MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota United is preparing for a friendly match Wednesday — and hardcore soccer fans will absolutely be excited to see an English Premier League team in the United States.

WCCO-TV’s Norman Seawright III met Aston Villa Football Club as they experience what Minnesota has to offer off the pitch.

Slowly but surely, American interest in soccer is growing.

“One of the reasons that we actually came to the U.S. was I heard that there’s something like 30,000 registered supporters of Aston Villa in the U.S., you know, and it’s great. And we’ve got some of the supporters … from around all the states,” said Aston Villa manager.

Defender James Chester says he’s impressed by the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

“I’ve been over here before to watch a friend who came out here to play a few years ago now, and I think the atmosphere from then to now seems to have improved massively, and the game of soccer, as you call it, and all the rest seems to really be on the up,” Chester said.

That’s caught Aston Villa’s attention. This club plays in the top level of the English football league system, so they’re used to fanatics — but it’s a different story in Minnesota.

“The lads were quite surprised at the atmosphere, and you can see that the fans, they were passionate about the club as well,” said forward Andre Green.

That’s high praise. While Minnesota is getting to know this Premier League team, Aston Villa is getting to know Minnesota, and it’s heat.

“I think we need this. It’ll get us fitter definitely quicker to get back into the U.K.,” Green said.

It’s a work trip, but it might feel like a vacation.

“Staying in the city and being able to get out and have a walk around is something we’ve all enjoyed,” Green said. “It’s a great experience to see what’s different is done over here.”

Smith hopes to increase his club’s fan base across the U.S.

“My son’s in college over there himself, and, you know, he’s walked into a few bars in Charlotte in North Carolina and seen Villa shirts all over the place, so the word is spreading,” Smith said.

Practice on the pitch, exposure in the world. That’s all you can ask from a friendly.

Norman Seawright III