Success in the NPSL North apparently wasn’t enough for Minneapolis City SC, as they announced Wednesday that their under-23 team would join the United Premier Soccer League for the Spring 2020 season following a member approval vote. The rebranded Minneapolis City SC II will join its senior brethren at Augsburg University’s Edor Nelson Field and will face a group of clubs based around Minnesota and in Sioux Falls in their first foray into league competition as part of the UPSL Midwest Conference North Division I.
“We’re excited for our U23s to join the UPSL and be competing in a league after two seasons playing an independent schedule. It’s a good level and a competitive conference and one that will give them the kind of challenges necessary to elevate their game,” Minneapolis City SC president Dan Hoedeman said in a club statement.
The move to join the UPSL culminates a lengthy search for a league for their development squad. “We spoke with the players and they love the level of training and the level of play,” Minneapolis City SC technical director Adam Pribyl told E Pluribus Loonum. “But they wanted a league, they wanted to fight for a trophy. The UPSL gives them a good level of competition with a reasonable travel footprint. It’s perfect.”
UPSL clubs aren’t new opponents for the organization. In 2019, the U-23 team beat future opponents Rochester FC in a 3-2 away match and beat Granite City FC in 2018. A mixed group of senior and U-23 players also beat Midwest South side Nebraska Bugeaters FC at the tail end of the 2019 season. “The teams in this conference have continued to improve over the years,” Pribyl said. “They are good teams with good players and no doubt want to take down Minneapolis City. We are going to have to work very hard and that’s what we want. We want the competition.”
Minneapolis City SC II will take to the Midwest Conference’s North Division I, an apparent rebrand of their West Region I which was won by Burnsville-based Vlora City FC in 2019’s Spring Season amid a tight race with Rochester FC. While the league’s profile isn’t at the level of the NPSL throughout the state—highlighted in part by the presence of third-place club FC Minneapolis—the UPSL has a better reputation nationally, featuring regional rivals Milwaukee Bavarian SC and a robust presence in the South and Western United States, including 2019 U.S. Open Cup darlings Florida Soccer Soldiers.
“The Minnesota market has developed a strong relationship with the UPSL,” league commissioner Yan Skwara said in a statement, “and we think that the level of competition is going to go up a notch with Minneapolis City as a new league member… Mpls City SC is on the cutting edge of what is cool in American soccer, and it’s easy to see why. The entire club has the highest level of commitment, and they see the potential that comes from joining UPSL.”
Aside from a competitive playing field requested by its players, Minneapolis City expects UPSL play to result in a financial savings for their U-23 programming. While clubs joining UPSL need to pay league dues and registration fees projected in the low four figures, that amount is expected to cost the organization significantly less than the set of overnight trips the team made in 2019 to play friendlies in locales like Omaha, Green Bay, Des Moines, and Dubuque, IA. At the same time, a UPSL season will feature at least “12-14 games” in 2020 based on the current size of the division.
While the developments on the reserve side raised some questions among members during the deliberation process, team officials were quick to point out that the focus on continued success in NPSL play hasn’t changed. The club’s senior team will continue to play in NPSL with UPSL team members eligible for registration in both leagues (and vice versa). While the name change suggests a reserve focus, team officials say it’s merely a required semantic choice.
“Minneapolis City SC II will remain focused on younger, developing talent and will continue to be a pipeline into the NPSL team,” Pribyl said. “It’s a critical part of the club, and if you look at guys like Rory O’Driscoll, Matt Gibbons, and Mike Riley who are killing it in college after a season with MC2 and think about the role they can play next season, let’s just say that we are very excited for 2020.”