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Minnesota United receive MLS expansion, have six months to ready squad

Minnesota's North American Soccer League franchise has been granted MLS expansion...

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The formal announcement was made Aug. 19, Minnesota United FC will join Major League Soccer for the 2017 season. MLS originally announced in 2015 that Minnesota would be receiving a franchise, and at the time, it appeared the side would not be ready for sanctioned play until 2018 at the earliest, thanks in part to the process of solving the team's stadium dilemma.

That dilemma has been solved, and the team will reside in a shiny new 20,000-seat venue that's near completion. However, the stadium will not be available for the 2017 season-opener, so the Midwest team will share the grounds at TCF Bank Stadium, home of the University of Minnesota football team.

Minnesota will enter the MLS alongside Atlanta United FC. Conditions and regulations regarding the expansion draft and other roster or salary cap provisions are yet to be announced.

For Manny Lagos, sporting director for Minnesota, its been a long road traveled. He previously served as the team's head coach for five seasons, before moving to his current position. The team nearly ceased operations in 2012, before current owner, Dr. Bill McGuire, saved them from the brink of doom.

"It's a celebration of all the people in Minnesota that have fought to develop and keep soccer relevant," Lagos told ESPN FC. "Because ultimately, [Friday] is about us putting our chest out and saying, 'this is a really special community and, oh by the way, it's even more special now that soccer is relevant in Minnesota on a [massive] scale."

Minnesota United have been one of the most successful soccer teams in the nation in the lower leagues, and it includes an ever-growing fan base with one of the most visible supporters groups.

Minnesota currently have eight players on their roster with MLS experience, the team's crown jewel being Christian Ramirez, who is reportedly drawing scouting interest from two decent soccer countries, Mexico and Germany. The question of who stays and who goes before the team hits an MLS pitch could very likely be the most common — when Orlando FC expanded in 2015, only eight of their players made the transition with them.

"Throughout the year we've done a lot of things we think to start to build a roster not just for this year but for next year," Lagos said. "We've had a lot of trialists come in, had players try out, just different ways besides signing players. And we'll look at the last several months of the season as a trial period for several players."