By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
Minneapolis received the 23rd MLS franchise. Minnesota United FC (MNUFC) will begin play in 2018. Two interesting things to take away from this announcement; first, Minneapolis will enter a rare stratosphere in the US. It will be one of nine cities in the United States that has a team in every major professional sports league and second, a woman co-owner.
Minneapolis is considered a lot of things. Cold, a fly-over city, hockey country, etc. It has over the last 15 years become a sports mecca. While some of it’s teams have not been at the top of their profession (Minnesota Timberwolves) others have been very competitive over the years like the Major League Baseball’s Twins or the NFL’s Vikings. More importantly, each pro franchise will have their own sport specific venue in the next five years or so. This doesn’t include the University of Minnesota who has their own facilities.
With the addition of MNUFC, the ‘Twin Cities‘ joins the likes of the Bay Area, Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Boston, and the New York City area that has a pro franchise in every one of the five major sports leagues. From the NFL to the NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS, these cities (or areas if you prefer) have a team that competes at the highest level. While Los Angeles and Miami could soon join these ranks, it shows how difficult it can be to support a professional franchise in any sport much less all five leagues. A massive, diverse and economically well off population is needed to spread around that much disposable income.
During the official announcement MLS commissioner Don Garber said that soccer was ‘a sport for a new America’ in reference to why the league and team where focusing on the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market area for a soccer stadium. This reflects in the ownership of the franchise as well. Wendy Nelson Carlson was introduced as a co-owner of the franchise.
Carlson is in rare company. There are only a handful of women listed as owners or co-owners of a major professional franchise. Virginia Halas McCaskey is listed as the principal owner of the Chicago Bears, a franchise she inherited from her father George Halas upon his death in 1983. While she is the principal owner, the ownership of the team is often referred to as ‘being owned by the McCaskey family.’ While female executives and other minority groups are underrepresented in the C-Suite at just about any business, it’s even more rare for a female co-owner to be introduced at the official announcement of an expansion franchise. (To show how far women have to go, Fox couldn’t even get her name right.)
The MLS and Minnesota United FC have their work cut out for them. Minneapolis is a very crowded sports market (we didn’t even go into the University of Minnesota Men’s Hockey team) and one that has recently built or is building stadiums for just about every professional and college team in the last 20 years. But this is not new to MLS. They have done this expansion thing many times before (not always successfully) and have a pretty good blueprint of what to do and how to do it. Add in their understanding of their fanbase and MNUFC should find success on the and off the pitch.