AUSTIN — The Ohio Columbus Crew Major League Soccer team might stay in Ohio after all, according to a statement released Friday, but Austin could still get an MLS expansion team.
MLS released a statement Friday announcing that the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and a Columbus investor group led by Pete Edwards, Jr. are moving toward buying the Columbus team.
Here is the statement MLS released Friday regarding the Columbus Crew:
"Major League Soccer and the Columbus Partnership have been working together for several months on a plan to keep Crew SC in Columbus and we have made significant progress. Recently, the Haslam Family – along with the Columbus-based Edwards Family, have joined the effort to keep Crew SC in Columbus. MLS, the Columbus Partnership and the investor group all agree that for the Club to be successful in Columbus, it requires strong local partners, long-term corporate support, a strong season ticket base and long-term plans for a stadium, practice facilities and associated sites. MLS is committed to keeping Crew SC in Columbus should we continue to make progress on these critical components and agree to key terms with the investor group. MLS recognizes the cooperation Precourt Sports Ventures has demonstrated throughout the process to date. MLS also remains very committed to PSV’s plan to launch an MLS Club in Austin and is excited for Austin to become a great addition to MLS. We will continue to work with PSV and the City of Austin on the timing around the launch of Austin FC.”
Precourt Sports Ventures said in a statement Friday that an MLS team in Austin will be a reality when the definitive agreement with the City of Austin is finalized.
"Regardless of the possibility of any bona fide investor group in Columbus closing on a transaction to assume operating rights to Columbus Crew SC, Austin FC will be playing MLS matches in the Texas state capital in the near future," Precourt Sports Ventures said. "The club will likely begin playing at a date no later than the spring 2021 opening of the new, privately-financed stadium and soccer park at McKalla Place."
Precourt Sports Ventures said they believe a successful outcome is within reach and it remains grateful for the community's support.
The news of the Haslam's involvement with the MLS team was first reported via Twitter by Ian Thomas of the Sports Business Journal.
The Cleveland Browns also announced on Twitter their involvement with the MLS team and said they're committed to keeping the team in Ohio.
Ohio government officials filed a lawsuit in March to keep the Columbus MLS team in their state.
The Columbus Crew's move to Austin would violate a city code from 1996, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Columbus city leaders.
MLS said they're still committed to launching Austin FC as an MLS team in Texas.
"Major League Soccer is excited to move forward in Austin with Precourt Sports Ventures and their vision for Austin FC. Regardless of any scenario in Columbus, there is a clear path forward for PSV to operate Austin FC as a Major League Soccer club," the league said in a statement. "The strong support from Austin’s corporate community, government officials and passionate soccer fans is impressive. Austin is a flourishing, dynamic city that presents a great opportunity for MLS, and we look forward to finalizing plans to become the first major league team in the capital of Texas. While timing for Austin FC is still to be finalized, we are confident that the team will begin play no later than 2021 at the new, privately financed stadium and soccer park at McKalla Place. We applaud the Austin community, city leaders and Precourt Sports Ventures for their commitment to making this happen.”
With all of this recent news, fans on both sides are relieved.
"Austin Anthem," a fan group formerly known as "MLS In Austin," told KVUE they're happy for Columbus Crew fans that have a good chance of keeping their team.
“I’m happy for Crew fans. This was something that was really important that. The club’s important to their community we get that we understand that," said Ryan Riggins, director of art and brand at Austin Anthem. We know what it will be like to follow club and be passionate about it and I’m excited that their club gets to stay there and hope nothing but the best for them moving forward."
KVUE also spoke with those from Columbus. A spokesperson with "Save The Crew" told KVUE this day means a lot to them.
“Today has been quite the whirlwind we’ve been fighting this battle for close to a year this has been essentially a second unpaid job for a lot of us who are in Save The Crew leadership," said David Miller, a spokesperson with Save The Crew. "It’s extremely rewarding it’s a little surreal. This fight is very close to being done."
Details are still being finalized and the MLS said it's confident the team will begin playing no later than 2021.