The Minnesota Aurora pre-professional soccer team that sold out its 6,200-seat stadium informed 3,080 community owners that it intends to take the team professional.
The club on Monday sent a letter to those community owners recounting what it called its "absolute whirlwind" inaugural season in 2022 and saying "now it's time to talk about the future" as a pro team.
Built in that first season by a grassroots campaign it called "For Community. By Community," the Aurora now is seeking a majority owner or owners.
The United States Soccer Federation requires professional clubs to have a single 35% owner "who meets high standards of wealth."
The Aurora also is considering a second round of community investment and is pursuing what it called "significant" investors able to invest $500,000 minimum.
"We believe that Minnesota Aurora can and should be a professional team," the letter signed by the club's five-member board of directors said. "Because of the overwhelming community support in our first year, we now have the opportunity to pursue a professional team far sooner than we initially expected."
Aurora officials have had discussions with two professional leagues currently seeking to surf off the international success of the U.S. women's national team: The 12-team National Women's Soccer League was founded in 2012 and is the highest level of pro women's league soccer in the United States. The fledgling, second-division USL Super League is set to debut in August 2023.
The Aurora will continue playing in the USL W league in 2023 after reaching that league's championship game last season. Schedule and ticket information will be released early next year.
The club said neither the franchise nor any community owner shares are being sold.
"For the time being, nothing about this process impacts your current ownership interest in Minnesota Aurora and community ownership remains an essential part of how we think this club will be different," stated the investment FAQ that was released with the letter. "It's impossible to know what, exactly, the corporate structure of the club might look like in a professional league, but the Board of Directors remain committed to charting a new path forward in women's soccer."
Team president Andrea Yoch said the club wouldn't comment further on Monday.
The Aurora went undefeated 13-0-1 in the USL W League regular season and two home playoff games and sold out the Vikings' training facility 6,200-seat TCO Stadium. It did so in less than 24 hours for the league's championship game that it lost 2-1 in overtime to the South Georgia Tormenta.
The club has said it raised $1 million in investment funds for its inaugural season, calling it "one of the most successful community investment campaigns in American soccer history." It had those 3,080 investors from 48 states, eight countries, two military bases and one embassy.