In Austin FC, Texas's capital welcomes first major sports franchise

AUSTIN, Texas — At a raucous celebration on Tuesday afternoon in downtown Austin, MLS Commissioner Don Garber officially proclaimed Austin FC the 27th club to join Major League Soccer.

The ceremony, also involving Austin FC Chairman and CEO Anthony Precourt and Austin mayor Steve Adler, drew a crowd of more than 500 to see Garber announce that Austin will begin play in 2021. He acknowledged the unconventional path — by MLS standards, at least — that the new club took in getting to this launch.

“Like everything that’s worth having in life,” Garber declared, “the journey to get to Austin was not linear, and and it wasn’t all that easy,” adding that, “Certainly, this was one of the most complicated projects in our league’s history.”

He acknowledged, in both onstage remarks and in a post-event interview, that Precourt’s belief in bring a team to Austin, combined with Adler’s commitment in steering MLS through Austin’s political process, allowed the league the partnerships it needed to get all the needed elements in place.

Garber went on in his remarks to express a belief that Austin FC would not only be great for the city and the league, but could indeed “become a beacon of hope and light for what soccer in North America can really be."

The event included members of Austin Anthem, the supporters’ group originating in 2013 with a vision of attracting MLS to Austin, which has grown to more than 1,000 members — with much of the growth following Austin FC’s brand launch last August following the Austin City Council vote that approved a stadium partnership deal with the club.

The club will soon build a privately funded, $225 million soccer stadium at McKalla Place. Groundbreaking will begin this year on the 20,000-seat stadium, which planned to be completed in time for the club's first match.

Adler began his remarks by declaring, “Austin, Texas is a magical city, and it doesn’t get any more magical than this,” lauding Precourt for successfully bringing Austin its first major professional sports franchise — willingly participating in the public input process that often marks major city decisions.

“People have tried for decades to bring major league sports into this city,” Adler said, addressing Precourt directly, “but you came in to this city and said, ‘We’re going to do things the way they need to be done in Austin, Texas.’”

Precourt, in his comments, began by saying, “Austin FC is for all of you,” to a crowd that included supportive city council members among its honored guests. He also declared that he and his new club was going to “unite the city, fight for this city, and we’re going to make you proud,” before listing some youth soccer support initiatives that the club is launching now, well in advance of its 2021 start date.

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