Wednesday, Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated published a story about MLS expansion that has now been widely circulated around fans of the league. Among other things, Straus writes about MLS expansion into St. Louis, the state of LAFC and the Miami Beckhams, and the other two clubs (besides LAFC and Miami) who have been given bids, Minnesota United FC and Atlanta United FC.
The latter subject is arguably drawing the most attention as everyone knows at this point that MLS is going to move into St Louis, and Miami will have a team ready around the time the sunshine state is swallowed by the Atlantic.
Surprisingly, the biggest takeaway isn’t that both teams may be entering MLS is 2017 alongside LAFC, but rather that MLS may be forcing MNUFC to change their name to avoid confusion with Atlanta United FC.
This is stupid.
To put into context why this is stupid, lets explore the origins of the two names and clubs.
Minnesota will be coming to MLS from NASL. The club was founded in 2010, but didn’t become Minnesota United FC until 2012 when healthcare executive Bill McGuire purchased the team. The name was chosen because MNUFC was formed from the financial ashes of the Minnesota Stars and Minnesota Thunder. The failed clubs were united under one umbrella.
Minnesota plays in Blaine, Minnesota, part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metroplex. Their new MLS stadium is slated to be built St. Paul’s Midway area, which as the name suggests is roughly evenly between Minneapolis and St. Paul and is designed to unite soccer fans of both of the Twin cities.
Atlanta United FC is a new club that will play its inaugural season in MLS. The club is owned by Arthur Blank, billionaire owner of the Atlanta Falcons among other ventures. The team will share space with Blank’s new home for his NFL franchise, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta’s previous professional soccer team, Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL, waved the white flag this year. League owned for the 2015 season, no owners came forward to purchase the team that would be in direct competition with one of the richest men in Atlanta and MLS’ division 1 status. In January 2016, the league announced that the club that had called Atlanta its home since its inception in 1998 would be suspended indefinitely.
Its not that far of a leap to say Atlanta United’s presence was enough to kill any other pro franchise in the city.
It sounds like Atlanta pulled the “united” out of their generic-soccer-club-name hat and ran with it, potentially at the expense of a club who actually does unite a community in multiple ways. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem like Atlanta advocated for Minnesota to change their name. But if they did, they join MLS in calling American soccer fans too dumb to tell the difference between two completely different cities who both happen to want to use united in their name.
The full SI story can be found here and is worth a read. St. Louis is getting a team folks. The only hope is that teams who have been working for it like San Antonio and Sacramento get to join them.