As one era of Minnesota United history wrapped up on Sunday with a record-breaking moment, it gave way to the next milestone for the club as the Loons and their players look forward to opening Allianz Field, their shining beacon in St. Paul, this spring.
MNUFC has seen steady growth in the stands since Dr. Bill McGuire purchased the club in 2013, culminating with the record 52,242 fans who turned out for Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium send-off against LA Galaxy — support that has made the team’s coming move possible.
“We have incredible support and it just keeps growing and growing,” defender Brent Kallman said. “Even though it wasn’t the result we wanted at all, it was a good way to send us off heading into Allianz next year.”
The next time MNUFC takes the field at home, it will be to open Minnesota’s new cathedral of soccer. After Sunday’s game, Allianz Field was shown on the TCF Bank Stadium scoreboard with its signature PTFE screen lit up, almost as if it was calling the Loons home after two years of waiting.
For the first time, professional soccer will have a place to call its own next season. After so many years of questions surrounding the future of the sport in this state, the significance of that achievement is not lost on the players who will grace its field.
“We will have a permanent home,” Kallman said. “We won’t be in the visitor locker room or anything like that. It will be our place and it will be home. It will be a proper set up, if you will. It will be an awesome atmosphere, I think.”
Allianz Field is taking another significant step towards completion this week as crews work to install its natural grass playing surface. After playing on turf for the last two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, that alone is going to be a major step forward for MNUFC.
“We are just happy that we are going to be able to have grass and not play on turf,” midfielder Miguel Ibarra said. “Having that grass field is really big for us. After playing on turf, a lot of the guys come out banged up. Now knowing that we are going to be on natural grass is not going to hurt us as much.”
When Allianz Field opens its gates in Spring 2019, it will mark the ultimate payoff for a dream that began five years ago when Dr. McGuire began executing his vision for his newly-purchased club and for decades of fervent fan support. As defender Eric Miller noted, it will also elevate Minnesota United to a new standing within MLS.
“It changes the whole landscape of everything,” Miller said. “It changes the optics of what we are in the league to some other teams. You move away from being the team playing in a football stadium to playing in one of the best stadiums in MLS.
“It will really showcase our fans and all of the cool stuff they have been doing,” he added. “It just makes it a lot more attractive and more of a big time market for guys to want to come play at. It should be amazing.”