This is shaping up to be a great year for American soccer despite our national teams, which hasn't happened since Pele was a mere volcano goddess. Last week, I was misty-eyed and sentimental about my arch-rival finally achieving permanence. It looks like New York City FC is going to survive both Yankee Stadium and the absence of Frank Lampard. And this week, the Twin Cities have finally been officially promised their Major League Soccer team. Either Sacramento or San Antonio will join the line soon.
But it's Minnesota United that warms the sub-cockles of my heart. You'd have to be pretty stone-hearted not to feel good about the dream of Buzz Lagos finally coming true...well, at least in a couple of years. Minnesota to MLS was as much of a fan triumph as any in the history of the league, maybe the history of the sport. Philadelphia soccer fans fought for a team that never existed, but Twin Cities fans had to support team after team after team. If the Sons of Ben were lobbyists, the Dark Clouds were paramedics.
You've almost certainly seen the presence of Minnesota soccer fans recently, with the Northern Pitch website as the successor to the Du Nord blog. But anyone who had followed American soccer the past fifteen or twenty years would have seen Minnesota fans at soccer events all over the country.
Sure, they hit up every national team game from Azteca to Jeonju, the cartoon cloud flying proud. They also hit up MLS Cups long before THAT became fashionable - and, as you will no doubt have noticed, without QUITE having a team in the league yet. Don Garber can talk about owner vision - and sure, it's their money - but it's the foundation that makes a team strong, and Minnesota United will have just about the strongest.
And not to go negative, but we dodged a bullet in awarding the team to Minnesota United rather than the reprehensible Zygi Wilf and his purple clown car. The nicest thing anyone can say about Wilf is that he's a fairly typical NFL owner. MLS is much better off having Wilf as an opponent than a friend. The phrase about rather having someone inside the tent peeing out than outside the tent peeing in - that only applies to someone who can control flow and direction. The worst thing about the Kicking Vikings wouldn't have been their failure, but their constant middling profitability at the expense of fan patience. The fans I've seen deserve a lot better, and now at least they have a chance for it.
Instead of everyone's friends, they're going to join the Festival of Constant Mutual Disdain that makes MLS so much fun. That'll be a shame - maybe they'll end up as everyone's second favorite team, but that assumes fans that have followed the sport devotedly through both club and country don't care about winning and won't gloat about it. I'm told Milwaukee fans would tell a different story, one that Chicago and Kansas City fans will learn soon.
But that's for another day. Minneapolis/St. Paul has joined MLS, and I say "But of course!" Congratulations to Minnesota United fans, and enjoy your two extremely awkward years in the NASL.
Now, who will join them? I'd take San Antonio and Sacramento both, but people have gotten very rich not listening to me. But here's something to chew on. As of this morning, the NASL boasts one American team outside the Eastern time zone...the San Antonio Scorpions. If MLS takes the Scorpions ahead of the, er, Republicans, then NASL will face the prospect of having the national footprint of a one-legged centipede. But, hey, it's not like Division 2 status is riding on it, or anything.