Before the Columbus Crew set its sights on Austin, there was another professional soccer venture in the offing, with Circuit of the Americas as the site to host a United Soccer League team. The team debuted its colors and announced its name, Austin Bold FC, this morning.
General Manager Roberto Pinto da Silva Jr hosted the announcement at COTA this morning that also debuted the team, which will be coached by former Brazilian Premier League coach Marcelo Serrano.
It’s not the first matchup between Austin and the USL. Silva first came to Austin in 2014 after working in Brazilian professional soccer and eventually found himself heading up that last pro soccer effort, the Austin Aztex.
“We’re talking about a team that was playing at a high school stadium with football lines,” Silva told KUT this week before the announcement. “You know, no adult beverages. It was hard for someone to take that serious.”
After the 2015 Memorial Day flood damaged its home field, House Park, the Aztex effectively ended their run in Austin.
GM Roberto Silva introduces new logo, colors, branding for Austin Bold FC pic.twitter.com/xEcW82M5z7
— Jimmy (@maasdinero) August 3, 2018
Since then, Silva has been working with team majority owner Bobby Epstein and Circuit of the Americas to bring a USL team back to town.
This morning, that moves closer to reality when he unveils the new team name and coach. According to Silva, everything else required will be in place when play begins next year, including a 5,000-seat stadium.
“It is so good to have strong ownership that is supporting us,” Silva said. “It’s being very strong on allowing us to create some special things. Allowing us to go negotiate with Usain Bolt is a very good example of that.”
Last week, the agent for retired track sprinter Usain Bolt said he may sign with the Austin USL team. Silva characterizes the odds of that happening, at this point, as long. But, he says, the fact that he is able to talk to high-level players and elite athletes like Bolt is something he has not had elsewhere in his career. That willingness to attract top talent could give fans a different experience, and that difference could pay off – if Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew moves to town.
“Nobody knows if the MLS is going to happen,” Silva said. “And even if it does happen, I think it’s very hard to see it happening in ‘19, ‘20 or ‘21. I think it’s something that’s going to happen a long way from now.”
But when, or if, they do, can a city the size of Austin support both?
Drew Hays with the Austin Sports Commission says there may be room for both. It’s worked in other cities of a similar size, like Seattle, Portland and Atlanta.
“They have great demographics and fan bases,” said Hays. “So, when you compare other cities with soccer, I think our market is a great fit for that sport.”
Seattle, Portland and Atlanta are among seven metro areas that have USL and MLS teams. All but one pairing are owned by the MLS team and work in tandem.
If an MLS team comes to Austin, Silva says, their relationship would be different.
“It’s going to be a good rivalry,” he said. “You know, maybe we’re creating an Austin rivalry which is very common in many places around the world in soccer.”
But his team, he says, has a big edge on its would-be rivals, knowing the hometown hurdles like transportation, construction and housing.
“This city has its own way of managing itself, and I think they underestimated that characteristic of Austin,” said Silva.
So, as of Friday, the city has one professional soccer team. Next Thursday, August 9, the city council could determine if a second is coming, as well.
This story has been updated.