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During Minnesota's summer months, parents of young girls — and boys, too — regularly walk their children down the steps to the field at TCO Stadium in Eagan. A centered Vikings logo beckons in purple and gold, as they eagerly await autographs.

But the congregation isn't there for the state's longtime NFL franchise.

What they want are the signatures of Minnesota Aurora players who probably just won a lopsided soccer match, who then line up along endorsement boards with a pen for 25 minutes. It's supposed to be 20, as the scoreboard shows. Surely, that just doesn't count stoppage time.

For Minnesota-born star forward Maya Hansen, the Aurora's "Autograph Alley" is about giving the moments she never got.

So what's another five minutes' worth? More than Hansen could ever imagine.

"I never really had a team to look up to," Hansen said. "Being from Minnesota, obviously it was cool to watch the Loons. But I didn't really have a women's team that I would look up to."

Today she stands as one of the USL W League's best to navigate the box.

Hansen, a two-time all-state selection for Burnsville High School and the 2022 Summit League offensive player of the year at South Dakota State, leads the Aurora with 12 goals and 29 points in her second season with the team.

Minnesota Aurora forward Maya Hansen mingled with fans on June 24 in the team’s “Autograph Alley” at TCO Stadium.
Minnesota Aurora forward Maya Hansen mingled with fans on June 24 in the team’s “Autograph Alley” at TCO Stadium.

Noah Furtado, Star Tribune

"She just had something that is, I don't even know how to describe — it," said Haris Handzija, one of Maya's former Burnsville Fire club coaches. "When they say sports athletes have that it, and she has it. I have never seen anything like that."

When Handzija first saw her play, he was all but convinced that one of her mother, Ruth, father, Ken, or older brother, Cole, were former soccer players. A familial source of inspiration seemed to be the only explanation that helped Handzija make sense of what he saw.

In more than two decades as a U.S. youth club coach, he's "never seen someone as quick with the ball as Maya."

She was no older than elementary school age then, as a first-generation soccer player.

And Handzija found out soon enough.

"What drives her?" he said. "I don't know ... And that's the beauty of it."

Handzija didn't coach Hansen until the 2015-16 club season, when she competed at the Classic II level as a member of the Burnsville Fire Soccer Club's 15U team. At that time, the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association structured club soccer into four divisions: Premier, Classic I, Classic II and Classic III.

With every match, it became more and more evident to Handzija that Hansen was a Premier player.

The problem: Burnsville Fire didn't yet have a team that qualified for the Premier league.

Adamant that Hansen deserved more, Handzija took a risk. He pulled Hansen up as a guest player for the club's 18U Classic I team that he coached in 2016-17.

It didn't take long for Hansen to prove that she belonged, against the odds of being among new teammates who Handzija suggested may have seen her as a threat to their potential playing time. By the second game of Hansen's first tournament with the team, Handzija said some of the girls were "begging" him to sub her in.

"That's the influence that she has immediately," he said.

The team won the 2017 MYSA Summer State Championship, which was a climactic achievement for many of its seniors. But Hansen's rise to prominence had only just begun.

She became a two-time Minnesota State Cup champion as part of the top 17U and 18U Premier teams in 2018 and 2019, respectively, having scored four goals in the 2019 final.

Minnesota Aurora forward Maya Hansen used her footwork in a July 2022 game against Virginia-based McLean Soccer.
Minnesota Aurora forward Maya Hansen used her footwork in a July 2022 game against Virginia-based McLean Soccer.

Erica Dischino, Star Tribune

But it is the 5-4 forward's impact off the pitch, from coaching at youth soccer clinics in Brookings, S.D. to simply playing the sport with her mother's fourth-grade students at Seven Hills Preparatory Academy in Richfield, that has made Mom especially proud.

No matter where she goes or what she does, Hansen has seemingly found her fit beyond the game.

"I have like a little group of girls that come [to Autograph Alley] from the old club that I played at in Burnsville, so it's really cool to see them," Hansen said. "They're like, 'We're from BVU, your crew is here.'

"That's the cool part."