Minnesota awarded MLS expansion team

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Minnesota has been awarded an MLS expansion team that will begin playing in the league in 2018.

Commissioner Don Garber made the announcement during a news conference on Wednesday, with Minnesota United owner Dr Bill McGuire to lead the new franchise's ownership group.

"We are proud to welcome Minnesota to Major League Soccer," said Garber. "The ownership group’s commitment to soccer and the community, the area’s growing millennial population and the region’s rich tradition of supporting soccer at all levels in Minnesota were key indicators that this was the right market. 

"The passionate soccer fans in Minnesota will soon have a world-class, downtown soccer stadium that will serve as the home for the new MLS team and become a destination for marquee international sports events."

The Twin Cities have supported a variety of professional teams at various levels since the NASL first arrived in 1976. The current team, Minnesota United, has found success on the field and one of its players, winger Miguel Ibarra, last year became the first player from a lower-tier American league to be called into the U.S. national team since 2005.

But the area and McGuire in particular wanted a bigger stage, and soon they'll have it.

"I want to thank Don and the other owners for their faith and confidence in us and our community and recognition of the vitality of this community and what it stands for and what it will continue to be in the future," an emotional McGuire said on Wednesday, with a Minnesota United scarf draped around his neck.

"This all came about, really, because of watching this game on a cool fall evening a couple years ago and saying, 'We have to do something with this, we have to make it more than it is,' and that's what this is about.

"That was two-plus years back. What a remarkable journey in a very short time."

The ownership group is led by McGuire and also includes owners of MLB's Twins and the NBA's Timberwolves. McGuire's bid beat out a competing effort by the Vikings' owners to bring an MLS team to the NFL team's new stadium, which is currently under construction.

Minnesota will become the league's 23rd franchise. MLS added Orlando City and New York City FC for this season and will expand to Atlanta and add a second Los Angeles team for 2017.

Miami also has been promised a franchise if it can get a suitable stadium deal, but whatever happens there, MLS is a far cry from the 10-team operation it was from 2002-04. 

"We are now just 20 years old, one generational turn," Garber said. "… Our greatest years are still ahead."