On April 13, a vision years in the making will come to fruition for Minnesota United.
The club will play their first-ever match at Allianz Field, their new 19,400-seat home. It's Year Three of the club's oft-discussed three-year plan and MNUFC are ecstatic with the year ahead.
“It’s the ultimate step," Minnesota United owner Dr. Bill McGuire told MLSsoccer.com last week. "It’s the step that completes the evolution of a sport that’s been here a long time and had a number of teams but never really had its own stadium, its own facility ... This is really the team’s own place. I think that’s a major milestone, just like stepping into the top tier of the sport when we joined Major League Soccer was a milestone."
The Loons played in TCF Bank Stadium, which is the home to the University of Minnesota football team, during their first two years in the league. Allianz Field marks a transitional shift for the club, a tangible moment from which the club can launch forward.
“It’s a stadium built and designed for soccer, for watching soccer," McGuire said. "It’s focused on that, not anything else. Within that, it’s an intimate stadium — there are no bad seats. It’s quite exceptional. It’s very tight, a lot of efforts have gone into holding the sound within the stadium and it’s aesthetically very beautiful.”
Those leading MNUFC have big ambitions for the club. Allianz Field is just another step to achieving their grandiose goals. The Loons are already making strides forward, but the club want more.
They want to be a leading figure in MLS, both on the field and in business.
“You think of where this team has come from, over the last three years particularly," Loons CEO Chris Wright said. "When you think about two years of playing a third-party stadium on AstroTurf, then you think what we’re going to be doing on April 13 when we take on NYCFC, we’re evolving as a club. We have aspirations of being a big club, a club that MLS is really proud of. We want to be competitive on the field and we want to be a best practice from everything we do from a business standpoint and creating something special for our game in this country.”
“We have a why, we have a purpose," Wright added. "We’re not just a soccer club, not just an MLS team, not just MNUFC. We have a purpose from the game of soccer, we’re going to inspire and unite our community. That’s our purpose.”
On matchdays, Allianz Field is set to be an incredible experience for fans on top of an aesthetically pleasing sight for television cameras. There are too many selling points for Wright or McGuire to name just one. Every thought lent into another amenity or feature of the stadium. It's pure, genuine excitement.
The Wonderwall, the safe-standing collective supporters' section behind the goal at the south end of the stadium, will be a sight to behold in action. There's obviously the impressive exterior, which has already tested out a light show in December that caught the eye of many, and a brew hall on the opposite end of the stadium.
Outside the stadium, some of the club's most loyal supporters will notice something familiar: their names.
“We have a huge sculpture that’s going in as we speak that spells out ‘UNITED’," Wright said. "Engraved on that sculpture is 11,482 members of our season ticket holders, we call them Itasca Society. That’s also the number of lakes in Minnesota that have names. The individual season ticket names are embedded in the sculpture.”
With their expected home field advantage, the club have seemingly gone all-in for 2019. The Loons invested heavily in the likes of Jan Gregus, Ozzie Alonso, Ike Opara, Romain Metanire and Vito Mannone, joining last season's two big imports of Darwin Quintero and Angelo Rodriguez.
“We expect to be very competitive, compete for playoffs and doing well within the playoffs," McGuire said. "I think that’s everybody’s expectation, isn’t it? For us, we’ve taken some significant steps this offseason to bring in more depth, additional talent, I think we’ll have a competitive team.”
Before Allianz Field officially opens, the Loons kick off their 2019 campaign with five consecutive away matches. The club know they need to show they can keep up on the field in their new home. It is Year Three of that three-year plan, after all.
“It’s all about whether or not we can deliver on our promise," Wright said. "That’s what we’re hoping to do, deliver on our promise that is going to allow our game to take its rightful place in this community, in a beautiful stadium, and make meaningful impressions and have a meaningful impact on people’s lives.”