AUSTIN – The United Soccer League will return to Austin in 2019, and will play at a new 5,000-seat stadium at Circuit of the Americas.
USL announced COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein will lead the organization after taking majority ownership in the club. Epstein had been working with USL to find a suitable venue for the Austin Aztex after House Park flooded in May 2015, and the team has been on hiatus since the end of the 2015 season. USL's website does not list a name for Austin's team as of the announcement, and KVUE’s partners at the Austin American-Statesman report the team will no longer be known as the Aztex.
“I’m excited to help bring professional soccer back to Austin and want to thank the USL for helping in the process to secure a suitable venue to host a high-level soccer experience for our fans,” Epstein said in a release. “Preparations for kickoff in 2019 are already underway, and I look forward to revealing more information about the club in the coming future.”
Members of the soccer community in Austin said they’re excited about the kickoff in a brand new venue that they say is much needed.
"The major issue with soccer for a long time in Austin is playing competitive games in stadiums with American football lines and goal posts," said Austin Texans General Manager Ric Granryd. "The purists in the game really do not enjoy that. It appears that Mr. Epstein’s new venture is going to be in a soccer specific area which I think will delight the purists in our area."
“We have worked diligently with Austin’s ownership group to secure a permanent home for a USL club, and are pleased to have arrived at a great solution that will ensure the long-term success of the franchise,” USL President Jake Edwards added. “The Circuit of The Americas is an outstanding venue that has been home to world-class events for a number of years. We’re excited to work with a Bobby and his strong local ownership group as the USL returns to Austin for the 2019 season.”
According to the Statesman, Epstein did not disclose a cost estimate for the stadium. The stadium will be located between the Austin 360 Amphitheater and the circuit’s grand plaza. The Statesman reported in January that USL was promoted to Division II status, which is one step below Major League Soccer.
USL currently has 30 teams, including San Antonio FC and the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros in Texas. By the time the 2019 season starts, there will be 34 teams in the league including Austin. USL has also announced expansion teams in Nashville, Fresno and Birmingham.