On Wednesday, Minnesota United and MLS will make their future together official, as single-entity league announced that it would be awarding it's 24th franchise to the NASL club*. For the club and its fans, this is a huge day that most probably felt would never come several seasons ago.
*The announcement can be watched live on FS1, or via this stream
Just four years ago, the club was on the brink of folding, and the NASL had to step in and take ownership of the club. The situation was not dissimilar to the one currently playing out with the Atlanta Silverbacks. Fast forward to 2015, and United have developed into one of the best run clubs in the country, have produced a USMNT regular, and should probably have a second player in that group in short order. Frankly, the turnaround in the club has been sensational, and should have plenty of clubs looking to that model as a way to build going forward.
From a personal standpoint, it's nice to see that Don Garber and MLS opted for the NASL club over starting a competitor backed by an NFL franchise. While it's a loss for the NASL and its fans, it's nice to see that MLS would prefer to reward successful clubs from a league trying to become competition, as opposed to simply building a rival franchise in hopes of crushing the established club.
The move is obviously a loss for the NASL, and will certainly drop the overall level of quality in the league once they depart. That said, the Cosmos will always bring quality and name recognition to the league, and it's impossible not to be excited about the way clubs like the Indy Eleven and Armada FC have kicked off.
Just prior to the MLS announcement, the NASL released the following statement about the move:
The North American Soccer League was created to provide fans, players, and partners with a professional structure that best aligns with the international game and a model that integrates into the global soccer economy. While Major League Soccer will make an announcement on Wednesday concerning Minnesota United FC possibly becoming an MLS expansion franchise, the NASL will continue on its path to build a league that is in line with the rest of the world and offers North American soccer fans a highly competitive alternative.
Our soccer landscape has been evolving at an unprecedented pace since the relaunch of the NASL in 2011. As the sport continues to grow, we anticipate making further announcements during the year concerning our own expansion and new partners. The developments in Minneapolis only serve to affirm once again, that the NASL is building high-caliber clubs, both on and off the field, and playing a leadership role in the evolution of professional soccer in North America. The announcement will not affect how we approach our plans for the future. We are as committed as ever to continuing the growth in our existing markets and expanding into new markets where we see great opportunities for our players and fans - the groups our league is built around.
As we get closer to kicking off our fifth season on April 4, we look forward to another great year on and off the field.
For now, United will continue as a NASL club, one of 11 for the 2015 season, and with any luck, we'll be treated to more details later in the day. Here's hoping we get to witness the Cosmos trounce the MLS-bound three times this season, en route to their second NASL title since the reboot.