Grassroots Dispatch: Minnesota United FC Soaring in NASL

As with Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League is fast approaching playoff time, and to those fans it means one thing – Soccer Bowl time. In case you are not aware of how the NASL operates its soccer season, it divides a full season into a Spring Season and a Fall Season with a four team playoff at the end of the Fall Season. The playoffs consist of the Spring Champion, Fall Champion and two clubs with the most combined points between the two seasons. This season is a little different in that there has been one dominant club throughout both seasons and that club is Minnesota United FC, known as the “Loons”; this club is on the verge of becoming the D.C. United and L.A. Galaxy of the NASL in that they are far and away a world class club.

Minnesota was founded in 2010 and since then, they have been a model franchise in the refurbished NASL. The fan base in Minnesota has embraced the club and after averaging around 1,500 fans per match in 2010, the number of fans has grown every year and is averaging close to 6,000 this season. Two Supporter Groups have been created for the club including the “Dark Clouds” and the “Loon’s Nest” which allows fans at home games to feel the raw energy that soccer matches should evoke out of their supporters.

The club has found success in drawing fans to their matches, however, their success is not just limited to the stands, they have been successful on the pitch as well. Minnesota has done very well competing in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup since the club’s inception in 2010. The team made it to the 2nd round in 2010, missed the cut in 2011, then went all the way to the 4th round in 2012, the 2nd in 2013 and in 2014 they made returned to the 4th round. As a representative of the North American Soccer League, Minnesota has shown great composure competing against clubs from Major League Soccer and the USL-Pro.

Minnesota has shown that they are competitive when it comes to competing in domestic cup tournaments, however, when it comes to competing in league competition, they are as good as golden. The Loon’s captured the 2011 Soccer Bowl Championship and were finalists in 2012 falling just short of capturing back to back championships, losing to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in a shootout by the score of 3-2. Along with the Soccer Bowl Championship, Minnesota captured the 2014 Woosnam Cup which is awarded to the club with the most overall points throughout both the Spring and Fall Campaigns. The Cup is named after Phil Woosnam, the longtime Commissioner of the original NASL.

The Loon’s also compete in a rivalry challenge with FC Edmonton and the winning club is awarded the “Flyover Cup”. The name is derived from an area between Edmonton and Minnesota in which birds, known as Loons, fly over on their trip to warmer climates as well as their journey back in the Spring. Minnesota has captured three Cups including this year’s challenge while Edmonton has recorded just a single victory in the derby.

In their very short history, Minnesota has been a well run and successful club, proving that there is success beyond MLS. In the past month, Minnesota United FC was on the minds of many soccer fans due to the recent call up to the USMNT for Miguel Ibarra. Along with the club’s on-field success and Ibarra’s individual accomplishments, the organization established a developmental club in the NPSL called the Minnesota United Reserves. All in all, the Loon’s are enjoying a nice run in the NASL and perhaps one day, they will find themselves in MLS competing with the Big Boys.

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