In just a few short games, Minnesota Aurora FC has made a name for itself on the field.
The USL W League team earned a 3-2 road win against St. Louis on Sunday, its second consecutive win and third of the season. The Aurora could be 3-0 to start the season save for a draw in their home opener against Green Bay.
Even before they started winning on the pitch, though, the Minneapolis-area team already was making a name for itself off the field.
For co-founder Matt Privratsky, the journey has been a bit unexpected. Initially, the club set an investment goal of $500,000, built upon community ownership with a minimum contribution of $100 per individual. But the club doubled that, raising roughly $1 million from 3,080 community owners whose average contribution is more than $300.
The USL W League is playing its inaugural season in 2022, with 44 teams across 20 states. It bills itself as a pre-professional league that provides development opportunities for women’s players.
The local community has rallied around Aurora in their first season. Supporters include the Como Zoo in St. Paul, which named a baby zebra after the team.
There’s also the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, who are lending use of their practice field TCO Stadium in Eagan, Minn., which serves as the USL club’s home turf. At the club’s home opener, another local team in the Minnesota Lynx showed support.
Glad to be a part of your historic moment, @MNAuroraFC 🤝 pic.twitter.com/VlESQFPBa4— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) May 27, 2022
Glad to be a part of your historic moment, @MNAuroraFC 🤝 pic.twitter.com/VlESQFPBa4
The Aurora are seeing that support more broadly as well. The club generated $640,000 in combined ticket, merchandise and sponsorship revenue before the team ever took the field at TCO Stadium, and sold out its allotment of 3,000 season tickets.
The Aurora don’t take that support for granted, and they’re trying to show that in their product. Because the team generated more revenue than it projected, the front office made upgrades to the budget and hired more staff than originally deemed necessary.
They also have made it easy for fans to follow the team. One of their partnerships is a deal with local TV station WCCO, which ensures all matches are streamed live for free on the station’s digital platform, CBS News Minnesota.
In the home opener on May 26, fans made their presence known. TCO Stadium saw a sold-out crowd of over 5,200.
The weekly average for NWSL games so far this season is 8,105 – a number bolstered by Angel City FC’s average of 18,709 fans per game. The median attendance for the NWSL sits around 5,000 per game.
Last night was surreal. Thank you Minnesota for coming out to cheer on this team. We cannot wait for more to come. See you all June 10th 💫 #LightTheNorth pic.twitter.com/OJm4AR7AXw— Minnesota Aurora FC (@MNAuroraFC) May 27, 2022
Last night was surreal. Thank you Minnesota for coming out to cheer on this team. We cannot wait for more to come. See you all June 10th 💫 #LightTheNorth pic.twitter.com/OJm4AR7AXw
The club has signed some big-name players, including Sarah Fuller, who made a name for herself as a goalkeeper at Vanderbilt and North Texas — and as the first woman to score in a Power 5 football game while at Vanderbilt.
With a dozen Minnesotans on the roster, there’s a hometown feel to the team as well. And as the NWSL considers cities for future expansion in 2024, Minnesota continues to make a case for itself as a prime destination. The Aurora could help the state’s case, as a few NWSL teams have branched into the USL W League as a way to develop talent.
“That (a NWSL club in Minnesota) would be amazing,” Minnesota Gophers head coach Erin Chastain said. “I think this would be a great market for an NWSL team. Aurora has really done a good job of putting the leg work in so that we can show the country, ‘Hey, we can do women’s soccer here at a high level.’”
The Aurora play their next home game at 8 p.m. ET Friday against Chicago City SC.