Staying alive off the field is new challenge for Stars

Minnesota soccer fans might not have seen the last of a professional franchise.

Minnesota Stars FC, currently owned by the North American Soccer League and based at the National Sports Center in Blaine, might have a new owner in the near future.

NASL owners met for their regularly scheduled Board of Governors meeting Oct. 27 ahead of the second leg of the Soccer Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

The club won the inaugural NASL Soccer Bowl in 2011 and reached the finals before falling to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the 2012 final Oct. 27.

Last season’s memorable run to the first league trophy only helped propel the profile of the club both locally and nationally.

Stars FC General Manager Djorn Buchholz said growing the team has been a process. Attendance figures rose approximately 40 percent from 2010 to 2011 and again from 2011 to 2012, he said.

“[Twin Cities sports fans] recognize a winning franchise and top-notch event which is what we offered,” Buchholz said. “The challenge this season was building on the championship to show fans why it was a good idea to see the club play in person and in practical terms, support the team by purchasing tickets and showing up in the stands.

“Anytime you are a defending champion, it’s incredibly harder to win a second [championship].”

With a league-set budget, mass marketing campaigns weren’t an option so the team turned to creative sources including its players to make the pitch for the club.

“We try to portray the players as role models in the community,” Buchholz said, noting the player camps or teams they coach away from duties with the Stars. “We don’t have the budget to put up billboards so doing what we can to get them out in the public is key,” he said.

Another way the club grew the Stars FC brand was through Brave New Media’s work in documenting the story over the last two seasons.

“The owners have really been impressed with what Brave New Media has done to put a personality on this group beyond a group of soccer players,” Buchholz said.

“No doubt it’s increased our visibility not just across the Twin Cities but really across the country. And as a result we have people rooting for us to make sure soccer continues in the area and what it really means to the soccer landscape over the last 23 years.”

Buchholz emphasized the role Brave New Media has played over the last two years with the club.

“They’ve been one of our best partners for sure, to donate the time, to come in and put together something that showcases the ups and downs and the entire run to the championship last season, it’s been amazing,” he said. “The stars definitely aligned last year, no pun intended.”

Minnesota Stars FC, formerly known as NSC Minnesota Stars, was established in 2010 with ownership from the National Sports Center. The name change happened in January 2012 along with a redesigned logo to feature the star and state motto.

NSC’s ownership lasted one season before the United States Soccer Federation handed down criteria for professional Division II ownership which included one owner’s net worth in excess of $20 million, among other criteria. The result was an ownership takeover by the league which ultimately was Traffic Sports USA, a Miami-based soccer event management group who also run Ft. Lauderdale, Carolina and part of Atlanta.

Jason Olson is at [email protected]