Major League Soccer could have a third Texas team in its future, but it could come at the cost of one of the league’s original markets.
Multiple reports surfaced on Monday night revealing that Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt is working on plans to relocate the team to Austin, Texas if the team cannot seal a deal for a new downtown stadium in Columbus by 2019.
According to SI.com, Precourt will announce a plan on Tuesday to pursue a team move to Austin, though also leaving the door open for continued negotiations with Columbus to keep the team in the city.
Columbus currently plays at MAPFRE Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium built in the United States back in 1999. It was a major milestone for MLS and the sport of soccer in the country at the time, but now the amenities are behind those of newer facilities that have opened in the past few years.
Precourt, who bought the Crew in 2013, is now believed to be threatening a move if a deal to move to a new facility in downtown Columbus can’t be made.
A move to the Texas capital would likely come after next season. The club would spend two years in a temporary home before moving to a brand new downtown stadium for the 2021 season. The city is set to vote on a stadium measure in December and again in June of 2018.
Precourt has also rejected attempts to buy the team by a group of local business owners led by Alex Fischer, who revealed that a potential move to Austin is nothing new and has been in the works for months.
“We met with ownership a month ago to discuss their stadium study and plans and ideas for a new stadium in Columbus,” Fischer told SI.com. “Those conversations turned up the fact that ownership had been in extensive conversations over the last number of months with leaders in Austin about a possible new stadium and moving the team there.”
Discussions will continue with local leadership in Columbus to try and stop the move with a new stadium, but that won’t slow down Precourt’s discussions with Austin. Some in the city believe Precourt has no intention of keeping the team there, and is simply dangling the possibility of staying in order to maintain fan interest in 2018, which is shaping up to be the team’s final season in Ohio.