The Minnesota Aurora will kick off their third season on Thursday with a new coach but the same lofty ambitions.

After two undefeated regular seasons, the team is looking to finally finish with a USL W League championship after losing in the conference championships last year and in the 2022 finals. With several returning players, expect them to make another run at a title.

There's a bigger goal in the future, as the Aurora look to slip into the jet stream of the growing women's professional sports market. When the Aurora embarked on their inaugural season in 2022, the dream was for a short stay in the USL W League. It was always the goal to join the National Women's Soccer League, the highest level of women's soccer in the country. And there is a path to doing just that as the NWSL is ready to expand.

After their initial bid in 2022 was turned down for lack of proper investment, the Aurora have returned to the bidding table with an investment group prepared to support a move upward.

So the Aurora are looking to do the double this summer: secure a title and a spot in the top league.

"We didn't have an investor group together [in 2022]. So we took a break," said Andrea Yoch, club co-founder and chair of investor relations. "But then we found out last spring that [the NWSL] was going to add a team in 2026. So we started the process again. This time we actually managed to find potential investors.

"Before, we were like, 'You should give us a team because we are great and look how cool we are.' This time, we actually have some money."

The NWSL is coming off a successful 2023 campaign. It enters its 12th season with a new broadcast rights deal. Corporate sponsorships have soared. But the biggest indication the league is building momentum is the rising value of its franchises.

Within the past few months, the Seattle Reign sold for $58 million, the Chicago Red Stars sold for $60 million, the Portland Thorns sold for $63 million and San Diego Wave FC sold for a record $113 million. Boston and a team in the Bay Area paid an expansion fee of about $53 million. That gives you an idea of what an expansion fee might be and the type of group Yoch has put together.

So, Andrea, what can you tell us about the group?

"Nothing," she said with a laugh. "They are Minnesotans who believe in our values."

NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman has said the league wants to add two teams by 2026, with Boston already named as the 15th team. What helps the Aurora's bid is their average of more than 6,000 fans, which would have put them in the top 10 in the NWSL last season.

The Aurora are in a good sports market. And it's a market that has a WNBA franchise, a PWHL franchise and has hosted a women's Final Four and Big Ten basketball tournament. Support of women's sports is part of the evaluation process.

The Aurora have been practicing at TCO Stadium in Eagan in advance of their season-opening game on Thursday against the Chicago Dutch Lions in Aurora, Ill. Minnesota's home opener is May 30 against RKC Third Coast, which is based in Racine, Wis.

Nicole Lukic, who guided Aurora in their first two seasons, left to accept a position with U.S. Soccer identifying talent for its women's youth teams. In steps Colette Montgomery as the Aurora's new head coach and sporting director. Montgomery has a keen sense of humor and will turn a couple of humorous lines to keep her players loose. She inherits a roster of players who like to attack and play without fear.

"We want to have another incredible season," Montgomery said. "It is a challenge but one that I relish."

The Aurora hope to extend their undefeated regular-season run while also showing the NWSL they're worthy of admission into the top level of women's soccer in the country. When you look at the product on the field, the organization off it and their place in a market embracing women's professional sports, the Aurora are worthy of the jump.

So, Commissioner Berman, what are you waiting for?