As we count down to a record-breaking crowd, we're taking a look back at the historic moments that helped to shape soccer in Minnesota. From the Kicks in NASL to your hometown Minnesota United, it's time to celebrate soccer past and present at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 21 when MNUFC breaks an attendance record that has stood for more than 40 years, ever since a crowd of 49,572 fans came to Metropolitan Stadium to watch the Minnesota Kicks beat the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 and win the NASL Conference Championship.
As we look forward to opening Allianz Field in 2019, we’ll take a look back at the many venues that have housed Minnesota’s professional soccer teams over the years.
Metropolitan Stadium (1976-1981)
City: Bloomington | Opened: 1956 | Capacity: 48,446
Often referred to by its nickname “The Met,” Metropolitan Stadium is the original home for many of Minnesota’s sports teams. The multi-sport venue hosted the Twins, Vikings, Kicks and many other events over its 30 years in operation. Kicks games were an experience both in and out of the Met. The Kicks used their homefield advantage to make the playoffs in all six seasons, boasting some of the best attendance numbers in the NASL. Outside of the stadium, legendary tailgate parties would take place before games, with more people hanging out in the parking lots than could fit into the stadium. A few years after the Kicks folded, The Met was demolished as the Twins and Vikings moved into the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The Mall of America currently occupies the original site of the stadium.
Met Center (1979-1981, 1984-1988)
City: Bloomington | Opened: 1967 | Capacity: 15,000
More commonly known for its hockey history, Met Center was the home of indoor soccer through multiple eras in the state’s soccer history. It first hosted soccer when the Kicks joined the NASL indoor league in 1979 after playing in an exhibition tournament the year prior. After the Kicks folded in 1981, soccer did not return to Met Center until the arrival of the Strikers in 1984. After their lone season in the NASL before the league dissolved, the Strikers joined the Major Indoor Soccer League for four seasons. The team was very successful in the indoor game, reaching the playoffs each season, reaching one final and claiming a conference championship. After the Strikers dissolved, Met Center remained in service until 1994 when its primary tenant, the North Stars, moved out of town.
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (1984, 2013)
City: Minneapolis | Opened: 1982 | Capacity: 64,121
The Dome was once one of the defining features of the Minneapolis skyline and, once again, the home for the majority of Minnesota’s pro sports teams. If not for the Kicks folding the year prior to its opening, the Dome would have hosted each of the state’s top teams for at least one game. The Strikers and MNUFC are the only teams to occupy the Metrodome for multiple regular season games. The Strikers played the 1984 NASL season there, while the Loons would play all but one of its 2013 NASL Spring Season home games at the venue. The Thunder hosted select games at the Dome throughout the team’s history, most notably a friendly against LA Galaxy featuring David Beckham. The Stars also played their 2012 home opener at the Metrodome, to celebrate its league title the year before. The Loons were among the last teams to play in the stadium before it closed down in 2013 and was demolished shortly after to make way for U.S. Bank Stadium.
NSC Stadium (1990-2003, 2008-2016)
City: Blaine | Opened: 1990 | Capacity: 10,000
A familiar spot for many longtime fans of the sport, “Nessy” had the longest total tenure as the home for Minnesota soccer. Starting with the amateur days of the Thunder in 1990, the venue saw many ups and downs in the sport’s history. As it was part of the National Sports Center campus, the stadium hosted many non-soccer events as well as serving as a home stadium for professional soccer. For many years, a running track surrounded the pitch separating the fans from the action, but it was removed in the later years, creating an intimate environment that added to the iconic atmosphere. It also played host to several U.S. women’s national team games, including a friendly against Canada in 2001 that brought over 15,000 fans to Blaine.
James S. Griffin Stadium (2004-2008)
City: St. Paul | Opened: 1930 | Capacity: 4,367
After 14 years at NSC, the Thunder made the move to St. Paul, taking up residence in Saint Paul Central High School’s stadium. Known as “The Jimmy” to supporters, the venue hosted various teams from Central High School and Concordia University while the Thunder were tenants. The stadium was the home ground for Minnesota’s magical U.S. Open Cup run in 2005, which saw the team reach the semifinals while knocking off Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids and Kansas City Wizards on the way. Though they began the 2008 season in St. Paul, the Thunder would return to NSC Stadium in May of that year.
TCF Bank Stadium (2017-2018)
City: Minneapolis | Opened: 2009 | Capacity 50,805
Minnesota United has played in the home of the University of Minnesota’s football team since it joined MLS in 2017. Though it has primarily been a college football stadium, the Vikings moved in for two seasons in 2014 and 2015 while U.S. Bank Stadium was being constructed and for a brief period in 2013 when the Metrodome collapsed. MNUFC played one league game at the stadium in 2014 in a double-header with an International Champions Cup fixture between Manchester City and Olympiakos. Since it became the Loons’ home venue, the team has seen record crowds and enjoyed incredible support in its first two MLS seasons. The venue will carve itself into Minnesota soccer history when it will host the largest crowd ever for a Minnesota soccer team on October 21.