The National Premier Soccer League, or NPSL, announced on November 15th that they will indeed be pursuing a professional soccer league. That league aims to begin a spring to fall season in 2020, but the fun starts much sooner as the NPSL Founders Cup will provide a taste of what’s to come in 2019, starting in August and ending in November.
The exact lay out of the tournament is still not known to the public, but the NPSL has made clear it will be a launching pad for a larger operation, “that competition will lead to a full league schedule in the spring to fall of 2020. These clubs will be making a full-time commitment to their markets and will include professional players, coaches, and staff.” Eleven of the founding clubs have been announced, all eleven being expected to take part in the Founders Cup. Those clubs are ASC San Diego, Cal FC, California United Strikers FC, Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, FC Arizona, Miami FC, Miami United FC, Milwaukee Torrent, New York Cosmos, and Oakland Roots.
With the NPSL showing its intentions to become a center for both amateur and professional soccer, the one question floating over the writers here at E Pluribus Loonum is what this could mean for soccer in Minnesota. Two teams from the nearby Midwest-Great Lakes Conference (Detroit City and Milwaukee Torrent) will be taking part in the Founders Cup, but the majority of the north will be unrepresented at the tournament and future NPSL Pro league activities as it stands.
With a total of eight clubs, the Midwest-North conference has more teams than either of its midwest compatriots but few that cry out as viable options for a professional soccer environment given the higher standards and economic needs that would come with taking part in the new league.
While the NPSL North does feature several clubs that have found success in terms of results on the pitch and supporters in the stands, it is not clear if the substance is there to qualify for the NPSL Pro’s standards, standards that are not completely clear at the moment. While clubs like Med City, Minneapolis City, or Duluth FC certainly seem like tangible options in the long term to compete at this level, they do not feature some of the variables that other clubs involved bring to the party. These variables being already-pro levels of attendance like those seen in Detroit or deep pocketed ownership groups like those of former NASL clubs Miami FC and the New York Cosmos.
Another factor to keep in mind in regards to the potential addition of Minnesota into the NPSL Pro is the issue of competition. Unlike clubs like the Cosmos, who’s supporters often specifically do not support the MLS or USL clubs in their area, most NPSL North fans are also Minnesota United fans. Competing with MLS, and specifically a club in MLS that does so well keeping attendance and now has a brand new stadium, would be a tall mountain to climb for NPSL Pro. The hypothetical pro club would also have to manage the potential drain of support in markets due to a recent boom in UPSL expansion into the state, with new clubs developing in the Twin Cities and Rochester markets.
Uncorporate soccer is super fun. pic.twitter.com/y1AE0V2vtB— Minneapolis City SC (@mplscitysc) July 2, 2018
Keeping this factors in mind, there is hope. Any team can improve with time and one club that seems to be in the best position to make those improvements quickly are Minneapolis City SC. City have a history of well managed, and very public, financials that have been paired with several seasons of positive work on the pitch. The club has also recently announced a U19 side to pair with its U23s, reflecting a ladder of play that would be quite fitting of a professional club. The cherry on top is that the club have the best consistent attendance in the conference, of which only a few clubs are even close to competing.
All of this is hypothetical and the fact is that the Founders Cup seems set to not include any clubs from the great north, nonetheless the potential is there for this to change as the league proper takes shape.
In their press release, the NPSL made clear that they do have, “plans are being developed to add additional clubs.” Whether that will bring professional soccer outside of MLS to the state of Minnesota is still unclear.