MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Aurora FC is now one win away from becoming league champion in both the team's and USL W League's inaugural season, but the Twin Cities' latest sports team success story likely couldn't have happened without home crowds that are larger than some professional women's soccer teams.
The Aurora ended the regular season 11-0-1 after opening the season with a draw at home and has beaten two of the league's top teams in the first round and the semifinal rounds of the playoffs. With the 1-0 win over McLean Soccer in the semifinal match, Minnesota will host the USL W League championship at TCO Stadium on Saturday, July 23 at 7 p.m. CT.
Minnesota will start and end the season in front of a sold-out stadium. In less than 24 hours, tickets for the championship game were sold out, according to the team, making for the Aurora's third-straight sellout home game.
With 13-straight wins, the Aurora FC would have likely not reached the league championship game without consistent game attendance. During its inaugural season, the Aurora's attendance figures rival those of some of the top teams in the National Women's Soccer League, which is the nation's top professional women's soccer league.
The Aurora opened the season at home on May 26 and sold all 5,600 tickets, and 5,219 people attended. Thanks to the team's widespread community support and the hot start to the season, Minnesota would have to open up more tickets to accommodate demand. After their fourth home game, the Aurora expanded available tickets to 6,200, which immediately led to a then-record-breaking crowd of 6,016 people on June 24.
The lowest-attended Aurora game was a sweltering mid-day match on June 19, when 4,372 came out to TCO Stadium. During the postseason, Minnesota had 6,200 fans at both home games, which set a new team attendance record.
According to Aurora President and Co-founder Andrea Yoch, these are the official attendance numbers this season:
- May 26 vs. Green Bay Glory - 5,219
- June 10 vs. Chicago City SC - 5,132
- June 12 vs. Chicago City SC- 5,064
- June 19 vs. Kaw Valley FC - 4,372
- June 24 vs. Chicago Dutch Lions FC - 6,016
- June 26 vs. St. Louis Lions - 5,944
- July 13 vs. Indy Eleven* - 6,200
- July 17 vs. McLean Soccer* - 6,200
Through eight home games, in both the regular and postseason, the Aurora averaged 5,518 fans per game, which would have been in the top half of the NWSL for average attendance, based on the latest average attendance numbers collected by Soccer Stadium Digest. The newest attendance figures for NWSL were published on July 17 and are based on the league's numbers, individual team websites and local news reports.
Looking solely at Minnesota's postseason attendance of 6,200 fans, the Aurora would rank fourth in the 12-team NWSL, ahead of the Houston Dash's average of 5,550, Racing Louisville FC's 5,644 and the OL Reign's 6,117. The Aurora's max capacity crowds would just be under the league average of 6,421 fans per game.
Only two teams in the NSWL, expansion team Angel City FC and the Portland Thorns FC, average more than 10,000 per game in 2022. Minnesota's attendance might be better than half of the NWSL, however, the Aurora will have to look elsewhere if the franchise wants to move up the soccer hierarchy.
Next year in August 2023, the United Soccer League will begin the USL Super League, which will be a new professional women's soccer league and the USL's sixth stand-alone league. In the hierarchy of American soccer, the Super League will likely receive a Division II sanctioning by U.S. Soccer, firmly placing the league below the NWSL but ahead of the pre-professional W League.
The USL Championship, the top league under the USL umbrella, currently has Division II designation, which places it below MLS.
Minnesota is currently the only active W League to not have a USL affiliate team. For example, the South Georgia Tormenta FC, which will be taking on the Aurora for the championship, is an affiliate of the Tormenta FC that also fields a team in the USL League One.
The Aurora may be a pre-professional team, but the team's success on and off the pitch should be getting the attention of professional teams that are struggling to find the same winning formula.
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