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Minnesota Utd expect sellout crowd for home opener; season ticket sales double

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Minnesota United will play its first game of the season Saturday in front of an expected sellout crowd, as fan interest has exploded since the announcement that team will enter Major League Soccer in 2018.

Manny Lagos's team takes on San Antonio in the North American Soccer League at its 8,500 capacity ground in Blaine at 7 p.m., and the Star Tribune reports that there are expected to be few seats left in the house.

Minnesota United winning the franchise to enter U.S. soccer's elite league in 2018 has caught the imagination of fans from the Twin Cities and beyond.

The Star Tribune reports that season ticket sales have more than doubled since the news, with over 3,500 having already been sold, a figure the club expects to rise to 5,000 by mid-season.

This has been helped by a canny marketing strategy that gives up to 10,000 current and future season ticket holders priority seating when the team enters MLS.

The Loons have started their season with a 0-0 draw at the Tampa Bay Rowdies, followed by a 1-0 defeat at the Ottawa Fury.

Stadium debate rumbles on

When they do so, it is intended they will play in a $150 million, 18,500-seater stadium in downtown Minneapolis near to the Farmers' Market, which the club's owners have pledged to pay for themselves along with a $100 million MLS franchise fee.

But the club has asked for tax breaks to help lighten the burden, requesting relief from sales taxes on construction materials. But it also wants exemption from property taxes that the other major stadiums in Minnesota receive because they are publicly owned.

These could prove a sticking point, if initially reaction from public officials is anything to go by.

The Pioneer Press reports that Minnesota's Senate voted overwhelmingly to block any requests for state tax relief relating to the stadium construction on Monday.

It comes after comments by politicians that Minnesota was suffering from "stadium fatigue" after hundreds of millions have been spent on projects including the new Vikings stadium, even though Minnesota United isn't seeking direct funding to build its soccer stadium.

At city level there is push-back too, with Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges not keen on the request.

She told MPR: "If there were some other developer and some other project, who came to the city and said, 'we want to put a $250 million development at one of the places in the city that is most ripe for economic development, on which we expect to make a significant profit, and all we need is to never ever pay property taxes on the site of that development,' they would be laughed out of the city."

But several city council members, President Barbara Johnson among them, have a more positive view on the stadium, telling MPR that it will regenerate an underused and unloved corner of the city, and that the impact on the downtown economy as it attracts more people to the city could be of huge benefit to the city.

The club will present a more detailed stadium plan before July 1.

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