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This Could Be The End Of Pro Soccer In Minnesota

A few weeks ago, we wrote about whether Major League Soccer could be successful in Minnesota. Just days later, the United States Soccer Federation announced that they were revamping the guidelines for Division II soccer in America - the level at which our current pro soccer team, the NSC Minnesota Stars, compete. Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer published the new standards on his site, and the area that caught almost everybody's eye was the financial requirements for team owners.

The Stars are owned by the National Sports Center in Blaine, which is a nonprofit organization. All along, the Stars had hoped to run the team on a sensible budget, possibly in conjunction with a private partner to help fund the team. Now, with the guidelines in place for 2011, that timeline just got put on a much faster track. The rules that have started the uproar:

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Each team must submit a letter of credit in the amount of $750,000 with the joint beneficiaries being the Federation and the league in a form satisfactory to the Federation on an annual basis.... Each team must have and designate one principal owner that owns at least 35% of the team and has authority to bind the team.  Such principal owner must have an individual net worth of at least twenty million US dollars exclusive of the value of his/her ownership in the league or team.

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Well, the National Sports Center isn't exactly going to meet those standards, and today they put out the call for help, in a press release titled "Pro soccer to leave Minnesota unless National Sports Center is able to recruit financial partner."

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Said General Manager Kris Bjerkness, "While we support the efforts of the USSF to upgrade the standards for pro soccer, the new standards will necessitate that we find an organization or individual willing to join us as a financial partner.When we assumed ownership of the team last January, we were very public about our desire to eventually pursue a creative public/private ownership model to bring more financial resources to team operations. Now's the time for that to happen."

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The release notes that the team has averaged attendance of 1,413 this year, far short of its goals. "The team needs to be selling between 2,500 and 3,000 tickets per game to be financially successful," said Bjerkness. The release is more blunt: "The NSC has not met its goals in brand awareness, ticket marketing and sales."

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If you weren't following the local soccer scene, I'll recap: the Minnesota Thunder played in the second division of American soccer from 1990-2009, until the team folded under the weight of curiously bad management. The Stars picked up more or less where the Thunder left off, and while they were certainly better run, they haven't been successful.

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And now, with the new guidelines, things look a little bleak for pro soccer in the state. If you've got twenty million sitting around, and want to own at least 35% of a soccer team - now would be the time for you to mention it.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.