2017, fans in Minnesota will be treated to some of the best talents in the league.
This game also features a rematch for Loons defensive midfielder Joe Greenspan against his former team and brings U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard to Minneapolis.
3. Seattle Sounders – Saturday, Aug. 5 – 7:00 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium
The West Coast is a bastion of MLS fandom and the Seattle Sounders benefit from this following. One of the most popular teams in the league, the Sounders are also the most recent champion. MN United fans in attendance for the game could find themselves among many well-traveled fans of the opponents.
Seattle boasts a trio of USMNT players including defenders Brad Evans and Chad Marshall, and forward Jordan Morris.
2. Portland Timbers – Friday, March 3 – Providence Park (Fox Sports 1)
This game is the season opener and will be the first MLS game in franchise history for the Loons. Although the game is on the road, it will be a must-see nonetheless. Numerous watch parties are expected to be hosted around the Twin Cities for the match as well.
1. Atlanta United – Sunday, March 12 – TCF Bank Stadium (ESPN 2)
What better team to play the Loons franchise home opener than Atlanta United, who are expansion companions with Minnesota this season. TCF Bank Stadium is sure to be rocking for the match. Now the only question is – do fans want a cold game or a fair weather game? The outcome will be as unpredictable as the weather. No matter - soccer fever is set to heat up early spring in Minnesota.
Find the rest of Minnesota United’s schedule here and let us know which games you are looking forward to most!
Brad Omland is a contributing writer for SB Nation’s E Pluribus Loonum. Follow him on Twitter for Minnesota sports updates and commentary: @bradradio.