If the purpose of a supporters group is to be seen and heard, the purpose of a group of SGs is to be better seen and better heard. This is precisely why the supporters section at MN United FC’s home games is so vibrant and active.
Last week, Scarves Up featured the Dark Clouds and True North Elite, the largest of Minnesota’s SGs, and introduced you to three groups which have broken out among the ranks. Pioneers, Mill City Ultras, and Fists of the North Star stand with DC and TNE in the east end of TCF Bank Stadium.
While Pioneers started out in the main stand at NSC, the latter two were born when United made the jump to MLS. But all three have been quite visible from day one at TCF and if the 2018 home opener was any indication (the biggest of the big flags belonged to MCU), they will only get better.
Responding on behalf of Pioneers, founding member Jacob Bernstein; for FOTNS, co-founders Alec Lindsey and Brenden McGibbon; and for MCU, Ben Jimmick.
What should the casual fan know about your group? What sets you apart from the other MN SGs?
Pioneers: Pioneers began as many SGs do — a group of friends standing together at games. Each week a core group of us would try to bring as many people as we knew with us to NSC. Slowly (like, infuriatingly slowly) that core group started to expand.
Because so many of the people Pioneers brought to games were first-timers, they occupied the main stand at NSC. Their beer-fueled chants elevated the atmosphere of those seated sections. That origin is really important to Pioneers: we strive to make our match day experience so loud, so intense, and so much fun that it’s irresistible. We’re very lucky to have excellent established SGs that do just that, and now that we’ve found a small home in the Supporters’ Section we try really hard to bridge the gap between those groups and the casual fan. Pioneers is only focused on one thing and that’s Minnesota United, so if you love the club and want to scream about it you’ll fit right in.
Mill City Ultras (MCU): [The] initial seven of us that formed MCU were either ex-board members or capos of Dark Clouds […] We all knew Ultra/Barra Brava culture (roughly a dozen European and South American nationalities are represented in MCU) and while we have been scoffed at at times or people mistakenly thinking its the same thing as a firm (I’m English… it’s VERY different), it was something that United supporter’s scene lacked, we felt, compared to a lot of other MLS supporters groups. We are very much a left wing organization; we will not stand for any racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. and will, and have, policed our section to that extent.
Fists of the North Star (FOTNS): (This group is known for its all-caps and emoji-filled tweets and they follow that pattern in emails. In solidarity with their nonconformity, these are their responses exactly as received.) A SMALL GROUP OF FRIENDS/FANS BASED (MOSTLY) IN SOUTH MINNEAPOLIS. WE WAVE FLAGS. YES, OUR NAME IS BASED ON AN ANIME FROM THE 80’S. NO, WE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR IDEA FOR A DRAGON BALL Z GIF. WE JUST LIKED THE FOTNS NAME AND THE AESTHETIC AS A JUMPING OFF POINT FOR OUR GROUP. IT STARTED AS A SEMI-INSIDE JOKE AND BECAME SLIGHTLY MORE THAN THAT. SLIGHTLY.
What was your organizational structure going into the first MLS season? Were you successful?
Pioneers: A few months before the 2017 season we sat down as a small group and had a discussion about what we wanted Pioneers to be. We decided to carry on as we always had but to step up our presence in the community, work on actively recruiting, and organize as a more easily reachable and approachable group. We started bringing match day atmosphere to away days at O’Gara’s Bar and Grill, and we’re absurdly grateful that they let us call their south bar home. We moved our rowdiness to the Supporters’ Section in TCF, and love being in the mix of smaller SGs in 126.
MCU: Our motto has always been “quality over quantity”, and because of that you can’t just pay a membership and join MCU…we don’t work that way. In brief, if you’re interested we talk to you, find out about you as a person and if you’re a fit for us and vice versa are we a fit for you, we have you come to games or watch parties as a guest and if it feels good on both sides one of our members vouches for the person as a prospect […] While it gives our group a very strong core personality and very much a tight knit family atmosphere, we will never be as big as some SGs are. But we will always be more fanatical and louder.
FOTNS: WE DO NOT HAVE A STRUCTURE AND WE ARE NOT ORGANIZED. OTHER THAN THAT? EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL.
What changes did you notice in the SG in the transition and throughout the season?
Pioneers: To us, the most important involvement an SG can have is match day attendance, and that’s where we focus our efforts. Pioneers worked very hard in 2017 to not just find new MNUFC fans, but to find new supporters who could help grow the culture and excitement around the club.
