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Ohio AG threatens legal action should Crew move to Austin

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The fight to #SaveTheCrew took a new turn Thursday, as a little-known state law could put pressure on the Columbus Crew’s owner Anthony Precourt in his intention to move the team to Austin, Texas.

The state law, put in place in 1996 after Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore a year earlier, states that if a professional sports franchise that uses a taxpayer-financed facility for most of its home games decides to leave, it must do one of two things.

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Either make an agreement with the local city or municipality allowing the team to go, or give six-months notice of the team’s intention to leave and also provide the local city and businesses the opportunity to purchase the team.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement Thursday that after reviewing Ohio Revised Code law 9.67, he believes that it could be applied to the Columbus Crew.

“The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the law passed after the Browns’ move,” DeWine said. “We believe the evidence will show that this law would apply to the Columbus Crew and Mapfre Stadium. As Attorney General, should ownership of the Columbus Crew initiate a move of the team without complying with Ohio law, I am prepared to take the necessary legal action under this law to protect the interests of the State of Ohio and the central Ohio communities which have all invested to make the Columbus Crew a proud part of our Ohio sports tradition and help Mapfre Stadium earn its reputation as ‘Fortress Columbus.’”

The best-case scenario for Crew fans is for Precourt to sell the team rather than to keep the team in Columbus under his ownership, but even under this law, Precourt can move the team as long as he provides that six-month notice.

Perhaps Precourt will be coerced to sell however under all the pressure from fans and politicians, which could lead to a happy ending for Crew fans and soccer fans in Ohio.

FOLLOW LIVE – MLS Conference Finals, Leg 1

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There’s never been more on the line in the latest Trilliam Cup matchup.

For the first time, Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew will meet in the MLS Cup playoffs, kicking off at 8:00 p.m., with both teams taking different paths to the Eastern Conference finals.

Toronto FC battled the New York Red Bulls to win on away goals, after a 2-1 win in Red Bull Arena in the first leg, but tempers flared and the Supporters Shield winners will be without both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore on Tuesday night. The Crew meanwhile survived an incredible 120 minutes at Atlanta United to win in a shootout, and then carried that momentum into a 4-3 aggregate victory over New York City FC.

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Now, with the Crew’s status in Columbus still up in the air, Crew fans have one chance to pack MAPFRE Stadium to support their team and prove to the league they can support an MLS franchise.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, the upstart Houston Dynamo host a sold-out crowd as the defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders visit, with kickoff set for 9:30 p.m.

The Dynamo stunned the injury-riddled Portland Timbers in the last round and the Dynamo has lost just once at home in MLS action this calendar year. On the other side, the Sounders are getting a major boost, with Osvaldo Alonso and Jordan Morris close to returning, either in this game or next week, and Clint Dempsey remains fit and raring to go back in his home state.

Follow all the action from tonight’s MLS Cup playoff matchups.