Reports are circling that Minnesota is a "near lock" to land an expansion Major League Soccer team.
Two ownership groups are vying to bring a franchise to town -- one led by Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire and another by the Wilfs. American Soccer Now reports that the McGuire-led group is currently the favorite, even though questions remain about where a team with that ownership group would play.
While a team owned by the Wilfs would be able to call the new Vikings stadium home, McGuire's group would probably require a new soccer-specific outdoor stadium -- and, assuming it won't be privately financed, do Minnesota taxpayers have the stomach to chip in for another one of those on the heels of TCF Bank Stadium, Target Field, and the new Vikings digs?
Asked about the American Soccer Now report, MLS spokesperson Dan Courtemanche tells Fox 9, "As we are in discussions with multiple markets and potential ownership groups regarding future MLS expansion, we are unable to comment on any private conversations or correspondence with any of these groups."
"We have conducted expansion meetings with representatives from Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Sacramento and visited all three markets during the last six months," Courtemanche adds. "We have also met with representatives from San Antonio and St. Louis. We recently announced that Las Vegas is no longer being considered for this round of expansion."
Courtemanche says the league will consider the following four criteria when deciding between markets:
-- A committed local ownership group with the appropriate financial resources.
-- A comprehensive stadium plan where the ownership controls the venue.
-- An appropriate market that is attractive to sponsors, television partners and located in an appropriate geographic location.
-- History of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events. We also monitor TV market ratings for MLS games and other soccer matches.
Courtemanche says the next MLS expansion franchise should be officially announced within 30 to 45 days. The goal is for the new team to be playing "by the end of the decade," he adds.