Despite the growing national movement to #SaveTheCrew, most signs point to Anthony Precourt moving his MLS team from Columbus to Austin. And we can all discuss the problems associated with this move, what about the other side?
What makes Austin so attractive and worth scorning all of Columbus?
The first and most obvious answer is that Austin is the largest city in the United States without a major-league franchise. The city has long been pushing for a sports team and courting league commissioners and team owners to make it happen.
OK, so we know they want sports. But why soccer?
Austin already dipped its toe in the soccer world years ago with its USL club, the Austin Aztex. Before folding, largely because of stadium issues, the team averaged 3,227 fans at home games, ranking them #11 among the 24 USL teams. Ever since then, business leaders have been taking strides to bring a revamped version of the team back to the area.
Additionally, the data is promising for the region.
According to a 2015 American City Business Journal report that analyzed major U.S. metro regions by their ability to support pro sports teams, Austin is listed among the most attractive locations for an MLS team.
Even more interesting is a 2016 Soccer Market Rankings Study that analyzed cities by how much its residents consume soccer (play, watch, attend, converse, search). In that report, Austin is #21 among metro areas, a good sign that the city already has a strong foundation of fans to tap into.
Plus, the Latino community in Austin is fast growing. By 2020, the city projects the Latino population in Austin to be nearly as large as the Anglo population in the region. This means the team will have room to grow its fan base if it can properly tap into the soccer-crazed Latino communities in the region.
Lastly, less scientific but equally indicative is the connection between Austin’s style and the common themes of soccer culture in America.
Soccer fans tend to buck the norm of traditional sports fans in America. Compared to other pro leagues, soccer often welcomes a larger amount of young families, hipsters and immigrants. This is what makes the sport so unique in this country and why soccer may thrive in Austin.
If soccer is the non-traditional pro sports in the U.S., Austin is the non-traditional city in the U.S. (see: “Keep Austin Weird”).
Austinites are very proud of their community and there’s little doubt residents would latch on to their first pro team with vigor. An MLS team would become a point of pride and provide a new channel for the city to show off its unique style to the nation.
So regardless of whether Austin gets a team now through Columbus, or finds itself a favorite in next year’s MLS expansion selections, the city has a strong potential to become the Portland Timbers of the South.