Goodbye Columbus? Report: Crew SC could leave for Austin in 2019

Columbus Crew SC could be leaving its home in MLS's first soccer-specific stadium for Austin, Texas, in 2019 if it can't find a site for a new downtown stadium in Columbus.'s Grant Wahl reports owner Anthony Precourt is in talks with leaders in Austin and Precourt plans to hold a press conference on Tuesday to announce his intentions.

Alex Fischer, the president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, told Wahl that talks over Precourt selling the Crew to a local group have gone nowhere.

Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch suggested that talk of staying in Columbus was "standard practice for team owners who might want to move to keep hope alive for the purposes of selling tickets for a lame-duck season."

Columbus stadium. The late Lamar Hunt spent several years in search of a site for a stadium for the Crew before he built Crew Stadium (now Mapfre Stadium) on the grounds of the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds for $28.5 million.

Precourt bought the Crew and the stadium, which originally opened in 1999, for $68 million in 2013. While attendance climbed in his first three full seasons in charge, it dropped 9.8 percent to 15,439 in 2017.

2017 MLS lowest attendance:
FC Dallas 15,106
Colorado 15,322
Columbus 15,439
D.C. United 16,434

The Crew's stadium has developed a long history, hosting MLS Cups in 2001 and 2015. It was also the site of five USA-Mexico World Cup qualifiers, the first four Dos a Cero for the USA.

Austin stadium. Kevin Lyttle of the Austin American-Statesman reported University of Texas officials were not aware of a plan to use Myers Stadium, the 20,000-seat home of Texas women's soccer and its track & field programs, but that's considered the likely home of an MLS team in 2019 and 2020 until a new soccer stadium can be built.

“Austin FC” and “Austin Athletic” were registered by MLS as trademarks earlier this year.

Pro soccer in Austin. Pro soccer has been a failure in Austin until now. The original Aztex moved to Orlando in 2011 after two seasons in the USL First Division and USSF D-2 Pro League. The second Aztex played one season in the USL in 2015 but struggled financially and lost its home at House Park in the 2015 Memorial Day floods.

The USL announced in early August plans for a team in Austin to start league play in 2019 in an expanded facility, next to the Circuit of the Americas track, at which Barcelona will open a training school.

Austin is an annual destination for MLS officials attending South By Southwest. At a 2017 panel discussion, MLS commissioner Don Garber called Austin a "special place" even though it is not on the list of 12 expansion candidates and said it "should be a good MLS market." (Nearby San Antonio is on MLS's list but has been one of the most quiet expansion candidates.)

Moving pieces. Columbus has been overtaken by Cincinnati as the hottest soccer market in Ohio. Indeed, FC Cincinnati is the hottest team in the Division 2 ranks, averaging 21,199 in 2017.  Cincinnati hasn't solved its stadium puzzle -- FCC plays at a college football stadium -- but it might replace Columbus in Ohio.

If FC Cincinnati joined in 2019, it would give the league 24 teams it needs to avoid the scheduling and promotional inconvenience of having an odd number of teams for more than one season. LAFC comes on board as the 23rd team in 2019.

7 comments about "Goodbye Columbus? Report: Crew SC could leave for Austin in 2019".
  1. R2 Dad, October 17, 2017 at 6:21 a.m.

    When the going gets tough, the tough get moving. Forget pro/rel, these owners can't compete against a new team in-state that isn't even playing in MLS yet--talk about gutless. Garber allowed this itinerant owner thing to happen in San Jose and gutted a good program. I think the first and only option is to sell the team to locals, so fans get the opportunity to have a say. Com'on Teflon Don, show some leadership and spend your money and time to facilitate a deal.

  2. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 17, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.

    Don Garber is supposed to personally buy the Crew?  I don't think he has that kind of cash.

  3. Jon Andrews, October 17, 2017 at 8:30 a.m.

    This is a nothing article. Lindner and his team will buy the Crew for pennies and relocate the MLS franchise to Cincinnati where there are fans that actually want to watch soccer. Crew will become nothing more than a USL team either in Columbus for elsewhere. This solves the franchise expansion issues for MLS since they can't seem to be gifting such a young USL club a MLS spot before other parties regardless of 20,000+ crowds. Will happen before the MLS expansion announcement in <60d.

  4. Eric Schmitt replied, October 17, 2017 at 10:56 a.m.

    Lindner will *not* be buying the Crew. He has no need. Lindner is committed to FCC and turning it into an MLS team. They are feeling very confident about their prospects of getting the expansion bid.

  5. Joseph Pratt, October 17, 2017 at 9:43 a.m.

    I can see something like this happening with the Fire. Their stadium is poorly located and a major pain to get to, and the owner lives in L.A., so his ties to Chicago are thin. 

  6. Andrew Brown, October 17, 2017 at 1:03 p.m.

    Big picture this is not good for MLS or US Soccer scene. 

  7. Will Willows, October 19, 2017 at 2:12 p.m.

    Goodbye.  Don't let the door hit you.  This was always a love hate and many in Columbus love to hate them and football (troll bait).  Sorry to see them go, caught at least one game a year and paid for youth tickets over the years.  Get a NASL team in here, better facility and fan base than Dayton or Cleveland have.  Lot of that level Soccer Talent in this bigger area of ours and Columbus can attract decent foreign talent.  Keep Higuain as player/coach.  The failure of the US Men's Team will have an effect with no WC buildup and working up from square one might make this a challenge. I will go and encourage others to go also.

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