Minnesota United FC have a new bird in their flock.
After rampant speculation first reported by ProSoccerUSA.com’s Kyle Eliason, Minnesota United FC and Forward Madison FC announced a joint partnership that will see the new USL League 1 club be the preferred loan destination for Loons players. With the agreement following the partnership that MLS has with USL, Minnesota United players will be able to train with the first team, then be released to Forward Madison to play matches should they not be needed for the matchday roster. The Loons noted in a statement that the partnership will run for the 2019 season and will also include technical and scouting partnerships, with Forward Madison’s press release also revealing that plans are pending for a possible friendly between the two clubs.
“We are excited to partner with a club like Madison, a club that has great ambition to build the sport of soccer,” Minnesota United Sporting Director Manny Lagos said in a club statement. “The proximity of our clubs allows us to share scouting and sporting resources, we can get our younger players meaningful minutes to develop and help players returning from injury. Madison has a staff that we know well and who supports our goals of growing soccer throughout our entire region.”
“Having this opportunity to work with Minnesota both on and off of the field is a huge benefit for our organization,” said Forward Madison Head Coach Daryl Shore. “I am really looking forward to working with Adrian Heath and his technical staff as we look to develop players as well as be in the hunt to win trophies.”
The partnership is a reunion of sorts for the Loons and Peter Wilt, Forward Madison’s Managing Director, whose lengthy resume in pro soccer includes his work launching former NASL rivals Indy Eleven. “I’m excited to work again with Manny Lagos and [Loons Director of Player Personnel] Amos Magee,” Wilt said. “They are sharp soccer executives and have already assisted us greatly.” The sentiment was echoed by Daryl Shore, saying, “I am also excited to work with Manny and Amos, two guys again, who have worked at both levels of soccer and understand the importance of this relationship.”
Up to this point, Minnesota has loaned out players on a case-specific basis—in 2018, Mason Toye was sent to Colorado Springs Switchbacks for five games, while Wyatt Omsberg spent four matches with Tulsa Roughnecks. By centralizing their loan moves to a closer regional partner, Minnesota will have more flexibility to move players back and forth, and will also be better situated to coordinate development plans for young players.
Along with rolling out its name and well-received flamingo logo, Forward Madison’s preparation for its inaugural 2019 season has already included a quartet of signings, most notably Panamanian national teamer Josiel Nunez, as well as a combine tryout in November and a scouting trip in Central Europe. The club will play at Breese Stevens Field, a historic multi-purpose stadium near the Wisconsin State Capitol building.
With the announcement, Minnesota United becomes the first MLS team to have an affiliate agreement in USL League 1. The league will also feature teams owned by FC Dallas, Orlando City, and Toronto FC, with one club owned by USL Championship side Phoenix Rising FC based in Tucson and five additional independent clubs in Chattanooga, TN; Greenville, SC; Lansing, MI; Richmond, VA; and Statesboro, GA.
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