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Storylines | These Loons are Historically Hot


Minnesota is hot right now—on the soccer pitch, at least. The Loons sit atop the Western Conference with an impressive 10 points from their first four matches, dropping their only points of the year to the defending champions. There’s a bit of magic in the air at Allianz Field right now, and it sounds a lot like the Gallagher brothers. 

All of this positivity has got me thinking: Is this the best start in Minnesota United history? And once such an interesting research project was posed, I simply couldn’t resist a flurry of Google searching and stat-perusing to scratch the itch I’ve had since finishing high school English. It’s high time I wrote an essay that Miss Hicks would be proud of, though I won’t be including an MLA citation page. I can provide one upon request, but please don’t ask me to. 

Yes, friends, this is an essay chronicling the start of every single MLS season the Loons have ever participated in. I don’t have a thesis statement, though, just some vibes and a whole lot of numbers. For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll be looking at the first five matches of every season, as that’s traditionally the number of matches we use to judge a team’s form at any given time. I’ve divided each season into three distinct groups: oof, we’ll take it, and Loontastic. Are those the same group names that my father would have chosen? Perhaps. But he’s a pretty funny guy, so cringe all you want; I stand by it!


2017: The beginning of a new season always brings an air of excitement, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll come out of the gates flying. In 2017, the Loons started their MLS journey with a whole lot of hope. Unfortunately, the results on the field didn’t match the off-field enthusiasm, with the club winning just once, drawing another, and losing three of their first five games. A ninth-place finish in the West was good enough to avoid the Wooden Spoon in year one and provided the team with a base to build from. 

2018: The first season in this league is often difficult for new clubs, but that makes sense. If you climbed Everest without adjusting along the way, you wouldn’t make it far before your body betrayed you. Every project has its own timeline; we have to stick around for the ones we care about most. 2018 showed slight improvement, as the Black and Blue managed to snag six points from their first five matches (2 wins, 3 losses). 

2021: The Loons had to navigate a difficult start to life in 2021 as well. They lost their first four games of the year, including a tough 4-0 loss to Seattle in the opener. However, a few years of experience had changed the club. After four matches without a single point, the Loons went on a seven-game unbeaten run that gave them the momentum to earn a fifth-place finish in the West and a spot in the playoffs.

What’s the lesson here? A bad start can certainly set the stage for a bad season, but you can’t let that affect your efforts. 2017 and 2018 were learning experiences, and that was proven by the rebound in 2021. You can’t rise up without first starting on the ground, and even in their worst starts, the Loons have found reason to stay positive.

We’ll Take It

2019: Moving up the ladder, we’ve got a couple of lukewarm starts to get through. Nine points from five games (3 wins, 2 losses) in 2019 was the start of a huge season for the Loons, as they’d go on to secure a fourth-place finish in the West. MNUFC notably didn’t get a home match until game number six that year, so who’s to say that they couldn’t have squeezed a few more points out of their start if the home crowd was involved?

2022: 2022 was a bit of a mixed bag, but eight points from five games (2 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss) isn’t a bad way to start the season. A four-game unbeaten run started the year off on the right foot, but thin margins soon caught up with the high-flying Loons. They kept things pretty tight all season long, and though an injury crisis curtailed their postseason hopes a bit, a sixth-place finish saw them make the playoffs once more. 


Here we are, the best of the best. You’ve made it! Though the club has only played seven seasons in MLS, MNUFC has already managed to start two different seasons without losing any of their first five matches. 

2023: Coming in as the runner-up in my “Best Start to a Loons Season” list, we’ve got 2023. Three wins and two draws put the Loons out to 11 points right away, including a huge win against noisy upstarts, St. Louis CITY. The goals were flowing, and things were looking up early on, but what keeps this start from the number one spot is the way things ended up. The Loons’ missed the playoffs by a mere three points last year, and despite their hot start, they cooled off significantly down the stretch. 

2020: Undoubtedly, the best start Minnesota United has ever had came back in 2020, which also happens to be the best overall season in club history. Before the league took a break for the pandemic, the Loons had scored eight goals in their first two matches, dispatching the Timbers 3-1 and the Quakes 5-2. They kept that momentum rolling in the MLS is Back Tournament, earning a win and two draws in the group stages to bring them up to 11 points. They went on to make a run to the semifinals of both the MLSiBT and the MLS Cup Playoffs, falling just short of snagging their first top-flight silverware.

So it seems that the line to beat is 11. That’s doable, I’d say. A draw in Philly this weekend would equal MNUFC’s best-ever start to an MLS campaign, while a win would push them to new heights. It’s not going to be easy, but none of the games this year have been, so I’m optimistic. 

Obviously, the season is 34 games long; analyzing the first five really doesn’t give you a glimpse into the future. But early trends are what motivate teams when the season gets tough, and it’s not easy to maintain a high level across such a lengthy calendar. It never hurts to give yourself a head start with some early wins; just look at St. Louis CITY last season. No matter what the future holds, the boys have started 2024 off in impressive fashion, and I’m excited to see what comes next. 


Philadelphia Union vs. Minnesota United FC

Subaru Park | Chester, Pennsylvania

03.27.2024 | MLS Game #5

1:00 p.m. CT (Watch on MLS Season Pass)