Minnesota United - crowd with loon flag waving
Courtesy of Minnesota United FC

What on earth is a loon? Meet Minnesota United's beloved mascot

What the heck is a Loon?

Glad you asked. It's the official state bird of Minnesota (this is not to be confused with a "loonie,'' a Canadian one-dollar coin), but North American soccer fans may also know the loon as the mascot of Minnesota United FC, the franchise that will become MLS's 22nd team, beginning play 2017.

Loons are aquatic birds, generally about the size of a small goose, known for their keen fishing abilities and luminous red eyes. They are capable of flying at speeds of more than 75 miles per hour and make a variety of expressive calls once dubbed "one of the wildest and most striking of all wilderness sounds" by naturalist John Muir.

The loon proudly glares down from Minnesota United's crest, and is the identity of the team's mascot, "PK."

According to Minnesota United's website, the loon represents the organization's efforts to "unite the proud Minnesota soccer history under one banner,'' connecting the Twin Cities with a common love for the team and the sport.

Minnesota's soccer history dates back to 1976, when the Minnesota Kicks of the old North American Soccer League began play in Bloomington. After the NASL folded, the Kicks were followed by the Minnesota Thunder and the NSC Minnesota Stars, which in 2011 won the championship of the new NASL and in 2013 were re-branded as Minnesota United FC, the name they will carry with them into MLS.