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Potential of Immigrant Advancement Plays into Minneapolis’ MLS Decision

26 Aug, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic

The U.S. has been warming up to soccer for a number of years. While the world’s most popular sport still has a long way to go in winning American fans to the same level as the rest of the globe, immigration is bringing more passion for soccer to American cities. Minneapolis-St. Paul is seeing rapid growth in the number of soccer leagues in and around the city: by some estimates, there are at least 15 soccer leagues in the Twin Cities, and they average 30 teams apiece. Most of the players are Latino or immigrants from East Africa.

In addition, soccer as a spectator sport is becoming more popular in the region, according to TwinCities.com’s Frederick Melo.

“The Oromo All-Stars -- top players from teams across North America and Australia -- were playing the Minnesota United FC reserve team [last Saturday],” wrote Melo. “The game launches a weeklong Oromo soccer tournament at St. Paul's Central High School and is the first public display of affection between one of the city's largest immigrant communities and the state's professional soccer team.”

The activity has prompted talk of a Major League Soccer stadium near downtown Minneapolis or in St. Paul, but organizers – most notably Minnesota United team owner Bill McGuire -- say they need commitment from lesser-known youth and ethnic teams from the Twin Cities' area to make it economically feasible and gain the necessary tax benefits from city and state governments.

“If the 18,000- to 24,000-seat soccer stadium lands in St. Paul, it would sit three or four light-rail stops away from the Oromo Community of Minnesota cultural center at University Avenue and Mackubin Street, and just as close to major gathering spaces for the Eritrean, Cameroonian, Somali, Hmong and Burmese immigrants, among other ethnic groups,” wrote Melo.

Currently, youth groups and amateur leagues from immigrant communities must find their way to suburban leagues outside the cities, which is inconvenient and cost-prohibitive for many players. The stadium would potentially offer all soccer interests in the Twin Cities area an opportunity for games, league activity, practices and even soccer clinics.

Those who have voiced suspicion of the project, however, wonder whether such a stadium would really be made available or small-fry immigrant soccer leagues. Natural grass surfaces are expensive to maintain, and the wear and tear the stadium would be subjected to by amateur players could prove to be pricey.

"This is a major league team where the surface is probably more important than any other sport except hockey and is much more work and expensive to maintain than a sheet of ice," Brian Quarstad, a St. Paul-based coach and Web editor with IMSoccerNews.com and NorthernPitch.com, told TwinCities.com.

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