#50kToMidway: 2011 NASL Championship

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.

With just two days until the Loons play in front of the largest crowd ever for a Minnesota soccer game, we roll back the clock to the early days of the club when the team shocked the league to claim the Soccer Bowl Trophy in 2011.

As the 2011 NASL regular season drew to a close, the NSC Minnesota Stars were teetering on the edge of missing the postseason. A string of good form in the final weeks of the season saw the Stars squeak into the playoffs in the 6th and final spot. They got off to a good start in the postseason with a 1-0 win on the road against FC Tampa Bay in the quarterfinals, thanks to an early goal from Luke Mulholland and a strong defensive performance.

The next round matched Minnesota with first-place Carolina RailHawks, who had dominated the NASL all year. The Stars set the tone with a home win in the first leg of the two-game series thanks to a last-minute winner from Andrei Gotsmanov.

The away leg was a back-and-forth shootout. Gotsmanov got Minnesota on the board first, and the teams traded goals throughout the match. With the score tied at 3-3 heading into stoppage time, it looked like the Stars would win 4-3 on aggregate, but a late goal from future Loon Pablo Campos tied the series. With no away goals rule, the game went to extra time. Thirty scoreless minutes were played before the match went to a shootout. Stars Goalkeeper Joe Warren came up with a big save in the first round and Minnesota held on punch its ticket to the Soccer Bowl.

Being the lower seed, Minnesota hosted the first leg of the series with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Stars used the home-field advantage to dominate the Strikers, pumping in three goals to start off the series with a 3-1 lead. The team celebrated and thanked the fans following the crucial game, serenading them with Wonderwall for the first time.

The Stars traveled south to Lockhart Stadium for the final leg on a rainy South Florida evening. Minnesota played a defensively sound game and kept the match scoreless to preserve its aggregate lead and lock up the league title, becoming the first team to have its name etched into the Soccer Bowl Trophy. The team was able to celebrate the win on the road with a group of travelling supporters who made the long trek to witness history. The whole group gathered after the game and took turns drinking Surly beer from the trophy, in a celebration that was later immortalized in song by supporters.