The Minnesota Aurora FC is ready to light up the field for a second season.
After an impressive debut season, Minnesota Aurora FC is the hottest ticket in town, with 6,000 soccer fans cheering them on at Twin Cities Orthopedic (TCO) Stadium in Eagan.
Excitement is high for the hometown preprofessional women’s soccer team made up of local athletes and recruits from across the country. The team started with an undefeated first season in 2022 and set the bar high with a bid to the league championship.
With familiar names taking the field under the leadership of returning head coach Nicole Lukic, soccer fans are ready for another action-packed summer. Season two is underway, and the energy is back.
But the team had big support from the community even before its first kickoff. Before the inaugural season, founders sought financial contributions through a community ownership drive to get the team started. Raising financial support totaling $1 million from 3,000 community owners didn’t take long. With only a three-month window, Aurora founders never expected to sell out. “We are incredibly grateful for a lot of media coverage in Minnesota and across the country,” says Aurora’s board president, Andrea Yoch. “People were really excited to buy shares in our team.”
Community ownership is unique for any sport in the United States, especially for women’s soccer. Returning Aurora goalkeeper and Minnetonka native Olivia Graupmann says the community support makes a big difference. “Before we even played a game, before we even stepped on the field, we had over 3,000 people excited to support Aurora,” she says.
That support strengthens the sport of women’s soccer in Minnesota. Not only does the team give younger soccer players something to strive for, it also provides opportunities for elite soccer players to build their skills.
Playing in a preprofessional league close to home means former Minnesota Gopher and last year’s Aurora team captain—Makenzie Langdok’s—career continues. Playing in front of 1,300 fans was normal but 6,000 was a new experience. “I remember the first game was a little bit overwhelming for all of us,” she says. “Nobody had played in front of that many people.”
The Aurora are a part of the USL W League started in May 2022 with 44 teams across the country. The second season sees an expansion of 21 teams after a successful first season. Grounded by a strong mission, the league strives to use women’s soccer as a force for societal good by creating a national platform to increase opportunity, gender equity and career development.
The league encourages women to stay engaged in sports at all levels. Graupmann adds that in addition to offering strong competition, the league “supports women who want to be in sports, work in sports, and support ventures on and off the field by making sports more equitable and diverse.”
As players, coaches or sports administrators, the league opens doors for women athletes. Wayzata native Morgan Turner was the first Aurora player to sign a professional contract joining SCU Torreense in Portugal after the 2022 season. Beyond playing, coaching at high levels is an avenue many Aurora players are now considering.
“Having a hometown team makes it more accessible for players,” says Aurora center-forward Maya Hansen, who has an eye on playing professionally. More local athletes will aspire to reach the next level because they don’t have to travel far to play.
Another advantage is that as a preprofessional league, athletes can compete at a higher level and work toward playing professionally without risking their college eligibility.
Many of the Aurora players also coach junior teams across the Metro. Langdok’s under-15 team attended almost every Aurora game, sat in the front row and cheered on their coach. Experiencing soccer at higher levels empowers young athletes to set their goals high. “It’s awesome seeing so many young girls come out with their teams waving posters,” Graupmann says. “It is very, very cool.”
Hansen, who was raised in Burnsville, says the games are a regular social outing for family and friends living in the south Metro. “It’s not uncommon for my parents to arrive at the stadium before I do,” Hansen says. Tailgating before the game adds to the excitement at TCO.
Community connection is a big part of the team and a pillar of the league. Players are looking forward to community engagements this summer.
One of Aurora’s community initiatives is to foster relationships with local LGBTQ+ organizations. Limited-edition Pride merchandise is expected to sell out again this year. Last year, 100 percent of the profits from the Pride merchandise went directly to Minnesota nonprofit Reclaim, which aims to increase access to mental healthcare for queer and transgender youth.
The community is enthusiastically behind the newest team in town, with Aurora merchandise worn with pride and restaurants offering shuttle services to games. And the players love it, too. Interacting with the fans at Autograph Ally is a highlight for everyone. After the game, kids can meet the players. Langdok says they enjoy it so much, “We could stay there for hours,” she says.
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Regular Season Home Games
- 7 p.m. May 24 vs. Rochester FC
- 7 p.m. May 31 vs. RKC Soccer Club
- 7 p.m. June 7 vs. Chicago Dutch Lions
- 7 p.m. June 14 vs. Green Bay Glory
- 7 p.m. June 17 vs. Bavarian United
- 4 p.m. July 1 vs. Chicago City SC
TCO Stadium in Eagan. Parking is available in the TCO Performance Center parking ramp, 2600 Vikings Circle, Eagan, and a gravel lot east of the stadium.
- Club Tickets: $40 season ticket, $45 single game
- Reserved Seating: $23 season ticket, $25 single game
- General Admission: $12 season ticket, $14 single game
- Children 3 and younger are free
What to Expect
Gates open an hour before kickoff. Games have 90-minute playing time, with 15 minutes for halftime. Full concessions and alcoholic beverages are available. Outside food/drink and chairs are not allowed.