Austin’s MLS Progress Report

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Aztex_logoIt seems like it’s been years since the rumblings began for Austin to get an MLS team, but until relatively recently there hasn’t been much progress for Austin’s many soccer fans to get excited about. Anyone else remember watching the Austin Aztex play at House Park during their first stint as a USL team? Well we do, and though it turned out to be a somewhat unsuccessful venture, the Aztex made us dream of supporting our very own MLS club way back in 2012. Unfortunately our Aztex only lasted four seasons, and 2015 proved to be their last season in the Capital city, until now that is, and with their return comes renewed momentum for Austin’s MLS dreams.

Columbus_Crew

Mapfre Stadium – Columbus Ohio (from: https://commons.wikimedia.org)

 

It seems today that Austin getting an MLS side has progressed from an “if” to a “when”. This most recent push began in August of 2017 when the MLS quietly took out trademarks on the names “Austin FC” and “Austin Athletic”, as well as creating identical blank twitter pages @AustinFC and @AustinAthletic. Fast forward to October of 2017 when the owners of the Columbus Crew announced plans for potentially moving the franchise to a new city, in response to their aging stadium and, per the terms of their lease, the local government’s refusal to help renovate the complex. Austin was one of the first names mentioned in regards to possible destinations for the want-away Ohio club, and continues to be the favorite to win the clubs favor. New supporters groups have even formed over the issue, with soccer fans in Austin joining together to support the ‘MLS2ATX’ movement (Check out their twitter by the way! @mls2atx) and Columbus supports getting behind the mantra “Save the Crew” and even going so far as to put out this video:

Really going after the pathos there eh Crew fans? Honestly this would be a great video if the facts backed up the ‘loyal supporter’ vibe they were going for here but unfortunately for Columbus, they really, really don’t. Columbus’s Mapfre Stadium has a maximum capacity of 19,968, yet in the last 3 seasons they have seen a sharp drop in attendance and currently rank among the league’s worst in average attendance and percent of capacity filled:

Columbus Crew Attendance (Mapfre Stadium capacity: 19,968)
Average Attendance Percent of Capacity MLS Rank (Average Attendance)
2016 17,125 85.80% 16 out of 20
2017 15,390 77.30% 20 out of 22
2018 (to date) 10,402 52.10% 22 out of 23
Average 14,322 71.70% N/A

Obviously the fan support is not what it is made out to be in the video and attendance has been dwindling in recent years, even before talks to move the club even began.

The latest development in the MLS 2 Austin saga came very recently when Precourt Sports Ventures (the current owners of the Crew) proposed using a 24 acre plot near The Domain named McKalla Place as the site for their new $200 million stadium. The City of Austin did not object to using the plot for the purpose of a stadium which prompted PSV to: “file a 189-page proposal that laid out the benefits of bringing an MLS team to the city and asked for the land in exchange for constructing a privately financed stadium.” (Full article from ESPN here.) It is reported that PSV’s goal is to have negotiations with the city concluded “before the city council’s summer break at the end of the month” and that the ownership’s plan specifies the stadium being ready for use by the beginning of the 2021 season.
mckalla soccer

Hopefully we will have more developments to bring to you within the coming weeks!

-Brady Freehill

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