The WPSL Northern Conference went through a huge change over the off season with the three Chicago/Milwaukee clubs moving to the Eastern Region’s new Midwest Conference along side FC Pride, Indy Saints FC (Indianapolis, IN), and Green Bay Glory.
This has resulted in the Northern Conference being based entirely within the State of Minnesota (as Dakota Fusion plays in Moorhead) with three new teams being added to the existing three from 2018.
Dakota Fusion FC
Fargo-Moorhead’s team have had a high turnover in the offseason after their first ever season. Marco Campoverde, from just North in Grand Forks, has overseen a roster constructed without the need of an open tryout and a core of locally schooled women. Despite the new look, there are a handful of returning players from a side which struggled on the field last season, ending with a solitary point - albeit in a barnstorming 2-2 draw with TwinStars (now Fury). As the Northern most WPSL North club, they will hope that better performances can encourage strong fan support.
Fire SC 98
Fire 98 comes into the 2019 season as the odds on favorite to win the Northern Conference and advance to the WPSL playoffs. Last season the Fire finished with a 6-2-2 record with 20 points, falling 8 points short of advancing to the playoffs behind Red Stars Reserves. Like all clubs in the North, Fire 98 has a mostly brand new roster with just a few players returning, they also have lost a few Minnesota State-Mankato products to the new Mankato United SC club.
Fury enter the league this year as the product of the merger of Minnesota TwinStars and Maplebrook. The TwinStars Dragons accumulated a record of 2-6-2 and a goal difference which bears more testament to Chicago Red Stars than Turk Bulut’s side. The losses the club did have were more often close-fought. The change of ownership also made tracking the composition of the new side’s roster more difficult but their presence in the division’s biggest market will still surely act as a magnet. The club makes its home at Maple Grove High School.
Mankato United Soccer Club
Mankato United may be an expansion team but they have plenty of experience both inside and outside the WPSL. Jenny Vetter comes over from Fire 98, while Dakota Wendell, Maddy Burandt, Molly Sarafolean come down from the Minnesota TwinStars (now Maplebrook Fury). MUSC will have a lot of cohesion and a Purple and Gold look to their club coming into the season as all the aforementioned players, along with 12 others (total of 16), play for Minnesota State-Mankato. Other teams will need to watch out for Mankato United with so many players coming from a program that has one 4 straight NSIC Tournaments and been to 8 straight NCAA Tournaments. Mankato United will play out of the Caswell North Soccer Complex in North Mankato for their inaugural WPSL season.
Rochester United SC
This will be team number three taking the pitch in Rochester this season along side the NPSL’s Med City FC and UPSL’s Rochester FC. This might make it a struggle to draw at the gate if they all play at the same time but the city is definitely big enough for support if they play at different times. Unlike fellow Southern Minnesota expansion club, Mankato United, Rochester is bringing in players from multiple schools and countries that may not have the same cohesion at the beginning of the season. Rochester will make their home at Mayo High School for year one.
Roseville, MN based Salvo Soccer Club itself is not very old, the product of the merger of Woodbury and REV youth soccer clubs only last year and the WPSL side will be overseen by Greg Wheaton of University of Northwestern in St Paul as the tip of spear which also includes USDA afilliation. In common with Mankato and Rochester, the club will hope that players will stay with them all the way through. That said, Minneapolis-St Paul is now a market with three voracious clubs.
Maplebrook Fury vs Salvo SC
The first match of the WPSL North season is also the first Twin Cities derby this Sunday in Maple Grove. It will be an intriguing match up of a substantially retooled side and an expansion side.