With only one match each in Weeks 1 and 2 not only will this be a preview of the clubs but also of those first two matches. This season the WPSL’s Northern Conference will have a total of 7 clubs, the most in conference history. Just like during the 2019 season it will also entirely be contained within the same boundaries as the NPSL’s North Conference rather than including any Milwaukee or Chicago clubs.
Rochester United FC vs Dakota Fusion FC
The season in the North kicks off at Mayo High School in an unorthodox fashion with only one game on the schedule for the entire first week. That match features a Rochester line-up featuring a handful of Division 1 players (including a former North Dakota Fighting Hawk in Mimi Eiden) and a few more D2 recruits from all corners of the country, with a couple of local talents. Fusion on the other hand lean heavily on the talent pool of the upper Midwest, with the possibility (if not the likelihood) of fielding a side entirely either MN or ND products.
Dakota Fusion v MapleBrook Fury
In another scheduling quirk, Fusion play their second game in two weeks, a home opener at Moorhead High’s Jim Gotta Stadium, before the majority of the North has played 1 game. It is a surprise to see Fury return, since MapleBrook remain embroiled in a two year long lawsuit with fellow youth club Eclipse. Both currently claim the MapleBrook brand and neither has any mention of a WPSL side on its website. Fury make their home at Maple Grove High School.
With just two games total being played in the first two weeks of the 12 game slate let’s take a look at the other clubs making their home in the WPSL’s Northern Conference in 2021.
Fire SC 98:
One of the original WPSL North clubs from the conferences launch in 2018, Fire SC 98 will return for the club’s third season in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. After a decent outing in 2018 a large majority of the roster went elsewhere for the 2019 season which dropped Fire 98 to a 2-6-2 record with 8 points that season.
The club has not announced any players and as of the publishing of this piece there is no roster on the WPSL website either. The combination of that makes it tough to gauge how they’ll perform this season. One thing that has not changed is Fire 98 making their home field out of SeaFoam Stadium at Concordia University in St. Paul.
One of the toughest teams during the 2019 WPSL season, Mankato United finished tied up top with Salvo SC but lost out on the lone Regional playoff spot due to a tiebreaker. MUSC will be coming back this season with a vengeance as they look to take the North title in only their second season in the league. The club who has a long standing youth program will return a big name in Maverick standout Jenny Vetter who will have plenty of local players from the NSIC and MSU-Mankato joining her.
One of the big threats of this side is their reliance on in city school, NSIC and D2 powerhouse Minnesota State. The fact that so many of these ladies play together all year round will jell this team faster than any other in the conference. Mankato United makes another huge change moving from the Caswell North Soccer Complex in North Mankato to the new look newly renovated Bethany Pitch in Mankato proper, something that is a massive upgrade for the side.
After a long time without being used the Minnesota Thunder name will return to Senior level soccer, albeit on the women’s side rather than men’s. Another long standing youth academy, the Minnesota Thunder Academy, is launching their WPSL Senior level squad for the 2021 season.
The Thunder have some players listed on the WPSL website but have been fairly quiet on social media regarding the Senior Women’s side. The Thunder planned to begin play last season, however COVID-19 put a stop to that. The Thunder name will return on a new pitch as the ladies will make their home from the StarDome on the campus of the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield.
The defending WPSL North champions return for another campaign in 2021. In their inaugural season in 2019 Salvo went 6-1-3 with 21 points winning the conference on a tiebreaker over Mankato. Salvo would then host the Central Region Playoffs at their home ground of Reynolds Field at University of Northwestern in St. Paul. However for the host side their season would be ended with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Fortuna Tulsa.
Salvo SC does have a partial roster announced, which looks solid on paper, however they have been inactive on social media which makes it a bit hard to verify which player is from where due to name similarities. However with Salvo coming off a Conference title and building off a youth program they are a team to be watched this season.