MCU: By the end of the season [we] had easily doubled our numbers, so that was one definite change. Towards the end of the season we were much more in the public eye and people had seen the positives of what we brought on match day!
FOTNS: AFTER STANDING IN THE D.C. SECTION AT NSC FOR A FEW YEARS, EVERYTHING WENT UP SEVERAL NOTCHES IN MLS/TCF. THE FOUNDATION THAT D.C. AND T.N.E. ESTABLISHED IN BLAINE WAS STRONG AND EVERYTHING GOT STRONGER. ESPECIALLY OUR FLAG WAVING MUSCLES.
What were your highlights from 2017? Lowlights?
Pioneers: Among the highlights listed by Pioneers members were Chicago (first away win), Colorado (A 3/18), RSL (H 4/1), Abu Danladi in general, that last minute Molino header vs Atlanta, feeling like we’ve already established a tradition and culture as a fan base, away days at O’Garas. Among the lowlights, the home opener score and the fact that finding our feet took so long we didn’t see the success we deserved.
MCU: Definitely a few of the wins, our first home victory, seeing our SG grow and becoming so diverse and some of the fun we got up to on the shuttle to and from the games from our pub… big shout out to O’Garas. Only low point we can think of is one incident of TCF security being heavy handed/abusive.
FOTNS: HIGHLIGHTS: FIRST WIN, SKC WIN, TAYLOR WAVING OUR MACE FLAG ON TV AT THE AWAY WIN IN CHICAGO. LOWLIGHTS: NOT ENOUGH BIG FLAGS IN THE SG END.
What lessons did you come away with at the end of the season and where do you see a need for improvement?
Pioneers: I’m going to let more knowledgeable/qualified people answer this one. I think every supporter absolutely excelled this year and I’m so excited to see where 2018 takes us.
MCU: While we had experienced members in our group we definitely learnt as we went with the organizational side and rules behind the scenes on game days etc. But in general last season was a successful one within the SG and we can’t wait to move into Allianz Field.
FOTNS: IT IS DIFFICULT TO WAVE A BIG FLAG FOR 90 MINS IF YOU CONSUME TOO MANY LARGE BEERS BEFORE THE MATCH, EVEN IF YOU ARE VERY STRONG AND NICE.
What are your goals for 2018? Do you have anything big in the works that you can let us in on?
Pioneers: Our biggest goal is to grow. We also feel a sense of responsibility for growing supporter culture in our backyard, namely Saint Paul. Many of us live/work/study/etc. on Snelling Avenue, and we want to make sure the area feels like home long before the stadium is finished. In 2018 we’re going to have a lot more of everything: events, songs, merchandise, charitable work, and more.
MCU: Our goals are much the same, to carry on having fun and enjoying football, being rowdy and bringing up/fighting any social or political injustices. [We] already have new people set to start prospecting or that are interested in doing so. You can expect more merchandise/stickers…maybe some more tifos/banners from us during the season.
FOTNS: ONE GOAL IS TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE TEAM ON THE PITCH. ONLY THING IN THE WORKS IS MORE OF WHAT WE DID LAST YEAR. AND PROBABLY A NEW SCARF DESIGN WHEN WE FEEL THE TIME IS RIGHT.
What makes Minnesota’s supporter culture unique from the rest of MLS?
Pioneers: The people. 100% the people. I have never met a more welcoming, fun loving, hilarious bunch of people than the crowd that surrounds Minnesota United. I think everyone recognizes our potential to be an example of the kind of culture a sports team can create, and everyone puts a huge amount of effort into realizing that potential. I have never been part of a group of individuals who are this committed to plunging into the unknown and creating something good. It’s an overwhelmingly positive and encouraging community to be involved with. Maybe that’s just part of the Minnesotan culture though; we need to be positive, encouraging, and willing to collaborate because that’s the only way to give this state a team worth supporting. And my lord we could use one.
MCU: Minnesota has a very vibrant and passionate community. I think there’s elements of fun and quirky things you see the fans doing at times that you just wouldn’t get anywhere else.
FOTNS: INCREDIBLE POSITIVITY MIXED WITH INSANE LEVELS OF SELF-LOATHING, THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE COMBINATION.
That last response could be the greatest conclusion in the short history of ‘Scarves Up.’ So.
Scarves Up! – To incredible positivity mixed with insane levels of self-loathing, the strongest possible combination.