Major League Soccer is officially coming to Austin.
"Austin is a perfect fit for Major League Soccer and Major League Soccer is a perfect fit for the city of Austin," MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced at an event today.
Watch the announcement:
Austin FC, the league's 27th team, is expected to begin play at its new McKalla Place stadium in the 2021 season. It will be the city's first professional major league sports team.
“This was the most complicated project in our league’s history," Garber said.
He was joined at the Rustic Tap by investor-operator Anthony Precourt and Austin Mayor Steve Adler for what they called a "historic declaration about the future of Major League Soccer in Austin." Alexi Lalas, a former member of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer team, served as emcee.
"We plan to build a perennial contender," Precourt told the crowd of cheering soccer supporters.
Adler thanked members of the crowd, who turned out at council meetings again and again in support of bringing soccer to Austin.
"You spend all night with somebody and you become close," he laughed.
"We may need you back again," he added in an apparent reference to a petition filed to stop the McKalla Place stadium from being built. "So don't go away."
Adler said bringing soccer to Austin was not only about the sport, but also about having a "shared experience" that brings everybody together.
He declared today "Austin FC Day in Austin, Texas."
Cincinnati is joining the league in 2019, and Miami and Nashville are joining in 2020. Austin's franchise could have implications for other cities – like San Antonio – that are hoping to be a part of MLS.
The announcement ends 15 months of speculation about whether Austin would get its first top-tier professional sports franchise. For decades, the city’s sports scene has been dominated by the University of Texas. The metro area has had a number of minor league professional teams through the decades. It currently is home to the top minor league affiliates for baseball’s Houston Astros, basketball’s San Antonio Spurs and hockey’s Dallas Stars, but never a major league team.
Precourt Sports has hired a number of Columbus Crew executives to help launch Austin FC, including Andy Loughnane to serve as president of business operations. He held the same job in Columbus.