Major League Soccer in Austin?

The potential promise of our very own MLS team has Austinites giddy with excitement. 

Words by Erin McWilliams

Austin is seemingly the perfect place for a soccer team with its growing international population that includes many soccer fans, both foreign and domestic. So, why is Austin the only major metropolitan city without a Major League sports franchise?

After teasing Austinites several years ago with the hope of an Austin Major League Soccer Team, an Ohio team is exploring strategic options to relocate to Austin: Columbus Crew Soccer Club. The potential move is in response to the disparaging participation and support from the city and fans in comparison to the success of other MLS teams in metropolitan cities, such as Kansas City, Salt Lake City, or Orlando.

“Despite our investments and efforts, the current course is not sustainable,” Anthony Precourt, chairman of Columbus Crew Soccer Club, says. “This Club has ambition to be a standard bearer in MLS, therefore we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options.”

As the nationwide MLS market and fan-base are quickly growing, Columbus Crew Soccer Club has potential that can no longer be supported by their city. It will be difficult to convince the league that relocation is in the best interest of the team, but Precourt believes that Columbus Crew Soccer Club has a compelling argument in support of a move. The whole deal is contingent on the securing of a stadium location and stadium-plan that is approved by MLS, then Columbus Crew Soccer Club can move forward with the relocation process.

While the debate is far from over, on November 9, Austin City Council voted on and unanimously passed a resolution to begin searching for repurposed, city-owned land, including underutilized park-land, in Austin for a stadium to be built. While Council members were voting, a rally was held at City Hall in support of the move of Columbus Crew Soccer Club to Austin that included speakers from Lonestar Soccer Club, Austin Men’s Soccer Association, The Horn Sports Radio, and other distinguished soccer personas–players, coaches, and supporters. Over 200 soccer-supporters and fanatics were in attendance to prove to the MLS that Austin is willing and able to support a team here.

It’s no secret that Austin is excluded from the Texas sports-arena. Dallas has the Cowboys, Mavericks, FC Dallas, Rangers, and the Stars; Houston has the Texans, Rockets, Astros, and Houston Dynamo. Austin sports fans are forced to pick a side in every department except for minor league hockey and minor league baseball. The relocation of Columbus Crew Soccer Club would mean the entrance of Austin into the world of Texas sports, an inundation of revenue for the city, and most importantly, a local team we can all rally around. Will we see an MLS team for Austin in 2019? It’s still up for debate, but the passing of the resolution is certainly a crucial step in the process.

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