In the 23 year history of Major League Soccer, only one time has a team relocated cities. That was back in 2006 when the San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston and became the Houston Dynamo. I am going to take a look back at the move, and see what we can learn from the only other relocation in MLS history.
The first thing I wanted to look at was when we will find out about getting the Columbus Crew and when the MLS will make it official. As we know, August 9th will be the big day from the city council and we will hopefully get the good news that PSV and Precourt will be allowed to start building a soccer-specific stadium at McKalla Place. In 2005, Don Garber officially announced on November 16th that the San Jose Earthquake ownership group would have 30 days to decide if they want to move the team. This was only days after the San Jose Earthquake were eliminated from the playoffs, which means that once Columbus is eliminated from the playoffs we should know officially if we will be getting a team. The Crew currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference standings and are poised for a playoff appearance if they maintain their current position in the standings. If history is to tell us anything, it looks like we could be waiting another four months until we get any official news.
The next thing I was wondering about was if there would be any ties left to Columbus or the former team at all. When looking at other leagues, such as the NBA. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder still have organization records held by the team when they were the Seattle SuperSonics. When looking at the Houston Dynamo, it seems that they completely cut off any sort of records or history of the San Jose Earthquakes, but mainly because another Earthquakes team entered the league only a few years later. If the Columbus Crew do make the move to Austin, it seems that it will be a clean break without any ties being left in Columbus. A new team name, new colors, new record book, the only thing remaining would be the players and staff who follow.
Early success was something that was key in the move for the Houston Dynamo, and would likely be a goal of the future MLS team in Austin. The Dynamo had a loaded roster, with MLS legends like Dwyane De Rosario and Brian Ching, and in their first two seasons in Houston, the Dynamo won back to back MLS Cup’s and were one of the most fun teams to watch in the league. This early success was something that brought the Dynamo huge popularity in the city of Houston, who hadn’t seen a team win a championship since the mid-90’s from the Houston Rockets. This success led to attendances reaching over 30,000 in multiple playoff games, and even a few regular season games against the LA Galaxy. If Precourt wants to make sure MLS in Austin is a major success, winning early could be one of the most important thing’s his team could do. Putting a winning side on the field will not only help sell tickets, but it will help the city as a whole get excited for the future of the team before even opening up in the new stadium.
With big days looming in the coming months it is hard to not be excited about the prospects of MLS2ATX and the future of soccer in Austin. After getting over a big stumbling block on June 28th, there are still a few more to go with the big one being August 9th. Even thought it has only happened once in the history of Major League Soccer, we can see that a relocation can be successful. If we are lucky enough to get a team, history says that we are in for a treat with soccer in Austin and we might just see a winning product early. With the help of Precourt Sports Venture, Major League Soccer, and everyone in Austin fighting for the team. We could be in for a monumental year in Austin for the beautiful game.