A few weeks ago, I lost a lot of faith in local soccer.
I had just agreed to write a column about why I’m excited for area clubs to start up their 2018 seasons, but it’s hard to write about something you don’t feel. I almost turned this into the opposite: how my love for the local game had been tattered by the misconduct of a club and its leadership.
But as I gave this piece more thought, I realized that I was actually even more excited than I had been before everything went to pieces. For one, I’ll appreciate the legitimacy and integrity of the intact clubs. You know that saying that you don’t appreciate something until it’s not there? I now have a much greater respect for the area teams that keep their acts clean.
I’m also excited for localsoccer this year because last year was so good. My fear heading into the 2017 NPSL North season was that Minneapolis City SC would run away with the league. That wasn’t the case, as Duluth FC and Dakota Fusion qualified for the playoffs and metro-area teams disappointed. The league was gripping and every team, save for the infamous trainwreck that is LC Aris, was competitive at some point.
I can only imagine that this year will be better. Minneapolis City will certainly be looking for revenge, especially as their burgeoning rivalry with Duluth continues. I’d expect Viejos Son Los Trapos to improve as well and be active in the title race. Plus, Aris’s perpetual struggle to win a game will be back for yet another season.
The quality of players in the league is also remarkable. City’s Brandon Bye was drafted early in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft, which is a clear indicator that there is talent at this level. Players like Jade Johnson of the Fusion are also always exciting to watch, and there are sure to be some new faces popping up in year two.
I don’t know if we can call Minnesota and the surrounding area a soccer hotbed, but there’s certainly enough of the beautiful game to go around. The WPSL has added a second team in the metro area, so both the TwinStars and Fire SC 98 will be participating (Dakota Fusion have added a women’s side as well). Area college players, including plenty of talented Gophers, plus some stellar high-schoolers will be taking the field in the expanding league.
One of the best features of nearly all of the area clubs, in both NPSL and WPSL, is their stability. Minneapolis City has tremendous support from fans and have added a U23 side this season, not to mention their affiliation with the Stegmans organization. TwinStars and Fire SC 98 are both connected with youth clubs that get kids involved and in the pipeline. Fusion have similar relationships in the Fargo-Moorhead area as well. VSLT have a partnership with Minnesota United this year and will still field two squads in MASL as well as their senior team. Both Med City and Duluth are strong in their communities and have strategic partners in Rochester and Duluth, respectively.
Now I don’t want to brag here, but one of the other things that has me excites me is the content we’ll put putting out here on E Pluribus Loonum. Ashle Norling will be our local soccer editor and we’ve added a great staff of writers that she’ll lead. We’ll have regular coverage of Minneapolis City, Duluth FC, Dakota Fusion, and Fire SC, plus we’re aiming to drop in on every other NPSL North team and the TwinStars women.
You’ll get a sample of the exemplary coverage with our preview this week, and get to see some special storytelling as we bring you both sides of the Dakota Fusion-Duluth FC US Open Cup tie.
Let’s do this.