Minnesota United, one of the strongest sides in the North American Soccer League, is expected to join Major League Soccer after the 2016 season concludes. If Sports Illustrated's Brian Straus is correct in a report filed on Wednesday, the league affiliation won't be the only major change going on in the Twin Cities this winter.
Straus' report claims that the Loons will likely be forced to change their name, dropping 'United', and re-branding. The reasoning for the forced change in name? Because Arthur Blank, the owner of the other 2017 expansion franchise, Atlanta United FC, reportedly thinks it would be odd to have two 'Uniteds" joining MLS at the same time.
The use of monikers such as 'Sporting' or 'United' by American football clubs is one of the more laughable developments of the past decade. In most cases, these clubs are just attempting to piggyback off of the success of massive clubs in Europe, even though there is no actual affiliation with these sides. It's foolish, and while it might have been something that MLS (and other leagues) benefited from when they first started branding clubs in this manner, it's almost certainly a practice that could now be abandoned, as the sport has grown in the United States to the point where it no longer has any real benefit.
That said, the 'United' in Minnesota actually had some additional meaning, as the club's owner, Bill McGuire, spent a large portion of his lifetime building and running UnitedHealth. It's somewhat hilarious, in that regard, that Minnesota will be stripped of their United because the MLS idea generator decided to brand Atlanta as United as well, and Atlanta supposedly called 'dibs'.
Regardless of what the Loons decide to call themselves when they enter MLS, the NASL will have a tough time replacing the artists formerly known as United, who have been one of the model clubs in the second division for the past several seasons. I'd expect to hear some more expansion news before the 2016 campaign kicks off, and with any luck, those clubs won't be named Sporting, United, or Real, on the off chance that they want to retain their monikers with a move to the top flight.