MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- After almost two full years as a Major League Soccer franchise, Minnesota United FC has been an unquestionably successful draw in a crowded sports market.
The Loons have more than 50,000 tickets sold and distributed for their final home game of the season to prove it.
When Minnesota hosts a Los Angeles team that needs a win Sunday to stay in contention the Western Conference playoffs, superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy will be the target of more than twice the usual jeers from the crowd at TCF Bank Stadium. The Loons have averaged about 22,000 fans per game, the seventh-most in the 23-team MLS .
''It's going to be one of those nights that before it actually happens you can't imagine how it's going to be,'' Minnesota defender Michael Boxall said. ''I think it's going to be an unforgettable evening, and we will do everything we can to make it unforgettable for the 50K that show up.''
Next spring, the Loons will move from the University of Minnesota's football stadium to St. Paul to play in under-construction Allianz Field. The farewell to their temporary home will include post-match fireworks and a ceremonial lighting of the new, 19,400-capacity venue across the river.
Concessions will include $2 hot dogs and $1 popcorn as a throwback to 1976, when a crowd of 49,572 watched the Minnesota Kicks play a North American Soccer League game at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. That's the previous attendance record for a Minnesota soccer team, though an international friendly between AC Milan and Chelsea drew a crowd of 64,101 to U.S. Bank Stadium, the first ticketed event at the home of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.
With every major professional sport represented as well as the home of a Big Ten university that is the only power-conference school in the state, the Twin Cities area has a lot of competition for ticket-buyers. The core of Loons fans were already passionate in place, though, when the club played in the NASL until the MLS granted the expansion bid for 2017. Now with three recognized supporters groups, the interest in the squad has only grown.
''I would love to think that we're going to beat the L.A. Galaxy and we'll have 50,000 people signing 'Wonderwall' by Oasis afterward,'' Minnesota United chief executive officer Chris Wright said. ''Who'd have thought that was possible in the state of Minnesota? Not only is it possible, it's relevant.''
The team capped season tickets at 14,500 for next year, with a waiting list at more than 2,500, so the expectation is a season-long sellout for 2019 at Allianz Field. This weekend, though, the club will take some extra time to pay appreciation to the crowds that have continually showed up to watch a struggling team for two years.
They have been terrific to us,'' coach Adrian Heath said, adding: ''We have to give them a performance that warrants their support this weekend.''