It’s been a tough year for Minnesota United, but Loons are still standing and moving forward

Minnesota United is enjoying its most successful season on the field since joining MLS in 2017. The Loons spent a record $5 million transfer fee on cornerstone Argentine playmaker Emanuel Reynoso and have plugged the central attacking midfielder into a veteran-laden team built to win now.
In late November, United added its first MLS Cup Playoff victory and can advance to the Western Conference final with a win over top seed Sporting Kansas City on Thursday.
Off the field, this year — as it has for everyone — has thrown the club off its desired track. United had to lay off or furlough one-third of its staff due to the pandemic-related economic downturn, which kept fans out of Allianz Field.
“We’ve had a very, very difficult 2020,” United CEO Chris Wright said in an interview with the Pioneer Press. “It forced us to make some really hard decisions to get through 2020.”
The lack of in-person support at 17 originally scheduled regular-season home games had a “massive” effect on the club’s revenue. Unlike other pro leagues or major college programs with big TV contracts, United is “totally dependent on local market revenues to sustain our business,” Wright said.
But the club’s foundation remains strong. The Loons retained 95 percent of its season-ticket base of 15,000 and will raise that number to 15,500 for 2021. Group sales are expected to be softer, but United retained 72 of 73 corporate partnerships, the only loss being a small Minnesota business that had to declare bankruptcy, Wright said.
The question for United, and the rest of us, is what will 2021 hold? Will it be more like 2019? Wright wonders.
“The answer to that really, to a degree, is to be determined because we don’t know where COVID is going or the impact of COVID will be,” Wright said. “We don’t know about a vaccine.”
Wright called 2019 and 2020 as far away from each other as the North and South poles, while 2021 could represent many landmarks in between.
“From a budgeting standpoint, a planning standpoint, a strategic standpoint … will there be impacts to how all that plays out? Yeah, absolutely there will be.” Wright said. “Will we be able to bring everybody back from furlough?”
How COVID affects the 2021 season, of course, is largely out of the Loons’ control; right now, they’re focusing on what they can influence.
Wright has “laundry list” of initiatives the club has embraced with the upheaval of COVID-19 and the unrest after George Floyd’s death, including the decimated blocks of businesses around the club’s stadium in the Midway neighborhood in St. Paul.
In early May, the Loons and partner Allianz Life Insurance contributed $75,000 to the Neighbors United Finding Collaborative to support small businesses and non-profits near the stadium. When buildings were destroyed after Floyd’s death, leaders of the fund asked the club to redirect that from solely COVID relief to rebuilding efforts.
“It was an easy ask,” said Isabel Chanslor, the NUFC fund manager. But their fund, she said, has only been a drop in the bucket for expensive rebuilding costs.
Wright said the club is in touch with the fund’s organizers, but doesn’t have a leadership stake in it. “So, to a degree,” Wright said, “what we want to do is be supportive in terms of one, financial resources; two, all the platforms that we have available to us to be able to amplify their message; and three, help guide the conversation around how we bring the Midway back to not only what it was before but how we advance the Midway.”
In August 2019, United owner Bill McGuire said the property adjacent to the stadium owned by Rick Birdoff could see construction on new mixed-use development in summer 2020. But that has yet to start.
Due to COVID, the Great Lawn on the north side of Allianz Field has been void of the music, actives and people gathering before games. Many surrounding businesses on the stadium’s block inside Snelling to University avenues are charred and boarded up from last spring’s unrest. The only spot of activity on game days in 2020 is the McDonald’s drive-thru.
But the Loons have worked to make Allianz Field a destination for other community-support efforts: sold-out blood drives to help with coronavirus-caused shortages; popular food giveaways to families in need; 40,000 free backpacks with school supplies for students; and it was billed as the most successful ballot drop-off site for Ramsey County. In mid-November, the club was looking into whether it becomes a COVID-testing site.
“We continue to look for ways to give back to our community in really meaningful ways given everything that is important internally for our club, but also our key stakeholders and our fans,” Wright said.
United also has taken time to look internally with its own Diversity, Equity and Inclusion group, reviewing its hiring practices and creating avenues for employees to speak out on racial and other issues. Wright said players, led by Ike Opara, have been active on a direction forward.
“Right now,” Wright said, “we are in the middle of a strategic planning process that will allow us to really dive into what we want to accomplish in 2021.”
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Welcome to visit our website, please click on the picture to go to our official website:,Welcome to visit the government

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