On extreme ends of the American border St. Paul and Miami have something in common when it comes to Major League Soccer: both have been announced as expansion franchises, and both have seen their progress stalled by stadium issues.
Wednesday was the deadline for Minnesota United to have its plans for a soccer-specific stadium in place, and that deadline has passed. But MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott was in Minnesota, and missing the deadline doesn’t mean United is out of the running to be an MLS side.
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Still, it does beg the question of what in the world we’re doing having big blowout press conferences announcing Miami and Minnesota as MLS sides if major obstacles are uncleared, doesn’t it? Even if this failure seems driven by political hullaballoo, better safe than sorry has not been the case here.
Abbott took to the airwaves in Minnesota to allay fears, at least a little bit. From Sports Illustrated:
Speaking to local ESPN radio, Abbott said Wednesday that a downtown stadium was a “primary factor” in the selection of United’s bid and that the league had every intention of holding the club to that promise. St. Paul, however, presented a new wrinkle that Abbott felt was worth exploring.
“We do want to come out and have a meeting with people in St. Paul to make sure we can make a fully informed decision,” Abbott explained, saying that he’d be traveling to the Twin Cities in the next few weeks and that a conversation with St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman would be on the agenda.
“If somebody in Minneapolis came forward with a plan that would be tremendous, because that’s what we’ve always wanted,” he added.
For its part, United says it remains committed to bringing MLS to Minnesota, and it’s worth wondering if the rival Minnesota group — a group related to the NFL’s Vikings was competing for a franchise — is hampering United’s progress.
In any event, we’d expect this to work out, or at the very least for Minnesota to get every chance to avoid a black eye for the league’s expansion process. With Miami still in limbo and New York City playing on a postage stamp inside Yankee Stadium, the less losing stories for the league, the better.