Austin FC had a name, a logo and a stadium. Now it’s officially the 27th Major League franchise. As for when will Austin FC start play in MLS, the league announced Tuesday that it will be just in time for its new stadium to open.
Major League Soccer will kick off the 2019 season with 24 teams following the addition of FC Cincinnati. Inter Miami and Nashville will join in 2020. The following year, it’ll be all about Austin.
Putting down roots in ATX.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) January 15, 2019
Austin FC will become the first top-level major professional sports team in Austin, the 11th-largest city in the country (and growing). The city is regularly among the top-performing markets when it comes to soccer viewership and MLS hopes the city’s vibrant culture leads to an equally energetic fan following.
Austin was awarded a franchise because Anthony Precourt tried unsuccessfully to move the Columbus Crew to the Texas capital. It got an official name and logo back in August before MLS even confirmed the city would get a team. When the Cleveland Browns owners stepped in to save the Crew, MLS decided to give Austin an MLS team anyway. In December, the city’s cushy stadium deal was approved.
But we finally know when will Austin FC start play in MLS: the 2021 season, when the stadium is scheduled to open (assuming they don’t pull a Tottenham).
MLS made Austin FC official at a press conference that included semi-celebrities such as MLS commissioner Don Garber, most-hated owner Precourt, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Alexi Lalas (given the lower third of “US Soccer Legend”).
Those involved tried to make it sound like MLS coming to Austin is the greatest thing ever, though I tend to disagree, and not just with the hyperbole.
“Austin is a thriving metropolitan city — the personification of what we mean when we say MLS is a ‘League for a new America,’” Garber said in a release. “We are extremely proud to be the first major professional sports league to become part of the culture of this historic American city.”
Added Mayor Adler, the tough, smart mayor (no one will get that reference):
“This is a historic day for Austin, as MLS becomes the first major league to plant roots in our beautiful city. We believe professional soccer will bring a great and especially needed benefit to our city. In two years, this team and an elite soccer stadium will bring together all kinds of people from all over Austin in a way that we do not gather today. This is one important way we become a more socially integrated community.”
While there’s no doubt Austin is a deserving city, there is argument over whether it’s the most deserving of going in next at No. 27. Austin has not proven successful supporting minor league clubs in the past and most of the city’s sports focus is on college ball, where every year we get to hear about how “Texas is back” in college football, when it never really is.
Many fans across the country will want to hate Austin FC from Day 1 just because of Anthony Precourt and what he did to try to tear the Crew, one of the original franchises, away from Columbus. Precourt’s persistence paid off in an expansion team without an expansion fee — and other cities competing for an MLS bid (especially San Antonio, which is now essentially cut out from MLS entirely) will not be pleased.
But that’s not necessarily Austin’s fault, and the team should be given every chance to thrive. And as of Tuesday we know when will Austin FC start play in MLS.
Finally, for no real good reason, I’d like to share with you dear readers the first image that popped up when I searched “Austin FC Texas” in Getty Images, because wtf y’all.