Maplewood, MLS honor impact Abbott family has had on growth of soccer

Andy Greder/Pioneer Press/TNS
·3 min read

An outdoor community event Sunday in Maplewood was really about multiple members of the Abbott family.

The primary purpose was to rededicate a soccer field at Hazelwood Park in the name of Fred Abbott, who grew the game in Maplewood, Oakdale and North St. Paul through the Northeast Soccer Association. It started with 17 participants in 1974, increased to 1,700 a decade later and had roughly 2,200 players by 1999, when it was first christened Fred Abbott Field.

Now with the Major League Soccer All-Star Game at Allianz Field on Wednesday, the gathering was also a chance to commemorate the work of Fred’s son, Mark Abbott, who was the league’s first employee in 1993 and will retire this year as its president and deputy commissioner.

Mark Abbott was born in England, and with younger sister Heather, grew up playing on those fields in Maplewood. Heather now lives in Los Angeles, but she returned to her childhood home with her own kids last summer and saw the field’s signage needed a refresh,

The arrival of the MLS annual showcase game in St. Paul this week provided perfect timing.

“(My father) would have beamed with pride and amazement, as I do, on the growth in soccer all over this country, and he would have been amazed, particularly with what has happened here in Minnesota,” Mark Abbott, who works at the league offices in New York and lives in Connecticut, said during the presentation. “With the success of Minnesota United, the beautiful Allianz Field he would have been so proud that, almost 50 years since my friends and I … played on this field, this community would be hosting the MLS All-Star Game, and the entire world will be seeing what soccer in Minnesota has become.”

Heather Abbott wanted her brother to receive some notoriety.

“When we were kids, it was, ‘What is soccer?’ ” Heather told the Pioneer Press. “Now to have my brother be part of the reason that people know what soccer is in the United States, to us, is amazing.”

ASG EVENTS

The field dedication in Maplewood was the first official event of MLS all-star week in Minnesota.

The MLS Concert with Khalid and local opening act Miloe will be at The Commons in downtown Minneapolis at 7 p.m. Monday.

The MLS All-Star Skills Challenge, which features Loons midfielder Emanuel Reynoso and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, starts at 7:30 p.m. at Allianz Field.

The MLS NEXT All-Star Game begins at 11 a.m.at the National Sports Center in Blaine. MNUFC2 player Carlos Leatherman will participate.

The MLS All-Star Game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Allianz Field. Minnesota’s Adrian Heath will coach Reynoso, St. Clair and 24 other MLS standouts against stars from Mexico’s Liga MX.

BRIEFLY

— MNUFC announced Sunday the addition of midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez on loan from Monterrey in Mexico’s Liga MX through the rest of 2022 season. The Loons gave Colorado Rapids $50,000 in General Allocation Money for Gonzalez’s discovery rights to MLS. Gonzalez, who arrived in Blaine this weekend, might make his debut Sunday at Nashville SC.

— Tommy Williamson’s hat trick helped MNUFC2 to a 3-3 draw with Colorado Rapids 2 before Minnesota lost 5-4 in a shootout late Saturday night. Williamson, who was drafted 12th overall by the San Jose Earthquakes in 2021, has a team-high nine goals this season. The 23-year-old scored six goals for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in USL Championship last season.

— MNUFC2 goalkeeper Alec Smir will also participate in the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge.

— Minnesota Aurora forward Morgan Turner became the first player to springboard from the amateur team to the pro level. Aurora said Turner, a Maple Grove native who played at Wayzata High School, will join SCU Torreense in Portugal. She had eight goals in 11 games is the USL W League last season.

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