Major League Soccer is putting down roots in Austin, Texas.
Commissioner Don Garber officially announced Austin FC (Football Club) as the 27th club in MLS—the team will start league play in 2021. A jam-packed crowd at Rustic Tap on West 6th whooped it up in joy, releasing all that pent-up emotion from the highs and lows of the MLS2ATX movement.
Today marks an important milestone for the city of Austin—it’s first major sports league.
“This is a historic day for Austin, as MLS becomes the first major league to plant roots in our beautiful city,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
The Austin metro area has been a magnet for minor league sports teams, including Round Rock Express (baseball), Texas Stars (hockey), and Austin Spurs (basketball) to name a few. Yet a bona fide major league franchise had been elusive to the ATX—some said due to The University of Texas’ stranglehold or the city’s proximity to San Antonio.
A Legendary Announcement
None other than soccer wild man Alexi Lalas, Fox Sports pundit and USMNT icon, emceed the shindig. A perfect personality for the Keep Austin Weird vibe that Austin FC wants to exude. Feeding off the supporters’ energy, on stage Lalas personified the excitement, even rockin’ out with a guitar at one point.
He introduced the major players that made Austin FC a reality, including Mayor Adler and the city council members that were on the right side of the 7-4 final vote on August 15, 2018.
Team owner Anthony Precourt even stepped up to the mic to speak, after months of keeping a low profile as he hammered out a deal to bring the expansion franchise to the city and keep Columbus Crew in Ohio (which was finalized on December 28 by MLS).
“The greatest way we can show our gratitude is in our actions as leaders of Austin FC. Our intent is to build a team that will be a perennial contender for MLS Cup, to build a stadium at McKalla Place that rivals the best sporting venues in North America, and to cultivate a club culture that brings people together and always give back,” said Precourt.
Commissioner Don Garber also had his moment in the spotlight. You could tell he was ecstatic to finally land an MLS franchise in Austin.
“We are extremely proud to be the first major professional sports league to become part of the fabric of this important and thriving American city,” said Garber. He continued by saying, “We can’t be more excited to be in one of the coolest, most creative, most vibrant and most passionate cities in the U.S.”. Not to mention, Austin consistently ranks at the top of the U.S. News & World Report Best Places to Live list.
Garber has been incredibly busy growing the league lately. In addition to Austin, MLS has added Cincinnati, Miami, and Nashville all in the last year or so.
Does Austin FC Sit and Wait until 2021?
There’s actually a lot the club needs to accomplish in two years. The buffer gives Austin FC time to build it right though.
With that said, there’s a lot of moving parts that must fall into place, especially regarding the McKalla Place stadium construction. Zoning issues and building permits have to move quickly in order for the club to be able to play a home game by spring 2021.
If you’re keeping track, here’s a checklist of major Austin FC events coming before 2021:
- Start construction on the stadium (September 2019)
- Start a youth academy system (May 2019)
- Sell season tickets (January 2020)
- Find a head coach (Hired Josh Wolff July 2019)
- Find a sporting director/GM (Hired Claudio Reyna November 2019)
- Finalize local ownership (June 2019)
- Announce sponsorships (ongoing)
- Sign domestic and international players (ongiong)
- USL partnership?