Could Major League Soccer Be Coming To Austin?
With the World Cup on the horizon and soccer's popularity in the US growing steadily, could an MLS franchise find it's way here?
The San Jose Earthquakes celebrate a goal (photo via Flickr Creative Commons)
If you've found yourself wondering aloud why there are no major league pro sports teams in Austin, you would neither be the first nor the last. Of course, there are a number of professional teams in the city, but nothing on the level of the NBA, MLB, NFL or NHL. However, plans have been put into motion that could possibly change that. Sort of.
As part of the effort to bring the FIFA World Cup to the United States, Major League Soccer was founded in 1993. It launched with ten teams and contained a number of the familiar faces seen on the USA's World Cup team that following year. Since then, the league has expanded to 19 teams (including three in Canada), has featured international stars such as David Beckham (who is in the process of purchasing an expansion team of his own) and has grown in popularity all over the world.
For years now, Austin has been batted around as a possible location for a new MLS expansion team. While there is currently a pro soccer team in the city, the Austin Aztecs, it's a fourth-tier developmental league team. That being said, the majority of their games are sold out, demonstrating the popularity of the sport in the city. Still, time and time again, due to lack of either city support or outside investors, an MLS team has never materialized.
However, according to this article by RantSports.com, that could all be changing. Austin FC, LLC has been in talks with city officials regarding a soccer-only facility as well as a study to determine if an MLS team would be financially viable (it's worth nothing that the first MLS team to turn a profit, the Los Angeles Galaxy, only did so once they moved into a soccer-specific arena). The Rant Sports articles quotes the Austin American-Statesman as mentioning that the funding for such an enterprise would be private investor driven and not by any bonds or city funding.
According to the article, there are a number of elements that point towards Austin getting an MLS team:
- The Frank Irwin Events Center will soon be demolished and have a new medical school put in its place. It's possible a replacement venue could be built with soccer in mind, using the allure of a major sports team to help fund the building.
- MLS has stated in the past that they would very much like to have a third franchise based in Texas (they currently have FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo). It's possible that franchise could go to San Antonio if not Austin.
- The Hispanic population of Texas continues to grow and grow, soon to the point that they will be the majority population in the state. It simply makes economic sense to cater to such a large demographic in terms of what is, statistically, their favorite sport.
It's only a matter of time before Texas gets another MLS team. We may be seeing that team right here in Austin.