Looking for a buyer, Minn.'s pro soccer team close to national title

Minnesota's professional soccer team on Saturday won the first of the two-game North American Soccer League playoffs.

The Minnesota Stars are one step away from winning the NASL championship after beating the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3-1 at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Attendance was a season-high 4,500.

Stars spokesman Alex Haueter says the Minnesota Twins, Wild, and Vikings, inspired by their recent support of WNBA championship winners the Minnesota Lynx, bought a combined 1,000 tickets for Stars fans.

"It was meaningful because we struggle sometimes to attract attention here with the four major sports [teams] plus the U," Haueter said. "It's really nice to put on Facebook and our Twitter and our website that the Twins and the Vikings and the Wild are all taking notice and going out of their way to support us."

The Stars have struggled to remain in existence after rising from the remnants of the Minnesota Thunder, which went out of business in 2009. The National Sports Center in Blaine funded the team for a year, before the U.S. Soccer Federation passed standards for second-division teams the Sports Center couldn't meet. The team went back up for sale and couldn't find a buyer.

The North American Soccer League stepped in to keep the Minnesota Stars going this season. The league has committed to funding the Stars through 2013 while the club looks for sponsors and a buyer.

Clinching a championship at next Saturday's game could help the team find a new owner. The second game of the series is Saturday. The team with the most goals in both games wins the championship.

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