With the news this week that Minneapolis is on the brink of being awarded an MLS franchise, there’s no better time to remember the last time the State of Hockey had a top division soccer team: the NASL’s Minnesota Kicks.
In June of 1976, during the Kicks’ first season, they welcomed the New York Cosmos and the most famous soccer player in history, Pelé. The match attracted over 46,000 Minnesotans to watch Pelé perform on a converted baseball field inside a budget stadium in the middle of a cornfield. The Cosmos won 2-1, with goals from Giorgio Chinaglia and the Englishman Tony Field. Pelé wasn’t on the scoresheet, but that didn’t matter.
The match is one of those events that everyone you ever meet in Minneapolis who is old enough (and some who aren’t) claims to have been there that day. And while the spectacle did not live up to the hype, the match will long live in the memories of Minnesota sports fans.
Five years after that day, the Kicks folded and two years after that, Met Stadium was torn down to make way for the Mall of America, But 40 years later, you can walk into any sports bar in Minnesota, bring up the Kicks and Pelé, and someone will regale with a tale of how he was there that day, the that day soccer ruled in Minnesota.