Major League Soccer has formally unveiled its 27th team, Austin FC.
The Anthony Precourt-owned team puts MLS one franchise away from its self-imposed maximum of 28.
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Precourt unsuccessfully tried to relocate his Columbus Crew to Austin before working his way into an expansion team.
He insists Austin FC will have local investment, and that pleases MLS commissioner Don Garber. From The Austin Statesman:
“We will shortly be announcing that we’ll be welcoming in local Austin partners into our ownership group,” Precourt said. “I’ve had very productive conversations over the last year, and we have very strong interest in a great lineup of local Austinites that will be part of this going forward.”
“If not for those plans, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” Garber told the Statesman. “The final ownership structure will be one that would satisfy our real strong desire and preference to have our clubs have local roots.”
Austin joins Nashville and Miami as announced expansion teams, and AFC will begin play in 2021.
Home of the University of Texas and a myriad of popular musical acts like Spoon, Explosions in the Sky, and The Sword, Texas’ capital is an attractive spot for MLS and will have built-in rivalry capabilities between Houston and Dallas (with San Antonio a long-rumored MLS flirtation).
MLS will almost certainly expand beyond 28 teams, with Charlotte, San Diego, and Detroit among the league’s long-term targets.
Also of note: Alexi Lalas played guitar.
UPDATE: MLS, along with the various other parties involved, released a statement that confirms negotiations are ongoing with the group led by the Haslams, but emphasized the fact that nothing has been finalized and much work is still to be done.
Nearly one year to the day after Anthony Precourt announced his intentions to relocate Columbus Crew SC to Austin, Tex., the MLS franchise is expected to remain in the Ohio capital under new ownership, according to multiple reports on Friday.
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An official announcement is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. ET, at which time many more details will be made available.
The existing Crew SC franchise will reportedly be purchased by a group that includes the Haslam family — spearheaded by Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns — from Precourt Sports Ventures.
Joint Statement from the Columbus Partnership, Pete Edwards, Jr. and Dee and Jimmy Haslam on forming alliance to keep Crew in Columbus:
“While there are many details to be worked out, our alliance is working diligently and collaboratively with the League to keep the Crew in its community. We are very excited about the quiet but deliberate progress that has been made to date and will keep the community updated as this process moves forward.”
Precourt is still expected to pursue an MLS franchise — and a stadium deal — in Austin, only now it is likely to be an expansion team.
Ohio’s attorney general and the city of Columbus filed a lawsuit earlier this year in an attempt to prevent Precourt from moving the team to Austin. The lawsuit cited a law that prohibits teams which have received public money from relocating unless certain conditions are met. It was enacted after the (original) Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996.
Major League Soccer is likely coming to Austin, and the Columbus Crew’s owners have released a name and logo for the team.
It’s not an awful logo by any means, with a decent color selection and the use of the”Texas Live Oak” tree, but it sure is hard to look past the tomfoolery used to (probably) tear a team from its fan base. It’s difficult to imagine a relocation being handled any worse.
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Anyway, last week the Austin City Council approved Crew owner Anthony Precourt’s plans to build a stadium in Texas, and now Precourt Sports Ventures is bringing the goods on what goods it’ll be bringing south.
@MLS2ATX also released an explainer for the badge, including that the color is “Bright Verde,” which is English and Spanish for bright green. It’s a little like Seattle’s “Rave Green” except rave is English for rave.
Here’s how the Major League Soccer web site phrased the current situation between the Crew, Precourt, and Austin. It’s… awkward (and how could it not be. There’s reason to feel empathy for the writer).
PSV, which currently operates Columbus Crew SC, is exploring options to bring an MLS club to Austin.
“Given the historical and ongoing market challenges, Precourt Sports Ventures must prepare for every potential scenario for the Club in 2019 and beyond,” PSV said in a statement. “Should Austin be granted the requisite approvals ahead of the 2019 season, it will be imperative to launch with momentum and a presence to ensure the long-term sustainability and viability of the Club. Normal business operations shall continue in Columbus for the balance of the 2018 season where winning an MLS Cup remains the objective.”
The Austin Statesman also pointed out that the names Austin FC and Austin Athletic are owned by Major League Soccer, and that it was registered in August 2017.
Another group of people to feel empathy for might be Austin soccer fans, who are probably really excited about their new team and fancy new digs, but not at the expense of another club.
The Austin City Council voted 7-4 to approve a stadium planned by Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt, the latest step in Precourt’s bid to move the MLS franchise to Texas.
The stadium will be scheduled for a 2021 completion. USL side Austin Bold will begin play next season.
Precourt spoke briefly following the announcement, saying, “We’re bringing Major League Soccer to Austin, Texas” and clapping his hands.
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The Ohio Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against MLS and Precourt Sports Ventures, claiming that moving the Crew to Austin would be illegal. That lawsuit’s day in court is still a few weeks away.
Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer says the city will continue its fight to “Save the Crew.”
Columbus Crew ownership group Precourt Sports Ventures were hoping to have the framework in place to build a stadium in Austin by Thursday night. Instead, they’ll have to wait a little bit longer.
The Austin City Council was set to vote on a term sheet agreed on by Austin city administrators and PSV but after two hours of public comments and 20 amendments proposed to the agreement, the council eventually tabled the discussion to Wednesday morning. The amendments led to harsh words from Austin mayor Steve Adler, who called them “poison pills,” in effect delaying or killing the deal by bureaucracy.
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Adler later said that the term sheet will be voted on by the city council on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. local time).
The term sheet, recently revised by PSV and agreed to between the city and PSV, calls for the building of a soccer-specific stadium at McKalla Place, located 10 miles north of downtown Austin. The deal calls for the team to finance the construction of the stadium at the site and then for the city to lease the land to PSV for $1 per year and then for the team to pay $550,000 per year in rent from the sixth year and on. In addition, a non-relocation clause has ironically been added.
However, amendments to the term sheet include raising yearly payments to nearly $1 million per season, that PSV should pay the full cost of having a transit station site next to the stadium (instead of splitting the costs with the city) and another final vote on the stadium.
One of the most interesting parts of Thursday evening’s council meeting was the revelation that PSV has missed a pair of MLS-imposed deadlines to complete a stadium deal, first in early July and then August 10. We’ll see if MLS will continue to move the goalposts to allow PSV to continue to move the Crew.
Council members also discussed on Thursday the impact of the ongoing lawsuit against PSV by the city of Columbus and state of Ohio, which could stall or delay the Crew’s departure. Things could change on Wednesday but as of this point, it looks like the Crew will be in Columbus for the 2019 season.