Photo: Former Everton favourite Landon Donovan welcomes Minnesota into MLS

The new team will begin MLS play in 2018 after being named the league's 23rd franchise at a press conference in Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon.

LA Galaxy and USA legend Landon Donovan was among those in Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon to welcome Minnesota United FC into MLS as the league’s 23rd franchise.

After much-speculation leading up to event, MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed at a press conference that Minnesota has been awarded an expansion team that will take to the field in 2018, with plans in the works for a new soccer-specific stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

Minnesota United owner Dr. Bill McGuire is the backer of the new team and the NASL club will now following in the footsteps of the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact in making the step up from the USA’s second-tier.

“We are proud to welcome Minnesota to Major League Soccer,” Garber said in a statement issued by the league. “The ownership group’s commitment to soccer and the community, the area’s growing millennial population and the region’s rich tradition of supporting soccer at all levels in Minnesota were key indicators that this was the right market.

“The passionate soccer fans in Minnesota will soon have a world-class, downtown soccer stadium that will serve as the home for the new MLS team and become a destination for marquee international sports events.”

MLS will also welcome franchises in Atlanta and Los Angeles in 2017, while a 24th team is expected to be announced soon, with the David Beckham-backed Miami bid the favourite to land the spot if it can secure a soccer-specific stadium near downtown.

Garber has also confirmed that the league is open to expanding past 24 franchises, with markets such as Sacramento, San Antonio and St. Louis the leading candidates for new teams.

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