MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a big weekend for Minnesota sports, and the epicenter may be Allianz Field in St. Paul. That’s where the first-ever football game at the stadium will take place, and Minnesota United will play its first-ever playoff game.

That’s right, Allianz Field will go from one kind of football to another this weekend. The Tommies and Johnnies will play on Saturday afternoon, and then a day later, it’s playoff soccer.

Roger Esterbrooks just can’t wait for the 89th showdown between Saint John’s and St. Thomas. He was at Target Field when the two schools played there a couple years ago. Now he’s looking forward to what Allianz has to offer.

“When these two teams play you can throw the records out the books. You just never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s just one of the best rivalries in the country.”

That rivalry may be coming to an end if St. Thomas goes Division 1 in a couple years.

While the two schools offer decades of history, the Loons will be making their own history. On Sunday, the Loons will host their first-ever playoff game during their first year at Allianz.

“When we entered into the agreement with St. Thomas, we actually didn’t know this would be a playoff weekend. Nor did we know the MLS was going to change its format for the playoffs, which it did,” Minnesota United CEO Chris Wright said.

Last week, new sod was put in with special lights to help the grass grow. After Saturday’s football game, about 200 workers will help change the stadium back to soccer.

“The game will take just over three hours, and then immediately all of our staffs in all areas of the stadium will begin to go to work to get ready for 4:00 the next afternoon, when we’ll start all of our festivities for our playoff game,” Wright said.

Goalposts will be replaced by soccer goals and new field markings will be drawn. Wright says it’s all hands on deck, but it’s worth it.

“A Johnnies-Tommies game that might never be played again in the Twin Cities and our first playoff game. How amazing to end our first year at Allianz Field with these two sporting events this coming weekend,” he said.

Organizers say they are expecting about 20,000 fans for the Johnnies-Tommies game, and then another 20,000 for the Loons and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Minnesota United has consulted with grounds crews across the country about how to make the changeover. That includes the Twins grounds crew as well as staff from the Galaxy.

John Lauritsen

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