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WOMEN'S SOCCER: Megan Dahl joins Minnesota Aurora FC for new path to the pros

Dahl, a high-powered defender on the Bemidji State women’s soccer team, is one of the first players to join Minnesota Aurora FC, a newly founded club that will begin its inaugural season in the United Soccer League Women’s League this May.

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The Beavers celebrate Megan Dahl’s (9) goal in the second half against Minnesota Crookston on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Growing up, Megan Dahl wasn’t often a big dreamer. But she sure is now.

“When I was younger, I didn’t really dream about the future… which is kind of a boring childhood,” she said. “I never really dreamt until I got older and really saw that I was capable of maybe playing beyond college. This opportunity should really open doors for me.”

Dahl, a high-powered defender on the Bemidji State women’s soccer team, can dream now. She’s one of the first players to join Minnesota Aurora FC, a newly founded club that will begin its inaugural season in the United Soccer League Women’s League this May.

Dahl became the team’s sixth member on Monday, and she doubled as the franchise’s first Division II representative.

“I think every D-II athlete can agree that we’re the grinders,” Dahl said. “Not saying that D-I athletes aren’t grinders, but I feel like D-II sports out of every (division) are more in the shadows. It’s cool to get out there and show that I’m a D-II athlete, and I can hang with people who are playing with these higher-level teams.”

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The USL W League is a pre-professional league, serving as a pipeline from amateur soccer to professional soccer. And since it technically isn’t professional, Dahl maintains her amateur status and can return for her fifth and final season with the Beavers in the fall.

“I’m coming back,” she said. “I’m coming back for one more year.”

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Bemidji State senior Megan Dahl (9) celebrates alongside her teammates after winning the NSIC regular season championship trophy on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

She won’t get paid with Aurora FC, but she said the investment is about more than money. As she put it, it’s all about open doors.

“(The league) is supposed to open doors for people and give them more of a spotlight if they want to play professional soccer,” Dahl said. “It’s not like I’m getting paid and all that jazz like I’m a legit professional. But it’s still cool because I’m right there. I’m sniffing professionalism.”

The USL W League’s focus is on the advancement of women’s soccer. Its goal is to increase opportunity, gender equity and career development for women.

The 44-team league announced Minnesota as one of its teams on June 8, 2021, and they received an identity as Aurora FC on Jan. 27. The USL W League’s inaugural season begins May 6, and Minnesota opens its 12-game schedule on May 26 against Green Bay. Aurora FC’s home games will be at TCO Stadium in Eagan, which neighbors Dahl’s hometown of Rosemount.

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Bemidji State senior Megan Dahl eyes the field before moving the ball during a third-round NCAA Tournament game against Central Missouri on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Allendale, Mich. (GVSU Athletics)

“It’s huge that Minnesota has a women’s team now,” Dahl said. “Obviously we have a men’s team at a very high level. We have had nothing at any level for any woman, so this is really cool because it opens doors to… continue to grow in women’s sports.”

Dahl attended a tryout in Vadnais Heights, Minn., in January, and about two weeks later, Minnesota asked her to join the team.

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“It was an easy yes,” Dahl said.

As she prepares to play against an elevated level of competition, Dahl will patrol the backline with the same tenacity that earned her All-American status -- and even the nickname “Stone Wall Dahl” -- at Bemidji State.

“I’m really confident with my past experience and playing up here,” Dahl said of BSU. “Knowing how far we’ve gone, it says something about who we are as a team and who we are as individual players. I wouldn’t say this is a huge leap of faith, but at the same time, it’s going to be a challenge.”

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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