March 25, 2015 / 4:28 PM / in 3 years

MLS add Minnesota as expansion team for 2018

(Reuters) - Minnesota United were introduced as the newest Major League Soccer team on Wednesday with plans to begin play in the rapidly growing league in 2018.

The club, which was founded in 2010 and currently plays in the second-tier North American Soccer League, was officially welcomed to MLS during a news conference attended by a rowdy group of United supporters.

“We have a plan here that we believe in,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said during a news conference at Target Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins. “A plan that we believe will take the sport to a higher level.”

Coupled with already-announced expansion plans for Atlanta and the recreation of the team formerly known as Chivas USA in Los Angeles, Minnesota will be the 23rd franchise in MLS.

MLS grew to 20 clubs this season with Orlando City and New York City FC both joining the league.

Garber paid tribute to Minnesota’s “rich tradition of supporting soccer at all levels” and the league’s presentation included images from the 1970’s when the Minnesota Kicks were part of the NASL.

Led by United owner Bill McGuire, a former chief executive of UnitedHealth Group, the new MLS team’s ownership group will also include Glen Taylor, the owner of the National Basketball Association’s Minnesota Timberwolves and Jim Pohlad, owner of MLB’s Minnesota Twins.

United’s bid beat out competition from the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings, whose owner wanted a soccer team resident in their planned new stadium.

MLS were won over by United’s plan to build an outdoor ‘soccer-specific stadium’ in downtown Minneapolis.

The proposed stadium would be close to Target Field, in the Farmers Market neighborhood, and the club hope to finalize plans for the venue by July.

“We obviously have a lot of big dreams and visions,” said McGuire. “I thank Don and the other (team) owners for their faith and confidence in us and our community and recognition of the vitality of this community and what it stands for and what it will be in the future.”

Miami is in line to become the 24th MLS franchise but the league is waiting to see if David Beckham, who is fronting that bid, can secure a suitable stadium site.

Until recently, MLS had said it would stop expanding for the foreseeable future once it reached 24 teams. But last week Garber said it will evaluate further expansion beyond 24 clubs.

Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue

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