A decade or so ago the future of Major League Soccer in North America looked pretty bleak, MLS officials shut down two franchises in 2001 taking the number of teams from 12 to 10 and things really didn't look good. Fast forward to the present day and the league is booming.
Cities are fighting to get into the MLS now and long gone are the days when teams didn't have to pay to get in. The cost to get your side into the top tier of North American soccer these days is nearing the $100 million dollar mark with the added condition that a team must be playing in a soccer specific stadium, a world away from the far-too big football stadiums and arenas the teams used to compete that made the action miles away from the fans in the stand.
The latest team wanting to get themselves some soccer action is the owners of the NFL side Minnesota Vikings.
In a radio interview with WCCO in the Twin Cities, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagely made it clear that getting into MLS is something that is near the fore front of the owners collective minds.
To try and prove the City's soccer support to Don Garber and co at MLS, Bagely and the Vikings are part of a team that is bringing a pre-season friendly match between Manchester City and Olympiakos to TCF Bank Stadium, located on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
Bagley went on to admit that he and the Vikes had been in contact behind the scenes over the last few years with MLS bosses.
“We’ve been working with the MLS at the leadership level for the last couple of years,” said Bagely. “Now that we’ve kind of turned the corner on major construction of the new stadium and we’ve secured the Super Bowl for our market, we’re now kind of turning our full attention to MLS.”
They expect to sell out the game between the English and Greek champs with 20,000 tickets sold for the August encounter. TCF Stadium holds 50,000 however.
Another interesting turn is that there is already a soccer team in Minnesota. Minnesota United FC compete in the North American Soccer League (NASL) and could themselves be thinking about making a bid to join MLS and it would have to be seen if the two separate entities would join together or fight it out.
There are currently 19 sides competing in MLS at the moment with four set to join the league in the upcoming years; those being Miami, Orlando City, New York City and Atlanta. MLS wants to add one more side after that to take it up to 24 and Sacramento and Las Vegas are among areas pressing to join the league.